“A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Psalm 34:19)
No, He doesn’t—at least not always in the way we want Him to.
Yes, there are times when God acts as we anticipate He will, as we pray that He will.
But there are times when He does not. What then? Does that make this verse, along with others like it, a lie?
I remember back to the early days in Venezuela. Our church planting efforts got off to a slow start and we had very few new believers. One of those was a woman by the name of Betty. Her story was indeed one of God’s grace—from someone whose face scared the people sharing the elevator with her to someone whose face radiated forgiveness and joy and peace with God.
She was a walking, talking testimony to what God could do in a life.
Then she got cancer.
We prayed, pleaded, for her healing.
At the time, we were devastated. But thinking back we actually got what we asked for—Betty was delivered, but not the way we thought she should be.
But what happens when death is not the deliverance, nor is relief from whatever these “many troubles” represent?
That is where verses like 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 come in. Paul, troubled by some kind of physical weakness, asked to be delivered from it. God denied his request with this promise: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul then rejoiced in his infirmity saying, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Earlier this morning I was reading that famous passage from Romans 8 which includes this verse often repeated: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We clutch that promise even as we steel ourselves in the face of whatever the troubles of life are, wondering what the good is in all that is happening to us, and how God will work it all out.
But here’s the thing—the answer is in the next verse: “For those God foreknew he also predestinated to be conformed to the likeness of his son…”
For Betty, for Paul, for you and I, the reason God does what He does (and not always what we want) when troubles come and we cry out for deliverance, is to make us more like Jesus. Our "good" is the glory of God shown through us to others. We are not supposed to grit our teeth, hang on for dear life, and hope for the best. We shouldn’t even anticipate a rescue as we normally define being rescued. What we are to live for, anticipate, and show to the world in the midst of whatever “troubles” come our way, is someone becoming more like Him because of the experience. That is what we are designed for, “predestinated” for, as Paul puts it.
So the promise doesn’t fail. God does deliver us. It’s never “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” It’s always “yes.” Whether it be through straight rescue, through death into eternal life, or by supplying His grace, strength, and power to us so that we can demonstrate Who He is to the world, He will deliver.