You might have a big BUT more often than you think. For example, say you have an urge to go to the beach and decide to go. That is when your big BUT can get in the way!
I want to go to the beach BUT it might rain.
It might rain BUT there is a shelter I can can sit under.
The beach is great BUT I wonder if I should go to the cinema instead.
See, I told you that you had big BUTs sometimes and it has nothing to do with our shape!
These are times when we go around in circles in our thinking before we (hopefully anyway) come to an outcome.
Psalm 22 is a big BUT Psalm and you can read it for yourself by clicking here.
David who wrote it was having a terrible time and he starts off by crying out to God.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
David feels like God is far away and that God isn’t even listening to his prayers. I guess we all feel like this sometimes, but instead of moping, David finds his first big BUT.
BUT you are the Holy God (v3-5). Instead of wallowing in his feelings, David chooses to shift the focus to who God is. As he is getting back on track, the second BUT appears.
BUT I am a worm, not a man (v6-8). His feelings kick back in and he reminds himself that he is really miserable. Not to be defeated, the next BUT takes center stage.
BUT God has always been with me (v9-10). Reading about what was going on, David had every reason to be miserable, but in is misery he reminded himself that God had always been with him. David tried to encourage himself that God had been at work and so he could trust in him. As he looked to God, his feelings shout BUT.
BUT I am surrounded by enemies (v11-13). As David outlined the danger he was in, something really weird happened. His language shifted from a description of the threat he was facing to a description of someone being crucified (v14-18). He speaks about bones being out of joint and his hands and feet being pierced and he even speaks about the executioners throwing some dice to compete for the dying man’s clothing.
In some mysterious way, David sees the death of Jesus hundreds of years before it happened.
David is depressed and in pain. He calls himself a worm and God’s response is to show him the death of Jesus. If someone told you that they felt like a worm, you might try to build them up and tell them that they are worth so much more than they think. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, God’s approach here is different.
Why does God show David the crucifixion? Is it to do with realizing that there is always someone worse off than you? Is it to do with the fact that God saves us from something greater than our immediate circumstances in that the death of Jesus opened up the way for us to know God?
As his vision fades, David comes out with another BUT.
BUT I need you to rescue me (v19-21). When you think about it, it’s no wonder he was desperate to be rescued. He was surrounded by enemies who wanted to kill him and God has just shown him a man being executed. David knows that he doesn’t want to end up like this man, dying in agony, and so with a renewed passion he cries out to God to rescue him.
David was desperate to be rescued and so was Jesus. In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that if it was possible that he wouldn’t have to suffer and die. This prayer is strange on a rational level because Jesus knew that he would have to die and he had told people that this would happen, but on an emotional level it makes perfect sense. Jesus expressed his desire to be rescued, to be spared pain but then he goes on to pray ‘I want your will to be done, not mine’.
Our instinct is always to avoid pain, but Jesus was willing to endure pain so that we could be saved.
You can find out more about Gethsemane and Jesus’ prayer here.
David comes to believe that God would rescue him and as a result we come to the final BUT.
BUT I will praise God (v22-31). David chooses to praise God both privately and publicly in the expectation that God is at work and that he will be rescued.
David was in a tough spot, things had gone wrong and he felt like God had let him down. The people around him were criticizing his faith, after all it doesn’t appear to reflect well on God when one of his key leaders is suffering.
Jesus was dying on the cross and it looked like God had let him down. The people were criticizing him and his faith. ‘He saved others, why can’t he save himself’ they taunted. It didn’t appear to reflect well on God that his son was dying but in that moment, God was winning his greatest victory. People thought that Jesus had failed, but God had a big BUT.
Perhaps you are going through a difficult time and you are crying out to God. Don’t assume that he has abandoned you or that he isn’t listening, God is always at work for the good of his people as a whole. If you are feeling discouraged and you are doubting your faith, then do what David did and get your big BUTs out. Look to God and the truth of the Bible, remind yourself what God has done in your life and try to look at the big picture.
I, like David want to praise God because he is good and he always is at work in our lives.
This is a short summary of my talk, but if after reading this you have the time and would like to you can also listen to the full talk here.