Tuesday, March 7, 2017

From Hope to Despair to Hope Again: Riding the Psalm 31 Roller-Coaster

I read the first verse of Psalm 31 and sighed deeply. I could tell this wasn’t going to meet me where I was today.
“In you O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.”
That’s just not my experience in the past several years I thought. I tried to take refuge in God. I tried to do what was right. I tried to rely on Him to come through when the hour got darkest.
And He didn’t. I was, in my opinion, put to shame.
Verse 2 wasn’t much better.
“Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily!”
I remember praying those words. I remember begging for a speedy rescue, and then comforting myself that God doesn’t always work on our timeline. He doesn’t always provide a rescue the way we think He should.
I didn’t want to read any further. I was content to roll around in the mud of my disappointing past. As often happens, the stream of memories flooded over me… the lies, the betrayals, the agonizing choices all felt as if they were my life today, not the fading past they truly are.
But I read on, because that’s what I do. And verse 5 bowled me over.
“Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”
Recognize those words? Of course you do. They are Jesus’ words on the cross. He spoke them right before He died. But long before Jesus spoke them, David wrote them. David didn’t write them before he died, David wrote them as a living commitment. He was literally putting his life into God’s hands.
God could do whatever He wanted with David’s life… He could take away his kingdom, he could allow David’s son to rebel, he could take David’s life.
…and David was okay with that.
I read further.
“Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances…”
I’ve been there. I’ve had to answer uncomfortable questions about newspaper articles which weren’t really even about me. I’ve had employers refuse to hire me because of my name. I’ve had my neighbors and acquaintances looks suspiciously at me because of things they had heard.
“those who see me in the street flee from me.”
I thought of all those times in Meijer when people (who once served alongside me) hid from me.
“For I hear the whispering of many – terror on every side! – as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.”
I remembered THAT email. The one which was sent to many of my friends. The one which revealed my true friends (a blessing in disguise). The pompous politician and his side-kick who schemed and slandered me then tried to bribe me…
Man, this Psalm 31 is depressing… but…
If I commit my spirit to God (give him full authority over my life), then I can’t really complain if He deems it appropriate to allow my adversaries to “win” and He allows my name to suffer and He allows me to be uncomfortable.
Everyone is happy to give up control of their life to God if that means He is going to “bless” them and make their life wonderful. It’s not as easy to give up control if He is going to sharpen us and form us through fire and tribulation.
Verse 14, after David’s airing of grievances, says:
“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand;”
Maybe God hasn’t provided the rescue I thought I needed or deserved. Maybe He still has something coming. Either way, I’m okay to trust Him. Either way, I can commit my life to Him.
If Jesus could commit His spirit to God, knowing it meant death…
If David could commit His spirit to God, knowing he might lose everything…
So can I, right?
Verse 24:
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD.”

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