Many of the Psalms reference imagery that gives us an ability to express our hearts and to know comfort. Such as: The Lord is my rock and fortress who reaches down and draws me out of deep waters. Or: he makes my feet like the feet of a deer and enables me to stand on the heights.
One of most comforting imagery in the Psalms is related to sight. Time and again, the Psalms remind us that we’re not hidden from God’s sight. He sees and he cares for us, but at times it feels as though God plays hide and seek, and we’re left blind folded as we stumble for our next step.
Do you ever feel as though you can’t see? It’s as though confusion and darkness swirl around you and each time you think your vision is about to clear, another gust of wind blows through your life. It’s wearying and demoralizing. So we cry out to him and he answers, but do we hear him?
It’s like a little one who hit her head, and whose loud cries drown her mother’s voice. Her pain consumes her reality and she cannot receive comfort because she cannot hear it. We can be like that little one too. We can be so immersed in our pain that we cannot hear God’s whisper so we determine that he’s not there at all. But today’s Psalm reminds us of the truth that he does hear and he is with us.
“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order than man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.” Psalm 10:17-18
In this Psalm, we see that we will be afflicted, we will need defending, we will feel alone and oppressed. These are the realities of a broken life. Sometimes we’ll be bombarded by all four of them, and other times we’ll experience a reprieve. Life consists of deep valleys, dry desserts, lush meadows, and high mountaintops.
We have this life race to consider and this abundant life that Jesus promises happens in the middle of the journey. Abundance doesn’t equate to physical prosperity, but an abundance of heart and joy and love and peace and fruit of the spirit. That’s our abundance. And we can have it now.
But. When life feels sparse and cheap, it’s easy to forget that God is still with us. And this Psalm reminds us that he hears our cries, and he encourages us by listening to us and defending us, which means that we might need to hush and be still, resting in him.
A Prayer for Your Heart
Holy Lord, we bless you for your unwavering commitment to us despite our fears, losses, and disappointments. Life is hard. And good. Give us grace to navigate it with peace and acknowledgement of you through it all. Sometimes it seems as though you are hiding and we cannot find you no matter how hard we seek you. Lord, forgive us for doubting your presence and power and lead is into your nearness. Let the truth that you hear our cry settle deep within our heart and may we look to you for encouragement when all we feel is discouraged. You hear our cry and not just hear us, but you listen to us. You are our listening ear and our constancy in our rather inconsistent life. Let us grow in you, rest in you, and depend on you more and more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Psalms have long comforted me and continue to do so because they have taught me how to express honest emotion. The sludge that hides deep in my heart is given a voice. And they show me that even when I screw up, there’s hope.
Further, the Psalms give us an overview of God’s faithfulness towards the Israelites and reminds us that he is faithful to us. Here in this book, we can learn about God, his heart for mankind, and insight into how our heart behaves. God’s heart is for us, and his righteousness and kindness calls us up and onward.
So The Psalms Prayer Series will contain a portion of Psalms, a little explanation, and a prayer for your heart. Prayer unites us so that our souls know we’re not alone. (Do you ever feel alone? I do.) Prayer creates community and God shows up when we pray. Let’s meet him there.
“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.” Psalms 86:11-13 NIV
Does your heart ever feel divided? Mine does. It wrestles back and forth like a tug o’war and eventually I fall “splat” in the mud. It races through the cycle of trust and worry, worry and trust. My heart gives problems to God and snatches them right back. It wrestles with control and surrender. It wants what it wants more than it wants what God wants.
An undivided heart is tied to fear. And this is what I know: there’s fear that lies and convinces us that we are beyond redemption and that’s the kind that leads to death. But then there’s the fear that brings us life and that is an awareness of the power of God and that there’s no one like him. It’s here that what was once divided is made whole.
His love rescues, redeems, and restores and we glorify him through praise and obedience. As he teaches us his way, we walk in his truth.
You are beyond magnificent. You are glorious and righteous in all your ways. You lead us into righteousness and truth. May we walk in you, with you, for you, and towards you. Oh God, teach us your ways for our ways are filled with confusion, doubt, and wrong turns.
Guide us to walk in your truth, every day, every moment, and let us reach for you before a word leaves our mouth. Oh Lord, our hearts are divided and may we have hearts that are singularly yours–wholly and completely–not wavering, but steadfast and that is only found in you. Let us turn to you for unity, for strength, and for love.
Lord, we praise you–with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Let us glorify your name as we navigate the difficulties this life presents. Our hearts are yours, Lord, all of it, all of us, for your love is great towards us because you have delivered us. The grave cannot hold you, and it cannot prevent you from bringing new life to our heart. Great is your love and we proclaim it in the dark and in the day, in the sun and in the rain, in the depths of despair and the ecstasy of joy.
How do we translate joy into strength when this life seems to drain us of our energy?
We live in the thin place where we function in this world but not of the world. Where we embrace grace so that we can live well with grace while resisting the temptations of the world that hold us back and prevent us from standing strong in the faith that saves.
It’s in the thin place where we realize that we don’t affect transformation but that God works within our surrendered hearts so that we experience renewal. If we look within ourselves for joy and fulfillment we’re let down. If we look to others then we join the human race of competition and comparison where we’re always, always disappointed.
But if we look to God for joy, we discover the source of joy, and the strength to face the troubles that comes with this life.
The end of Nehemiah 8:10 states, “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” In context, we discover the Israelites weeping as they listening to Ezra reading the word of God.
Nehemiah tells the people that it’s good and right to be sorrowful over their sin, but not to allow their sorrow to be so excessive that it hinders their joy in God and cheerful service. He exhorts them to find strength in God’s joy.
This joy of the Lord as our strength is not found in the flesh, but found in the holy understanding that God is good, that his grace directs and governs our lives, and that our hearts delight in his love and favor.
God is Good
Many times the world seems to disprove this, but if we look with eyes to see, we find God’s hand. At times we expect God to ride in on a white stallion and remove us from our situations, when in reality, he sends people along with a kind word, a gentle smile that gives us the strength to endure. We can serve other’s in this way as well.
God is good. Just because bad things happen doesn’t mean he endorses them. This life holds pain, struggles, triumph, and joy, and we mustn’t judge God based our circumstances. Knowing the joy of the Lord as our strength begins with wrapping our minds around the truth that he is good.
God’s Grace Directs and Governs
God’s grace does not endorse sinful behavior, but makes a way to resist the behavior that separates us from him. We’re not sinners because we sin, we sin because we’re born sinners. God’s grace governs and directs our lives and makes a way for us to resist temptation.
As living sacrifices we struggle with the battle between our flesh and our spirit and it’s through God’s grace that we’re able to be renewed. God’s transforming grace governs our lives as we surrender to him day after day. His joy is our strength to say “yes” to him over and over.
God Loves and Favors Us
Joy as our strength to obey comes through the celebration of God’s love and favor for us. Receiving God’s love is foundational to our day to day walk with Christ.
He loves you with an everlasting love that doesn’t waver based on your feelings, but remains constant because God is constant. It’s his consistent love that compels us to obey him even when it’s hard. God’s love propels us onward because his joy is the oil that lubricates the wheels of our obedience.
His favor rests on you, the apple of his eye, and motivates you to obey his call in your life. He calls us to live a worthy life: a life clothed with compassion and kindness, grace and mercy, love and obedience.
The joy that radiates from him like a piercing light is the place where we receive the strength to do the hard things like resisting our sinful nature and saying yes to the ways of God.
God’s joy is our strength to receive his forgiveness and to live like we’re forgiven. Yes, we grieve over our sin and troubles in this life, but we also can live in abundance and God’s joy is the strength that enables us to do so.