Psalm 31 (Since Isaiah 61:1-3 was recently used, today I am keying off of this weeks’s Psalm)
For myself and for all those I know and care for, I deeply desire that we enjoy the deepest revelation and friendship possible with God. When I am writing to you, I am doing so with a confident passion that it is God’s desire to help us receive His most valuable of all gifts – His Fatherhood and His Friendship. I also write with a painful awareness that for many of us we do not see this happening and we really don’t know why. We feel stuck. I sincerely pray that my words today will be filled with grace for you.
We looked in on Jacob earlier this week at his all-night wrestling match with God which I think is a picture of our own lives. I was thinking how much like a psalm it might sound if we were to have a move-by-move commentary by Jacob during this struggle and how beneficial to our walks that would be. As I read Psalm 31 today, I believe I heard David’s own heart-commentary on his life and his relationship with God. In his words I hear his pain yet also a childlike presumption that God is aware of and interested in the troubles of his life.
When David says, “In Thee O Lord, I have taken refuge…be Thou to me my fortress“, I hear Him saying, “Lord, it is you and me together in this life. I have no other recourse. My strength is gone. I am in distress yet my times are in Your hand”.
Recently I wrote, “If we will lean into our lives (wrestle, if you like) with the understanding that it is with God with whom we have to do (Heb 4:13) and that in Him, we live and move and exist (Acts 17:28), we will eventually discover that all the give and take; all the pressures of life, from wherever they come, are a part of our prolonged struggle as well as our unprecedented opportunity. I am persuaded that for those of us who will persevere in working out our lives face to face with God; that He is going to restore our identities which are essential in the fulfilling of our destinies.” It is only in perseverance that we personally discover the all-things- work-together truth of Romans 8:28 and the count-it-all-joy truth of James 1:2.
From personal experience, I think I have at least a partial grasp of why many of us struggle in our relationships with God. We work overtime to avoid brokenness by going around it as opposed to through it. At some level we feel our pain; we know our weaknesses and failures but we learn how to keep them at bay. We figure out a way to make life work. The paths around our issues are typically busy schedules, drugs, hobbies; really anything that will keep our minds off the gnawing unresolved issues of our hearts. The more religious ones of us dream we are pressing on as we read the books; as we go to the conferences; as we get the training; as we fast and pray and as we attend and serve in our churches.
And yet, we too often stay the same. Many of us not only stay the same but our disappointments metastasizes into debilitating, usually well-managed anger. From this place we just try to move on and hide away our dissapointment and despair. In the life of a believer, I think its fair to say that if we don’t go through our pain, we will just go through the motions. As believers our hearts are at great risk of becoming entangled with religion when we just go through the motions.
It is helpful to think of religion as any system of thought or practice whereby the doing of it causes us to think that we have gained the favor of God. It is easy, very easy, to make life work in the church. We can go to work serving the Lord with the unresolved issues of the heart serving as the unseen and unholy driving motivation of all we do. There are plenty of benefits available to those who will work hard in Christianity; gold stickers, awards bibles, social acceptance, titles, offices, tasks to keep us busy. However, If we are just going through religious motions in our serving what has happened in the temple of our hearts where Truth aspires to reign and liberate us from every lie the enemy has sown into our lives? If we are busy going through the motions, reinforcing our identities in the church work we are doing, we have become entangled with religion. For some of us, in His mercy, Jesus will come in and kick over the tables where we are engaged in unholy commerce in His temple – our hearts.
The irony is that our pain and our sense of failure, when entrusted to God, face to face, as the One with whom we ultimately are dealing with, over time builds the relationship of security and confidence with God we have wanted all along. The encouraging news is that God wants that even more than we do and has made a provision for us to receive it. Facing the unholy things that drive us (wrestling if you like) face to face with the Lord, is a primary way that He transforms us from glory to glory.
I am not saying that award bibles, titles and offices are always wrong but they can be if we haven’t been moving through our painful core issues face to face with God, move by move, as did Jacob and David and most (if not all) saints who have come to know God well. Our pain is not evidence of His absence as we wrongly perceive. Our pain is crucial to our growing intimacy with God. Our pain often is indication where lies have become embedded in our lives. Our pain can become our place of encounter with Him, the One who is well aquatinted with pain and sorrow. It is our destiny to tell our story of how he transformed us from glory to glory; our own personal discovery of how He was is in the midst of our darkness with us and led us out into the marvelous light of His Truth.
While it is natural to flee the thing that brings us pain, we must do something counterintuitive. We must hold onto God by letting go. We must intentionally entrust all that we are, however bad we think that may be, to God. Those who follow this course ultimately have a story to tell of the goodness of God in the presence of their dire circumstances within and without. These saints can look backward and see the good and strong hand of God taking the worst things of their lives and building things that will last for eternity, all born out of intimate relationship with Him.
So, the seeking is in the resting. Over time, just living out our lives, especially in those times where we are wrestling, our hearts gradually prove, through our life experience with God, that He is patient, powerful, loving, kind and altogether trustworthy. Again, the irony; the heart would have never gained this eternal revelation without those trials. Whether the trial is a “test” or an “attack”, I don’t think it matters. If we process life, and all it brings us, face to face with God, finding His provision, we will have a story as an overcomer. Our testimony will bare light and enemy strongholds will be exposed and conquered. His kingdom will have come and His will will have been done.
Father, thank you that today is the day of salvation. Help us to receive Your love right now, not at some future date when we think we will be more worthy of it. In the give and take of our lives help us to lay hold of that for which You laid hold of us. Help us to even now embrace You in the midst of our circumstances. Grant us Your eternal perspective on our brokenness that we may press on to know You and to make You known. Amen.