The phrase “but God” in the Scriptures is always the preamble to a life changing situation. The most important is found in Ephesians 2. We all, by nature, have no hope. We are born children of wrath, deserving hell, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” (2:4-5). Because of that “But God” we can be reconciled with God. We can be made children of God and can come boldly to the throne of Grace to find mercy and help in time of need. Amazing grace!
In the Psalms there is another phrase that is also life changing for those who are in Christ, for those who by grace through faith can now come boldly to the throne of grace.
In Psalm 55 we see David crying out to God for mercy. The situation in which he is is so desperate, that David cries to God pleading that He would not to hide from him. David needs the Lord to come to his rescue soon, even this very moment, and so he prays with urgency. David is restless (v.2), in anguish (v.4), in such fear that he is trembling and horror surrounds him (v.5). David wants to escape, to go somewhere away from this terrible situation.
But then we come to verse 16 and find a phrase that turns his heart from a place of anguish to a place of hope:
“But I call to God,
and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and noon,
I utter my complaint and moan,
and He hears my voice….”
In the midst of a crushing situation, David knows what is the only thing that he can do that will break the waves of terror…and so he prays.
He will not let the crushing of fear extinguish his voice: “But I call to the Lord…”
And by the end of the Psalm, David is able to say… “Because there is a “But God” moment ahead, I will cry again, “But I trust in You.”
In Psalm 69 we see the same thing. David starts the psalm from a terrible place,
“Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold….”
He is again in a desperate situation. He is weary of crying out to the Lord His Redeemer. His throat is parched and his eyes are swollen, growing dim, the waiting has been too long. Those who hate him are more than what he can count. They attack him with lies and plans to destroy him. They have dishonored his name, and those who loved him became his traitors.
In the midst of his great agony, we hear him say, “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord…” (v.13)
He knows that prayer will bring the “But God… “ moment he is desperately waiting for. He might be sinking in fear, in anguish, but he knows that even there, he can say, “My enemies want me to be crushed under this, but I will pray to my God who abounds in love and is forever faithful” (v.13).
The Sons of Korah knew this too. In Psalm 88 Heman the Ezrahite cries day and night before the Lord in agony because his soul is full of troubles, even to the point of death. He was no strength and feels like God has forgotten him. He knows the wrath of God is upon him, he does not deny that the hand of God has brought him this great affliction, and instead of turning away from his Redeemer with all his questions, he looks up to God and says,
“But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before You” (v.13).
This is huge! Do you see it? He is an agony because he is walking through the consequence of some sin. The Psalmist acknowledges that the Lord, in anger, brought this terrible situation on him, But he is a child of God, so even in the turmoil of his soul, in the midst of the consequences of his sin he knows that the way out is always looking up. He doesn’t turn inwardly, he looks up… “But I, O Lord, cry to you, even as I open my eyes in the morning… I will call on you.”
In Psalm 109 we see it again. David is again in a very hard situation. He is asking God to not be silent. He is not telling his friends how God seems to be silent. No! He turns to God and boldly comes to the throne of grace and asks God to intervene.
David doesn’t turn away from God when God seems silent. He presses on. He knows that though God might be silent now, He is the God who hears the prayers of His children. David knows that this apparent silence doesn’t mean that God has abandoned him. He doesn’t let his feeling determine his response in a huge crisis. He doesn’t turn away from God, he knows in whom he has believed all these many years. He knows a “But God” moment is around the corner, so he cries,
“But I give myself to prayer…” (v.4b)
And then, in v.21 his faith resonates through his words,
“But You, O God my Lord
deal on my behalf for your name’s sake
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!”
One more story. In Psalm 141 David is again praying from a place of anguish. Again he cries to God with urgency because what else could he do? Where else could he go to find help in time of need? He hasn’t forgotten that he has to lift his eyes to the hills because that is from where his help will come from. He is afraid this time that in hos anguish he will sin. So he asks the Lord to set a guard on his lips. In his anguish he asks God to keep his heart from all evil. David knew what you and I know too, when the trials are heavy the temptations to sin are heavy to. And Bitterness and Impatience and Unbelief are like roaring lions waiting for an opportunity to devour us. And what does David say in all this?
“But my eyes are toward You, O God, my Lord;
in You I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!” (v.8)
Wherever you are now, look up and follow the Psalmist steps. Do not run away from God, do not hide your fears from him. Do not let the Enemy or your flesh deceive you into believing that God doesn’t hear you, that your prayers are in vain.
Are you praying in the name of Jesus? then let your “Amen” be firm. God will never turn His face away from those who have been redeemed by the blood of His Son.
In the depth of your pain, in your brokenness cry out to God.
Lord, I don’t understand all that you are doing now, but I will give myself to prayer. My strength fails, every morning I think I won’t make it through another day, but I will give myself to prayer. My fears are trying to consume me, but even there I will give myself to prayer. My faith fails, but I will give myself to prayer, because I know you are compassionate and loves to glory in my weakness. My tears are my food day and night, but I will give myself to prayer. This, that, Lord, you see, you hear, nothing is hidden from you, but in the midst of all of it, I will give myself to prayer because a “But God” moment is not far from me. I will keep looking up to the hills, my help will surely come from the Lord.
Under His sun and by His grace,