Thought for the Week - 10th March

Psalm 55

1 Give ear to my prayer, O God, And do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
2 Attend to me, and hear me; I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily,
3 Because of the voice of the enemy, Because of the oppression of the wicked;
For they bring down trouble upon me, And in wrath they hate me.

4 My heart is severely pained within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5 Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, And horror has overwhelmed me.
6 So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.
7 Indeed, I would wander far off, And remain in the wilderness. Selah
8 I would hasten my escape From the windy storm and tempest.”

9 Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues, For I have seen violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they go around it on its walls;
Iniquity and trouble are also in the midst of it.
11 Destruction is in its midst; Oppression and deceit do not depart from its streets.

12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; Then I could bear it.
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me;
Then I could hide from him.
13 But it was you, a man my equal, My companion and my acquaintance.
14 We took sweet counsel together, And walked to the house of God in the throng.

15 Let death seize them; Let them go down alive into hell,
For wickedness is in their dwellings and among them.

16 As for me, I will call upon God, And the Lord shall save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud,
And He shall hear my voice.
18 He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me,
For there were many against me.
19 God will hear, and afflict them, Even He who abides from of old. Selah
Because they do not change, Therefore they do not fear God.

20 He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him;
He has broken his covenant.
21 The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, But war was in his heart;
His words were softer than oil, Yet they were drawn swords.

22 Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

23 But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction;
Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days;
But I will trust in You.

I’ve had quite a difficult few months. At work I’ve found myself being given multiple additional responsibilities which has resulted in having to undertake lots of extra tasks on top of my current workload. It’s been an extremely difficult time, which has been very busy and stressful. I’ve had to fight a lot of worries about what could go wrong and what could be missed etc. It’s been a very uncertain time. I felt very uncertain about my circumstances, unsure about how things would go, uncertain about myself and unconfident whether I could do what needed to be done.

God has spoken to me all through it. He’s given me words. He’s told me He’ll fight for me and He won’t allow me to be put to shame. When God speaks to us sometimes, it can go in so far but there’s still a bit of us that’s uncertain. We can know in our head that God is with us, and yet it doesn’t go down deep and there’s still a disquiet within us.

It’s only this week that I’ve felt God come very closely around me and to comfort me. I’ve felt Him saying He’s in control, and for me to see it and feel it. All of us go through times where we lose sense of our certainty, our confidence in ourselves and God, go through difficult times, or are very busy and stressed. Not only is God in that with us, but it is His hand that takes us into those things.

When we find ourselves in situations like that, what do we do? We lose sense of our certainty, we lose sense of ourselves, and we lose sense of God and God can seem distant from us. When things are going well, we don’t doubt that God will be there and that God will help us. And yet, so often we have times where we don’t have that certainty at all. It’s almost as if God disappears, and all we can see is ourselves and our circumstances. The only certainty we seem to have is that we can’t deal with whatever it is.

We can feel that circumstances are against us. We can feel like a ship on the sea. We can feel very uncomfortable, out of our comfort zone. Almost the swell of the tide. When I used to go fishing in a little boat, we’d see a tanker go past a couple of miles away and would know that a few minutes later these big swells would come through the calm waters. The boat would tilt and react, and you’d never be quite sure if the boat would tip right over.

It can be like that for us. We might not be in the middle of a raging storm, but the swells come and we lose sense of our confidence in God and in ourselves. Or it can be like a storm, and our own emotions can rise against us. There’s a lovely line from a song I used to sing in school “guide me above the storms of passion and the murmurs of self will“. We can be on a boat and all of our emotions seem to rise up against us, like panic and distrust.

We can feel hurt, an anger at God or other people, fear, anxiety. These emotions can rise up from our circumstances. The waves are crashing, the boat is tilting, the weather above is going on with lightning striking, and our emotions rise up. We feel we can’t deal with it.

We can also experience something quite different again. The waters can be very still. There are no crashing storm, but a mist descends. It’s almost as if you can see very far in front of you at all. It’s not like the boat is about to fall into the sea, but you can’t see anything. You almost feel as if you can’t feel anything. You feel this mist all around you and you don’t know how you can get out of it. You can’t see the clear blue skies, and you can’t see where you’re going. There’s nothing troubling you, but you feel slightly dead. We lose sight of God and can’t see Him. All we can see is this very narrow thing.

All of these things, all of these difficulties, they are things that so quickly take our focus off God. They focus us on ourselves. We can lose control of the situation, and ourselves, and feel as if God is nowhere to be found. We struggle and grapple with things. It’s easy to lose focus on God and to focus on ourselves. We focus on ourselves and our problems. We can quickly get into complaining about things. It can bring such a negative mind-set. We lose sight of God in the midst of focussing about how we feel and how we feel about other people. We end up getting into a cycle of blame. We lose sight and focus of God.

