“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” is a series of church worker wellness devotions. Visit lcms.org/wellness for more resources.
By Phil Kuehnert, retired pastoral counselor
The face of God
“By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy … .” (Ps. 30:7–8)
Some translations of Ps. 30:7 say, “You hid your face, and I was troubled… .” This Old Testament euphemism, or indirect expression, may refer to any number of things that could have befallen the writer of the psalm.
Another place we see references to God’s “face” is in the Aaronic Blessing, which gives us a picture of God’s relationship to His people. The blessing states in Num. 6:24–26:
“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
We leave the worship service with this blessing and promise that the good things we just experienced in Word and Sacrament will continue in wonderful, different, unexpected and exciting ways throughout the week ahead.
And the week almost always provides anything from an unexpected thank you card to the happy news that a grandchild is on the way. It is almost simplistic — when God is looking upon us, when we walk in the light of His grace, good things happen.
When bad things happen, it is because God hid His face from us.
Exploring the context of Psalm 30 gives us a clearer understanding: The psalmist, probably King David, had many first-hand experiences that threatened his safety, his family, his kingdom and his health.
Psalm 30, a retrospective thanksgiving psalm, recounts the ups and downs of his life. He is not shy in acknowledging that God had blessed him mightily: “Lord, you have made my mountain to stand strong!”
When it seems that God has hidden His face, God invites us to cry out. When God smiles on us, one way we respond is to praise and bless His holy name.
In either case our response is amplified when we give verbal expression to our cry and praise with family and friends.
With brothers and sisters in Christ there is no need for euphemisms; naming whatever it is in life that befalls us, in all of its rawness, or celebrating it with exhausting detail, provides the space to put the low and the high in proper perspective.
The result is that our sense of God’s presence is strengthened as our cries and praises are echoed back at us by those who, for us, are little Christs, with the Holy Spirit residing in them.
Heavenly Father, help me to know that “weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Do not forsake me in the darkness of my night. By Your grace help me not to forget You when the joy of the morning overwhelms me. In Your Son’s name, Jesus. Amen.
LCMS church workers and their families are invited to offer encouragement to other workers and families by submitting a 500-word devotion for the Synod’s worker-to-worker wellness devotion series. Email questions and submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.