Every time I’m in trouble I call on you, confident that you’ll answer

Sometimes you just need a Psalm…. This version is The Message, a really stunning paraphrase. You can also read it in the New Living Translation, but this version really struck a chord with me today.

Got any bullies after you today? And, no, they don’t have to be people. Sometimes the worst bullies in our lives are intangible. Anxiety and fear. Depression and despair. Anger and frustration. And insecurity. Just because a bully can’t physically touch you doesn’t make it less harmful. And just because it’s not physical doesn’t mean God can’t help you overcome it.

Psalm 86

person-young-woman-girl-7306Bend an ear, God; answer me.
I’m one miserable wretch!
Keep me safe—haven’t I lived a good life?
Help your servant—I’m depending on you!
You’re my God; have mercy on me.
I count on you from morning to night.
Give your servant a happy life;
I put myself in your hands!
You’re well-known as good and forgiving,
bighearted to all who ask for help.
Pay attention, God, to my prayer;
bend down and listen to my cry for help.
Every time I’m in trouble I call on you,
confident that you’ll answer.

There’s no one quite like you among the gods, O Lord,
and nothing to compare with your works.
All the nations you made are on their way,
ready to give honor to you, O Lord,
Ready to put your beauty on display,
parading your greatness,
And the great things you do—
God, you’re the one, there’s no one but you!

Train me, God, to walk straight;
then I’ll follow your true path.
Put me together, one heart and mind;
then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you, dear Lord;
I’ve never kept secret what you’re up to.
You’ve always been great toward me—what love!
You snatched me from the brink of disaster!
God, these bullies have reared their heads!
A gang of thugs is after me—
and they don’t care a thing about you.
But you, O God, are both tender and kind,
not easily angered, immense in love,
and you never, never quit.
So look me in the eye and show kindness,
give your servant the strength to go on,
save your dear, dear child!
Make a show of how much you love me
so the bullies who hate me will stand there slack-jawed,
As you, God, gently and powerfully
put me back on my feet.

Knowing God means letting Him into your life

Psalm 18:30 says,

30 God’s way is perfect.
      All the Lord’s promises prove true.
      He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

 I struggle with going God’s way sometimes because I want to go my way. With my way, I can see how the path twists and turns. I have a plan that will help me navigate around the blind corners and the steep hills . . . at least, I think my plan will do that. Of course, when difficult times come along my way, my plan turns out to be pretty much useless. What’s nice about going God’s way is that He really does know all the pitfalls along the path you’re walking. Really. He doesn’t have just some half-baked plan on how to survive when life gets tough. God knows everything about the road He asks us to take.

And as far as God’s promises? God has never made a promise to me that He hasn’t kept. He has promised never to leave me, and He hasn’t. He has promised to provide for me, and He has. He has promised to protect me, and this one I’ve seen Him actually do time and time and time again (and I would love to know the things that He’s protected me from that I know nothing about). He hears me when I call to Him. He listens when I need Him. He doesn’t always act when I want Him to, but He always acts when I need Him to. And He’s always moving. He’s never still, which means that I can be still and wait for Him to work.

God is my shield. He’s the refuge where I take shelter from the storms of life. Like yesterday. Yesterday was a rough day. There were conflicts at work, not necessarily involving me but conflicts where I found myself between people. I always end up between people, and it’s the place I like least in the world to be. And there were all sorts of different difficulties (odd and assorted) going on in life at the same time, and to just sit and think on it all was overwhelming, discouraging and pretty depressing. So I stopped thinking about it and read Psalms. I read every Psalm from Psalm 46 through Psalm 56. The common theme through many of those Psalms is how God does the fighting for you. That you just have to be still. And then the message at church last night was on Elijah and how even though Elijah had gotten down and depressed about something insignificant that God still had work for Him to do. And that when Elijah was being pursued, what he needed to do wasn’t to fight; he just needed to stand and let God fight for him.

God’s way is perfect.

All the Lord’s promises are true.

He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

I know all of these are true from experience. But here’s the kicker, if you don’t ever go God’s way, how will you know it’s perfect? If you don’t ever give God the opportunity to keep a promise, how will you know that His promises are true? And if you never look to God for protection, how will you know the strength of His shield?

I can sit here and talk about God all day long, but it only goes so far. And people around you can talk about God’s goodness and His mercy and His power and protection until they’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t mean anything personally until you experience it for yourself.

I used to be like that. I used to sit and wonder and how people could speak so familiarly about God. I used to marvel at how people seemed to be best friends with Him. I was shocked that God would intervene in peoples’ lives on such an individual basis. I mean, I knew it happened in the Bible, but that was the Bible. And things in the Bible don’t happen in modern culture. Right?

But when I stopped following my own rules, when I stopped walking my own path and decided to get on the road God had chosen for me, I learned that He really does know what He’s doing. And when I started taking Him at His word, I discovered that every promise He’s made to me is really, actually, honestly true. And when I ran to Him for protection, He wrapped me in His arms and reassured me and reminded me that He will never leave me.

If you don’t ever give God a chance — a real, honest chance — you will never understand who He is. And I’m not talking about a half-hearted attempt. Even those people out there who are Christians can fall prey to this. We’re all so comfortable in our Christian churches and our Christian homes, listening to Christian radio, watching Christian TV and going to Christian movies. We’re so caught up in “being Christian,” we have forgotten what it means to follow Christ. Or maybe we never knew what following Christ was from the beginning.

Give God a chance. Follow His way for a little while. Trust in one of His promises. Seek shelter under His wings during a difficult day. Believe Him. He’s waiting for us to open our eyes and accept the relationship He’s been offering for all our lives.