This whole psalm resonates and echoes in my soul tonight!
This whole psalm resonates and echoes in my soul tonight!
This psalm seems to have been written during the Babylonian captivity. The psalmist laments collectively with his people, who have been taken captive. The enemy taunts them, knowing that they are broken in spirit and can’t even bring themselves to sing the happy songs of Zion. For my American audience: imagine if the United States were overrun by Islamic State, destroyed our homes, took over buildings, destroyed churches and other places of worship, and then enslaved us. Imagine if they started taunting us saying, “Hey, Americans! How does that old song of yours go? ‘Ohhh say can you see…’ Isn’t that how it starts? What’s the matter, don’t you feel like singing?” This is the state in which the Babylonian captives found themselves. Nevertheless, the psalmists always turned their attention to God and found strength in their time of need.
But take it to a personal level for a moment. There are times when, for whatever reason, we might find ourselves taunted by the enemy of souls. We become sad, downcast. And we should be allowed to feel those emotions. But then, just as the psalmists looked to Yahweh their God, so also do we look to Him for strength in our time of need. We come boldly before His throne to receive that grace. He gives us strength because He doesn’t want us to wallow in self pity forever. We’re allowed to feel, just not allowed to become crippled by it. It’s fine to be sad and to cry and even wail or become completely crushed and crestfallen. Yet He will not leave us so. He heals and restores. He even settles the score with those who have inflicted the pain–if we will but leave justice in His hands.
Are you there right now? Do you feel the sting of the Babylonian taunts? Are there people who say things that sound so convincing, yet you know they speak as the world speaks? For the world speaks a different language than that of Zion. The world speaks a condemnatory message filled with hopelessness: “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” The world offers a false hope pinned squarely on idealistic humanism, to which not everyone can attain. But the language of Zion brings hope and healing: “Such were some of you.” Did you catch that word “were?” It’s past tense. Even if we are currently held captive in the world, we are not the slaves of the world. We’re both His freedmen and His servants! In Christ we are no longer what we once were and we’re becoming more and more what we are: children of God. And if Christ lives in us, then we’ll change from one glory to the next. And in eternity, a fortune that makes all the world’s wealth look like plastic ware. “The world and its desires are passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever” (1 John 2:17).
Take heart in your sorrow. Though things are difficult, God will bring about justice for the oppressed who trust in Him.
This morning’s psalm speaks of humility. The context in which this psalm was written isn’t given. We can safely observe, however, that David–himself a highly intelligent man–advocated simplicity and trust in the Lord.
We often will come into situations that seem to over tax us emotionally, intellectually, physically, etc. At some point it becomes necessary to stop investing so much energy in essentially beating a dead horse. It will only prove to be a “great matter”–something “too wonderful” for us. It’s in those moments that we must go before the Father and release those things to Him. Let Him work out the details of how to deliver you from “great matters.” We thus learn humility and trust.
Is there a “great matter” in your life overwhelming you? Do you feel like you have to deal with it on your own? Do you think that makes you stronger? Or is there a better strength in learning to do your best and let the Lord take up the matter when it becomes overwhelming? Can you learn to still and quiet your soul before the Lord? Can you come to the place where, just as a child is secure in the presence of their mother, you can feel secure in the presence of our God?
“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)
My Very Dear [her name here],
This is an open letter to you which others than yourself will read, but it won’t contain anything that I think would be best left said only between the two of us. I think it will be beneficial for some, though to others it will be utter trash. To those who read and benefit: bless you! To those who read it and hate it: maybe don’t read other people’s mail 🙂
Back to you, my dearest…
First, I want you to know that I pray for you everyday. Every. Single. Day. I’ve been praying for you going on decades now, though not as intentionally and consistently as the past decade or so–nor so much as the past year and a half. Inshallah that I live, I believe you’re out there somewhere and our loving Father will guide us together through the Spirit in the place He’s already arranged. It’s right for me to feel this way because a couple of times it almost happened that way. So I know the pattern and we’ll find each other.
My prayers for you are that first, you’ll be growing in Christ-likeness. I want you to become more like our Savior and Lord everyday–shunning the things of this world and the temptations to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boasting of the “good” life, and embracing the love of the unseen, the love of the Spirit, and the boasting of eternal life. The world would have you believe you are already perfect, strong, etc. I don’t think anyone–male or female–is any of those things just in themselves. I need to grow. You need to grow. I want us to encourage each other and spur each other on–without leaving any too harsh spur marks. ~sigh~ Yet I’m no fool. Every man hurts his woman. And every woman eventually hurts her man. I pray we have the grace for each other we’d expect from our Father to us.
