OK, hermeneutical time out – a psalm is poetry, poetry is not a promise. However, throughout both Proverbs and Psalms are great nuggets of wisdom, insight into the character and nature of God, and a repletion of principles we can regard as “best practices” or “bet your 401K on it”. Are we tracking?
Our family is at a very difficult crossroads right now. Over the weekend we were faced with a decision so big, I literally woke with a 6 hour headache and took two hours to write a 4 paragraph email. To say that we were mentally and emotionally taxed would be grossly understating things. Repeatedly, I found myself talking out loud to God, begging Him for either overall clarity or at least enough mental acuity to stir the pasta sauce on the stove – neither of which I felt any mastery over. There was nothing useful in my head. Just a pile of unorganizable, edgeless thoughts.
I’m an external processor – my thoughts untangle themselves best outside my head, such as in discussion or writing. Saturday, I had no one I could talk to immediately who’d bring appropriate experience to the table and mere moments to move on some of the moving parts of the decision. I felt mentally stranded, struggling to find internal resources to bring to bear on the situation.
On top of that, I had three toddlers running around the backyard, each asking me to play something different with them or screaming that one of the others wasn’t sharing. I felt as if I was holding a live bomb with both hands while having my legs pecked off by a chicken. “Lord, I’ve got nothing to add to the situation but my need for You. Help. Me. Please.”
Out of respect for your time, I’ll skip to yesterday, when answers came – I opened a bible to Psalm 37 and began reading. If you’ve never had an experience where the words are jumping off the page, pray for one. It will blow… your… mind. With all the thoughts swarming through my head and all the background “noise” outside it, I have never experienced a moment where everything around me just seemed to stand still and the living word calmed my storm. I was flooded with encouragement (I mean, just read that thing!), perspective, counsel, and peace.
Why does this matter to you?
Glad you asked.
The bible does not promise us a wrinkle free life. It does not promise that good things will only happen to good people and the wicked will fail in all of their evil endeavors. It’s never that cut and dried. You’re going to be lied to by people who believe wholeheartedly that if you’re not experiencing great prosperity and material abundance, it’s your fault and your faith is not strong enough. But, scripture speaks forcefully against this:
1 Thess 5:23-24: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” God is in charge of outcomes and He will achieve His purposes
Ultimately, the Lord upholds our hand. His plans, not ours apart from Him, will ultimately succeed. If calamity is on us, it is no surprise to Him and He can be trusted to bring us through it. We may fall, even fall off a cliff, hitting rocks and branches on the way down. This does not make scripture a liar. Remember, poetry is figurative literal, not word-for-word literal. In the end – after everything we try so desperately to preserve is turned to ash at the coming of the Lord and the new heavens and earth – we who are made righteous by the blood of Christ will have a “safe landing”.
I’m not waxing eloquent today to tell you “God is in control” and leave you with that. I’m passing this on in hopes it will spark one of you to lean into God and beg him for the encouragement you need when you need it and to remind you “it’s in there”. God has not left us to wander without direction. He has sent the Holy Spirit to “come along side us” and comfort – one of the ways He does this is to illuminate scripture as we seek the living God who inspired it. Trust in the Lord, wring the truth out of His word. That’s why He put it there. That’s why He sent the Spirit.