We can also lose sight of and focus on God due to sin, and the conviction of sin. When we know we’re in the wrong place and doing the wrong thing, and holding out against God, we see the gap between us and God. God uses that to prompt us to do something about it. We need to come to Christ, bring our sin to Him and find forgiveness.

We can feel like this because we’ve taken our eyes off God. Because of the circumstances we’re in. So often the busyness comes around us. The world is getting busier. I wonder sometimes whether a lot of the mental health issues that we’re seeing growing around us is because we’re just so much busier, and that we’re not equipped or meant to deal with a current, constant, fast pace of life. Our natural state is a slow state of life with short burst. We have this constant state of information overload. You read of people having life coaches, and the high functioning CEOs with agenda setters, who plan their entire day from 4am with yoga, meditation and gluten free breakfasts. It’s hard to deal with because we’re not designed to work at that pace. We’ve got so much disparate things going on, and it all causes us to lose sight of God.

It’s amazing that when we’re busy the first thing we sacrifice is our time with God. We sit down to pray but we’re not really switched off. We haven’t really tuned into God because our minds are constantly active. It’s work, the family, the TV, a phone screen. Our minds are constantly being stimulated which means we can’t switch off. It’s become harder and harder for us to just sit. And sit still before the presence of God, and spend time with our souls and minds quiet before Him. We’re constantly used to our minds being stimulated. It means we can lose focus of God.

Another reason we feel this uncertainty and lack of comfort, is not necessarily that we’ve done anything wrong, but that God allows it to happen. He allows the storms to come. He allows us to find ourselves in a position where we feel out of control. It’s often the hardest ones to understand. We can cope with being there because we’ve done something wrong because we’re in control. It’s far harder when we find ourselves in that position and we have no control over it; when it’s nothing we’ve done wrong, and yet we find ourselves in the middle of the storm. He allows for our growth. He allows it so we rely on Him more.

If we look at David, he spent many years like this on the run. He spent many years where his mentor and his king betrayed him. His son betrayed him. Those closest to him sought to kill and destroy him. We read so many of these Psalms. If you’re every feeling under the cosh or out of control, open the bible at Psalms and there’s a one in two chance that you’ll pick up a Psalm written by David where he’s writing about how he feels distanced and isolated from God, and is surrounded by people criticising him and trying to kill him.

Whenever I read these Psalms I always feel that however bad it is for me, at least I’m not David. We’ve not been thrown out of our home and are living in the wilderness eating berries and having to kill bears. We’re not afraid that if we go to the wrong village that there’ll be people loyal to Saul or Absalom who will kill us. In many ways we can have real problems and difficulties, but it’s worth looking at this and realising it could be a lot worse, a lot more uncomfortable and a lot more painful. It’s all relative. Sometimes I’ve looked back at times where I thought everything was hard and dreadful, and realise that I enjoyed that time of my life. I remember the positives and it wasn’t that bad. Life gets harder. In the Christian life, God trains us for more and for more.

When we get through this period of your life, you will look back and realise God was with you. You could look at it in a depressing way – that it’s only going to get harder. Or you could look at in the way that God is only going to get closer. God is only going to provide more for you in your difficulties and problems. You’re only going to find more of Him.

We read the prayer that David writes, above. It’s almost a prayer of desperation: “do not hide yourself from me”. He’s asking God not to hide Himself. Often it can feel that God is hiding Himself. David writes that he is restless in his complaint and he moans noisily. How many of us can say the same? It’s what we do. We have a difficulty and we moan. We feel restless within ourselves. At that point, because there’s not an inner peace within us, we lose our control and our peace. Everything becomes a problem.

The thing we focus on gets bigger and the thing we don’t focus gets smaller or blurred. It’s the same in our spiritual lives. If we focus on our problems and our circumstances, they become huge, and God becomes blurred. Yet if we focus on God, He becomes huge in our vision and the things around us that are bothering us and troubling us, get blurred.

David says about the voice of the enemy. The voice of the enemy comes in and masquerades as our voice, or the voice of our minds, or the voice of someone else. When we focus on that it makes us restless. Have you felt that? You know there’s a thought in your mind, and you know in the depths that it’s not right, yet you pick at it and play with it. It becomes bigger and bigger until it’s all we’re thinking about. We’re a mess of worry, depression, anxiety or distrust, because we’ve picked at this thing and it’s become so big that it’s all we can see.

