We tried something new with our Sunday time this week. It was just Steve & me (and THAT DOG, of course) so we had some freedom to tiptoe into this sense I keep getting from God, that I should trust Him to provide inspiration on the fly. I tend to go off-script when I give talks, anyway, but I do this with the safety net of a VERY prepared talk (with a clear beginning, middle and end) to catch me if I get lost out on a tangent. My freedom comes (or so I thought) from good preparation. (imagine an arrow pointing to Puritan work ethic here!)
This week, I prepared a talk as usual. It was…meh. I wasn’t excited about it, but I persevered under the, “Well maybe someone else needs to hear/read this, and so this will be a blessing to them!” theory.
Yesterday I woke up, got some coffee, and sensed God say, “Psalm 34.” So I read it. It’s a good one, written by David right after a strange episode where he faked insanity to get away from a King he feared might kill him. It’s full of praise and celebration for everything God does for us–particularly delivering us from trouble.
I was caught up in the inspiring words–I love a good pep talk. But then at the end, it felt like I crash landed into the reality of what we’ve seen over the past few years, where God’s powerful salvation from evil people and circumstances seemed hard to come by; like we were frantically dialing spiritual 911, but maybe we lived in one of those difficult places police avoid and where it takes emergency help forever to arrive.
So I looked up at my ceiling (you know, where God lives) and said, “What do you want me to do with this?” I didn’t want to just put some pretty frosting over the messy cake of my doubts. I sensed God asking me questions. I wrote them down. Then I scraped my meh talk that might maybe bless some random people, and we spent our Sunday service time answering these questions, praying about what they unearthed, and watching God reassemble our cake, so to speak, as He helped us us perceive what He’s doing, and encouraged us to believe that this hope David writes of is real.
Here is Psalm 34 along with the questions, if you want to give it a try. As you read, ask, Do I really believe this?
I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.
1. When have you sought the Lord and seen him answer?
2. Would you describe your everyday countenance (facial expression) as radiant?
3. What to you make of this declaration that the angel of the Lord “encamps” around those who fear him? What does this mean for you?
4. Do you fear God?
5. How do you go about taking refuge in the Lord?
6. What would it mean for you to lack nothing?
7. What would it look like in your life to turn from evil and do good?
8. What would it look like to seek peace and pursue it?
9. Do you sense that the Lord’s eyes are on you and his ears are attentive to your cry? Or that he has turned away?
10. Is there a way you can move back towards righteousness (right relationship with God)?
11. What do you make of these bold promises of redemption, salvation, comfort, and deliverance from ALL troubles?
12. How do you tell people when God comes through for you?
It was so helpful to talk through these questions, rather than just letting them run amok in my head. It made me think of the reminder in the letter in the New Testament written to the Hebrews, where the author says, essentially, “Don’t stop meeting to spend time with God and encourage each other!” There are things that get sorted out much better/quicker/faster/more completely when you’re with other people who add their faith to yours. It’s an exponential kind of thing, and it amazes me.
Dear God, thank you that when we ask, you sort us out. Bless our questions and help us receive your answers. Make our faces radiant. In Jesus’ name, Amen.