Today's scripture focus passage: Psalm 3 ~ A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
O LORD, how my adversaries have increased!
Many are rising up against me.
Many are saying of my soul,
"There is no deliverance for him in God." Selah
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me
my glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the LORD with my voice,
and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
who have set themselves against me round about.
Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God!
for you have smitten all my enemies on the cheek;
You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the LORD;
Your blessing be upon your people! Selah
I love how David's very normal, human emotions come out in so many of his Psalms. He isn't too proud to admit he's scared or sad or overwhelmed. Most of all, I love how virtually all his Psalms ~ no matter how desperate he sounds in the beginning ~ conclude with statements of praise and adoration. This one is no different.
And we find him in a position that many Christians find themselves in: the world trying to convince us in some way, shape, or form, that belief in God isn't actually good for anything. And as we all know, either from personal experience or from watching the lives of others, faith in God doesn't immunize us against trouble, pain, poverty, illness, stress... the bad things in life. In fact, God very seldom plucks us out of the circumstances that cause suffering.
Without realizing it, I think a lot of us Western Christians have fallen for a more insidious version of the "health & wealth gospel" because we tend to believe OUR suffering is outside of God's will. We forget that suffering isn't just the starving masses in poor countries. It isn't just mistreated, imprisoned Christians in Communist or Islamic countries. We forget suffering for His sake includes ALL forms of suffering, whether being tortured for a faith in Him in a filthy prison cell, or dealing with the stress of a precarious relationship with a co-worker. Whether struggling to stay alive in the poorest conditions imaginable, or struggling to handle a defiant, rebellious teenager. Suffering for His sake isn't a certain type of suffering, it's a certain attitude in suffering.
Most often, we seek the shortest, quickest, easiest way out. Whenever it is humanly possible to alleviate our physical, marital, fiscal, emotional, relational, or legal discomfort ~ whatever the cause(s) may be ~ we assume God never intended for us to suffer through that particular experience.
But David rallies his mental faculties and reminds himself that even though he might have nothing else going for him, he has God, who keeps his soul secure. We need to remind ourselves of this, too. And like David, we need to make this apparent to those around us. Yes, David prays for his many difficult circumstances to be lifted, but in each and every Psalm where the tone suddenly changes, there's a tacit statement that is articulated so well by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Book of Daniel: If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (3:17-18)
Of course those three young captives prayed for deliverance. And they knew their God most certainly could deliver. They also knew He might be calling them to this suffering. But whether He removed them from the situation or had them go through it, their opinions and beliefs about who and what He is were going to remain unshaken.
Without knowing the Messiah or how, exactly, His suffering would be for mankind's eternal joy, these men ~ David and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as well ~ knew their willingness to endure suffering was the best option for displaying the glory of God.
Do we face the challenges, struggles, hardships ~ even minor annoyances ~ with a view of the Gospel in mind? Is the quickest way out of hardship the best way for us to display His glory to the world? Let's not forget that struggles generally present a much better opportunity than our times of ease do to demonstrate why faith in God IS beneficial. What if praising Him and remaining steadfast in our belief in Him and His Word despite our circumstances is the best possible way for those around us to see and get to know Him? Can we, like David, counsel our hearts so that we come to the point where we can endure and even persevere with peace, joy, and contentment because that's how others will best see the greatness of God even though right now, it seems impossible?
God says He knows the plans He has for us. He never promises those plans will be for our comfort and ease. They are for our holiness and sanctification; they are for others to see and hear Him through our lives, the good parts and the bad. But He promises His plans for us in eternity will exceed any expectations or dreams our minds can conceive.
And that is why David could sleep at night and wake refreshed though his life seemed to be falling apart around him. That is why he could rejoice in God, his Deliverer, even though the situation wasn't resolved. He knew struggles are temporary; salvation is eternal.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: