Marie* in the midst of a crowd took me to one side and said, ‘I can’t go on anymore, I just can’t do it.’ There had been too many false dawns. Each step forward was for a moment like an exhilarating rush of a wave up the beach only for the backwash of loneliness and fear to grip her soul and drag her back. How can we pray when desperation has drained us of hope? David in Psalm 6 has just that experience, ‘Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. My soul is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord – how long.’ vv2-3 It is that question, ‘how long’, that is so hard to get beyond, not only for Marie, but today for the nation. David was God’s anointed King, from David’s line would come the Messiah and yet he knew the depths of despair. He knew what it was like to cry all night, seemingly endlessly. ‘I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears. v6 David grasps the one lifeline he knows, God’s steadfast love. ‘Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.’ V4 It is God’s steadfast love, not our strength, that is the source of hope and that is perfectly expressed in Jesus Christ. ‘The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ Galatians 2.20
This youtube clip may help us set our hope in Him. This is my prayer for every one of our asylum seeking and refugee families with tears in my eyes.
*Marie is not her real name and is a mash up of several real people, not all are female, to protect their identity.
Jesus added, ‘For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money. Matthew 6.24
Do we ever feel our lives are compromised by competing pressures? Perhaps at work or in the family we know something is wrong but the pressure of loyalty tempts us to compromise.
In Psalm 5 David makes clear there is no middle ground. ‘For you are not a God who delights in wickedness.’v4
So how do we delight in Godly righteousness? David presents us with a model that starts as we rise in the morning as we greet our Lord and prepare to make the day our sacrifice of worship. v3 We are confident to approach Him because of his, ‘steadfast love.’v7 We conduct ourselves with reverence, aware of his presence in the knowledge that this straightens our lives onto a righteous path.
Why would we choose this way of life if it can bring about rejection, ridicule and opposition? Simply because it brings with it rejoicing and joy and God’s protection. v11 David concludes with, ‘For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favour as with a shield.’ It is not only our body that needs a shield, it is our spiritual heart as well.
In C S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe the professor asked Peter and Susan who does their previous experience and knowledge of Edmund and Lucy lead them to believe? Both had visited Narnia, Lucy shared the good news but Edmund denied it for his own selfish reasons. Psalm 4 pursues the same questions about character when under great pressure.
David draws upon his previous experience of God and so trusts Him now. ‘You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!’v3 It is a passionate cry from the heart. David urges reflective prayer,v4 obedience and trust in Godv5 because that way leads to joy in the Lord.v7
In contrast David condemns the high born leaders who use the crisis for their own gain lying and deceiving the nation.v2 He calls such deception loving, ‘delusions and seeking false gods’ but the ancient Hebrew for seeking false gods is equally translated seeking after lies. How we need Godly leaders of integrity. How also we need to discern when to be angry regarding exploitation but not being led into sin ourselves.v4
Who does our past experience lead us to trust? This youtube clip celebrates trusting in Christ alone.
The answers came thick and fast, spiders, shadows in my bedroom, creaks at night, the toilet flush, a zombie apocalypse. I had just asked a primary school class, ‘What really scares you?’ Of course, those fears are not rooted in a genuine threat, never the less the fear is real. How, though as adults, do we respond to genuine threat? I have realised that I stop breathing when suddenly threatened and have to tell myself to breath again.
I often ask asylum seekers who have experienced sustained extreme trauma if they are sleeping OK? Everyone has said they have real difficulty sleeping. In Psalm 3 David prays in the middle of extreme trauma. His murderous son has just launched a military coup, turning nearly all the country against him and he is being pursued by an army of thousands. David boldly states, ‘But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.’v3Can David sleep OK? Amazingly, yes he can. His words are, ‘I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.’v5 I pray that whatever your ‘zombie apocalypse’ you will know the Lord as a shield around you and from that gain an inner peace.
I knocked on my son’s door and it was opened by my 4 year old grand daughter dressed on her latest fancy dress costume. ‘Good morning Princess Cinderella,’ I said. ‘NO!!!’ she exclaimed, ‘I am Xena the Warrior Princess!’ Even at four it is kind of important to know who we are, despite gormless Grandparents.
Our sense of who and what we are can be seriously challenged when things suddenly change on us. It can be bereavement, sickness, retirement, redundancy, an accident, war, enslavement, the birth of a child or a pandemic. When we look in the mirror the question pops up, ‘Who or what am I now?’
In Psalm 2 David remembers God’s promise regarding his son Solomon, who is to be the next king and build the temple in Jerusalem. ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’v7 This was not just a promise or prophecy for just Solomon it reached its complete fulfilment at Jesus’ baptism when God the Father repeated the words, ‘You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ Jesus then through his death and resurrection created the way for everybody who trusts in him to be a child of God. Paul writing to the church in Galatia said, ‘You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.’Galatians3:26
So then, whatever happens and however we feel, for those who trust in Jesus, when we look in the mirror God sees – a child of God.