David says the wicked bring trouble on him. Sometimes the voice of the enemy, and sometimes its people who are not in Christ who bring trouble to us. David writes that his heart is pained and talks of horror. I don’t understand the horror of his circumstance because I’ve not been through it. But David has. And Christ has. David says:

“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.
Indeed, I would wander far off, And remain in the wilderness.”

We can read this in two ways. In one way, David is saying that he wants to get away from the situation. But where then would he be? He would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. We will have circumstances that we would get away from if we could. But what would happen to us? We’d wander away, off the path, and find ourselves in the wilderness. SO often God brings these circumstances and difficulties to us to keep us on the right path.

We can almost divide Christians into two. The type of person who when things are going well they get complacent, and when things are going badly they go back to God. Or the type who where things are going well they’re with God, but when things are going badly they lose sight of God. I’m the type that when things are going badly that’s when I’m more pushed to find God.

There’s a way of reading this that if we all had it plain sailing, where everything is well, would we really be here? Would we really be coming to God if we didn’t have any problems to bring to Him? Would we be opening up the depths of our souls and relying on Him? Would we really be throwing ourselves on Him if it was all plain sailing? Would we really be dealing with the personality traits and twists within us if we never had any problems to bring us to Him?

It’s God pulling David closer. He knows David’s nature and that through this David is coming back again and again to rely on God. He’s not relying on himself. He’s not relying on his emotion. So often we rely on feeling good about something. Things are going well because I feel well. God is teaching David to rely on God and find that inner peace, even when things go badly. Even when his emotions aren’t feeling it. Even when his emotions are against him, he can find that inner peace and that he’s on the right path.

There’s something about just getting on with it. It’s not about us forcing ourselves and whipping ourselves. It’s about us opening ourselves to focus on God. Opening ourselves to pray to Him and seek Him. And also opening ourselves to help other people. The devil wants us to focus on ourselves so much that we forget about the needs of others around us. He wants us to focus so much on ourselves that we don’t focus on anybody else. Even when we don’t quite feel like it, we need to spend time with God and opening ourselves to Him. We know that when we do that how much we feel better as a result.

David says:

16 As for me, I will call upon God, And the Lord shall save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud,
And He shall hear my voice.
18 He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me,
For there were many against me.

The answer here is that not that God takes away the battle, takes away our circumstances, or that we find ourselves having an easy time, but that we will call upon Him and He will save us. He will save us in the midst of the battle. Any time we need Him, His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3: 22-23). It doesn’t matter what time of day, whatever the difficulty or circumstance, we can call upon the Lord and He shall hear our voice. He shall give us peace from the battle, in the midst of the battle of He shall give us peace. Deep inner peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). We’re not relying on our own understanding, we’re relying on God and knowing that it doesn’t matter how it turns out, God is in control.

It’s like riding an elephant. I always assumed the rider of an elephant would control the elephant. I was talking to a friend who told me that the rider doesn’t control the elephant. The elephant goes whatever way it wants – it’ll find the quickest way through the terrain. It’s like us. It’s not to say we don’t do anything, don’t have a responsibility, or don’t have to put ourselves in the right place. But when we’re in the middle of our circumstance, when we have cried out to God and feel there’s a huge obstacle in front of us, like that elephant takes us around that terrain God carries us through it even when every element of reason and logic within our mind tells us it can’t be done. God takes us through it. That is what He is teaching us to learn to rely on. He is teaching us to learn to step out when there doesn’t seem to be anything there in front of us. Often we can’t even have faith when the circumstances are good in front of us. Yet He’s teaching us not to rely on our senses or our reasoning, but to rely on Him.

David finishes by saying:

22 Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

Cast your burden on Him. Give everything you have to Him. He shall sustain you. He shall never permit the righteous to be moved!  That we would take that as a promise of hope.

Samuel Rutherford wrote:

Believe God’s word and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your Rock is Christ, and it is not the Rock which ebbs and flows, but your sea.

God doesn’t go up and down. Our circumstances may. But God, the rock on who we are building, does not move. In Romans 8:28-29 we read:

“all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

That is our inheritance. That is our promise. It doesn’t matter where we are in our circumstances, that we cast all of our burdens – worry, sin, hurt, pain, anxiety, and busyness – on Him. That we stop holding onto them, that we put them on Him. As we put them on Him, He shall sustain you, even when those circumstances don’t seem to change or seem to get worse. If we do that and keep focussing on Him, He will never permit the righteous to be moved.

That is our inheritance. That is what we have. That we would enter into that, wherever we are and wherever we find ourselves.



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