[Qualifier: “hurting” doesn’t encompass abuse, cheating, or lying. The first two of those boil my blood. The third flays my skin. Please, let’s do our best to be open when one of us begins to hover on a line we don’t want the other to cross]
I pray you’re growing everyday in one aspect or another into that noble woman which no one seems to be able to find (Proverbs 31:10ff). I know that’s a difficult standard to live up to perfectly, and I don’t expect perfection–just direction. And I truly can’t wait to be able to look at you and say, “There’s not a soul on this planet that can hold a candle to you!” And I hope I can measure up to every mark of a man the Lord intends.
So in light of that, I want you to know what I’m up to these days in keeping with the things I pray for you, for I’m certainly far from being “the perfect man.” I have my hang ups and failures and look to God and His grace daily because I screw up…daily. Pray for me, Love. Here’s what I’m up to…
(Please forgive me if I sound like I’m boasting or bragging or whatever. I’ve read this draft so many times I can’t keep count and every time I get to this spot I just sound like an arrogant buffoon. I just want you to know what I’m doing. No chest beating intended)
Currently, I’ve taken to reading the Psalms five times daily. There are, give or take, 30 days in a month. There are one-hundred fifty Psalms. That works out to a quotient of 5 chapters per day. When I wake in the morning, I read the first Psalm. Then the regular reading times are 10:00, noon, 14:00, and 16:00. I also include a chapter from the Proverbs according to the date and lift up prayers accordingly. I’ve also decided it wouldn’t hurt to do 10 push-ups with each reading, but I’ve been inconsistent with that. The times are scheduled roughly according to the mini breaks and lunch hour I grant myself during a work day.
I’ve done this for a month already. I can very readily see how it could turn into a mere religious exercise void of heart-felt devotion and I’m not writing all that so you’ll necessarily follow suit, for God has unique plans for all of us. And so I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but I have to say it’s changed my prayer life tremendously! I’ve seen unprecedented answers to prayer as God shows Himself faithful. It’s truly rewarding! It’s also been therapeutic as I read the Psalms and see David and the other composers dealing with the same kinds of human struggles I face. It’s reassuring to know that I don’t have to live up to the American image of what makes a man a man. Honestly, I think if most American Christians were to read the Psalms and didn’t have any way of knowing what they were reading, they’d probably think David was a real sissy boy. They’d chide him for blaming others, being weak, not manning up, and not doing anything about injustices in his life. I think they’d cry out, “O GAWD ALMIGHTY! Get over yourself already and DO SOMETHING about your problems! Quit blaming other people! They’re not too strong for you! You just think you can’t! You gotta believe in yourself! You are responsible for your own happiness, David!” But that’s far afield from how the Psalms read! God is near to the brokenhearted! He is our strength when the situations we face really are too much for us! He is our source of joy! Sometimes others really are to blame and God will take care of us in those situations if we wait patiently for Him to act–even as we forget what is behind and press on towards His calling.
Another prayer for you, in light of you growing in Christ, is that if you don’t currently have a vision for overseas work (B4T/BAM) that the Lord–perhaps even through this open letter–will guide you to research that and catch onto it in your own time and in your own way. For my part, I’m keeping up with web sites and other media that have to do with encouraging a global mindset and global goals. In no way do I mean that you have to be a missionary–not in what’s oft called the “traditional” sense. I only mean that being married to a man who sees the Lord’s calling on his life as leading him, eventually, to parts of the world where the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are scant for the purpose of Bible translation and church planting is a unique commitment on top of everything else that has to be managed in a relationship. I’m praying that the Lord is preparing you for that sort of thing even now. But no matter what, take. Your. Time! Rome wasn’t built in a day and I didn’t have any sort of vision for being a Bible translator till much later in my college career. I didn’t come out of the womb with a Bible in one hand and a shoebox and notecards in the other–except maybe from His perspective.
I pray for your current life situation. I pray that everything that’s happening now–painful or exciting–will shape you and mold you into the woman who’s right for me. You might be seeing someone. You might even be happily married right now. You might be a widow. You might have ended a relationship. I have no way of knowing any of this. But I don’t have to know. The Lord knows. And if you’re hurting, I pray the Lord’s healing touch and, as appropriate and welcomed, you have my heart with you even now tenderly, and my prayers go out to you. If you’re in a marriage, I pray blessings galore and hope it ends gracefully when it does. If you’re in a bad relationship, I feel terrible for any grief you bear, but there’s a part of me that would shed no tears when a bad thing ends. For my part, I’ve had very few and very far between and very short-lived relationships. I’m currently 42, single, never married, no children. Pray for me to have confidence so that when we meet I’ll act appropriately and we can manage our relationship in a manner worthy of the Lord. Since grade school, I’ve always been the laughing stalk, the last one picked, the least desired. Through high school and college and most of my adult life, nothing has really changed all that much–except in recent years. I have a spark of hope still in me that refuses to give up. Pray for that little ember to be fanned into a flame for when we meet.
I pray for you in your job. I pray that you’ll prove the work ethic to which all Christians are called: to toil at a legit job with eagerness, to the point we have a surplus to share with those who are currently needy (Ephesians 4:28; Proverbs 31:20). I don’t just pray that you’ll prove a strong work ethic, but more importantly that others will notice in such a way that makes them wonder why you’re different–that they’ll ask you about it and you’ll be able to tell them about how you do all things as if for the Lord and not for man. In that way, I hope you’ll get to share a bit of who Christ Jesus is to you and so gain a hearing for the good news of Jesus our Lord.
I pray for us as parents. I sometimes cry because I know that statistically speaking, I might not be able to be around for you and them as long as I’d like to be or see our children grow to be grown men and women with families of their own, serving the Lord in whatever way the Lord leads them. But I’ve made somewhat of a hopeful provision (you’ll find out as we get to know each other), though it would only be vicarious, so that our kids will know at least a little bit of who I am–or who I was. Yet not I, but Christ in me–molding me through difficult times and my own sinful self.
I pray for our ministries both together and apart. I don’t envision anything presumptuously, so whatever the Lord calls you to, that’s what I want you to do. If He calls you to be an entrepreneur, then may the wealthy of this world learn what a Christian does with her money to honor the Lord and lay up treasures in heaven and become rich in good deeds. If He calls you to poverty, may the poor feel rich because of the rich life being lived out despite the rough circumstances. Maybe right now you’re in the full swing of some amazing ministry. Maybe you’re at the top of your game, going overseas, helping with church planting, etc. If that’s you, Hallelujah! But maybe right now you’re in a season when you feel like a lost lamb (or a black sheep?) who’s wandered and feels like she can’t speak one word of scripture, let alone share Christ with anyone, because she would feel hypocritical. If that’s you, then I pray you hear the Shepherd’s voice tenderly calling you. I pray you follow Him again, find your voice once more, and speak them, speak them, wonderful words of truth! You absolutely are loved by our Savior and your man. He’s the King and you are one of his elite warrior princesses. I know you are because I can’t and won’t marry anyone less. So if you’re down right now, that’s fine. But when He calls–when that gentle breeze sweeps across your soul–that quiet whisper in the night, raise your sails and catch the Wind. Get caught up in the hurricane and let Him lift you high on the wings of the wind! Soar, as the scripture says, on wings like eagles. Run and don’t grow weary, walk and don’t faint. He’ll give you that new strength. He promised, my dove. He promised!
Let me say this, too: You. Are. Amazing. I know you are. I know our current culture says things like, “That’s nice, but I don’t need no man to affirm me.” But I want to say it. I have to say it because just as God doesn’t need our praise, He nevertheless lives within the praises of His people. And I have to say it because it’s true. And the truth needs to be said, acknowledged, and loved. Now you might not feel like you are amazing right now. Or maybe you do. Regardless, when we do finally come together–inshallah that I live–all this waiting that we’ve had to endure will only highlight the amazing work that God is now doing in you to be fulfilled in its proper time. You’ll be especially amazing to me because you’ll be the one who has hung in there with me.
And so I say with Israel’s priests:
Yahweh bless you and keep you
Yahweh make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you
Yahweh lift up His countenance upon you
And give you peace
And in the words of Paul:
Now to Him who is able to do
Than all we ask or imagine
According to His power
That is at work within us
To Him be glory in the Church
And in Christ Jesus
Throughout all generations
Very tenderly yours in Christ,