David—shepherd boy, youngest son, killer of Goliath, companion of King Saul, warrior, king—a man who loved God passionately, a man who committed the most heinous sins yet turned to God in repentance and received forgiveness, a man who poured out his heart as he wrote many of the psalms that grace the pages of our Bibles. He had the ability to assign words to his thoughts and feelings that would endure for thousands of years, remaining as relevant to our lives today as they were when he penned them.
I was pondering how I could adequately describe David’s writing talent—how could I put into words his ability to communicate the thoughts, feelings and emotions that can often be so hard to express? I asked the LORD, and immediately as Simon and Garfunkel’s song, Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water, began playing in my mind I realized I could come up with no better description.
More times than I can count, in the midst of my despair, I have turned to David’s words for comfort. And, also more times that I can count, when my own words have seemed inadequate to express the majesty of God and His creation, David once again so clearly illustrated my heart.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. Psalm 19:1-6
It has been a dark and stormy season in my life, yet each time I feel like I just can’t go any farther, the light of my LORD shines through to illuminate my path.
Several months ago, after an unwelcome emergency hospital stay, I was advised to have a major surgical procedure. Needless to say this was not a concept that I embraced with joy; but finally a wise and compassionate doctor said to me, “Barbara, you’re a walking time bomb—you really don’t have a choice.” So I reluctantly agreed and scheduled a date for surgery, but once the decision was made I fumed and complained to God almost nonstop. Then I began to wonder how Jesus could have handled the knowledge of what lay ahead for Him at the cross, even as He ministered to others without complaint. How did He keep from getting so depressed about His future that He couldn’t function or, at the very least, go around with a grumpy why-me attitude? Yes, I knew He spent many hours alone in prayer, as evidenced repeatedly in scripture, but there seemed to be something I was missing because no matter how much I prayed I didn’t seem to be finding a lot of comfort.
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35
And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. Mark 6:46
Finally one day I “happened” across Hebrews 12:1-2, a scripture I’ve studied more times than I can count:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
But now the phrase, “Jesus…for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” jumped out at me as never before. Jesus was focused on the joy that was ahead, not the agony. So I determined that if Jesus is really my example and if my life is really about being conformed to His image, then I’d better just get over it and start focusing on:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Amazingly I immediately lost the sense of dread and, while I still didn’t like the idea of surgery, I was able to look beyond it.
So now I’m finally about two weeks post-op, yet all around it seems dark and stormy again. My recovery continues to be difficult and I’m certainly not where I’d hoped to be by now, so here I am “preaching to the choir;” reminding myself once again that I can still trust God, and I’m pressing into Him to try and figure out what it is I’m supposed to be learning now. But my experience is nothing new. Over and over the psalmists cried out in their distress to God, and over and over they proclaimed His faithfulness in every situation. And so once again I too stand in faith on the Word of God.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:5-7a
Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. Psalm 112:3-5
At the gym, sweating away on the elliptical and trying to distract myself from how much time was left to exercise, I was watching a cooking show on the TV in front of me. The guest chef created a dish that looked and sounded delicious, and he described it as comfort food. The host responded, “Well, that’s what food is all about—to provide comfort.” I doubt that he even thought about what he was saying—it was just the polite response; but oh, how dangerous a comment if taken seriously. To seek our comfort from food is to invite disaster, yet to be honest most of us probably do so on occasion. Just smelling the dish this chef prepared would probably add ten pounds to my body, not to mention sending my cholesterol through the roof!
But the danger lies far deeper than the physical repercussions when we depend on anything or anyone other than God for our comfort. Lives are wrecked because we try to sooth our wounds, not just with food, but with other things as well—everything from drugs, to shopping, to sex, to anything that gives us a temporary fix and makes us feel better. Even depending solely on a trusted friend can backfire because a time will always come when they will disappoint.
Every created thing to which we run for comfort will eventually fail, but God never will. He can always be the place we go, whatever our need.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah