How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Are you determined to succeed this year? Good for you. I wish you the best with whatever you are focused on accomplishing in this coming year. I will be honest and say that I have not made a resolution for years. When I do, it feels like I am setting myself up for failure because after a few weeks, any notion I had to spend more time getting in shape or lose weight or save more money always seems to get lost in the shuffle of life. I think most people really do want to be successful but it takes a lot of intentional behavior to make changes and stick with them. This year, instead of a resolution, I am trying something different. I am challenging myself to change my focus from self-improvement technics to developing a deeper, richer spiritual identity. Wow that will be a big task, which is why I have called it a challenge.
As I read Peterson’s book, he takes me on a tour of the Psalms in order to help me see the glory and wonder of the God that creation celebrates. In his study, he directs our attention to the intention of the author, which shows us that the focus of the biblical text is on God and not the people searching for “the meaning of life.” He describes it like this; the Psalms are “prayed by people who understand that God had everything to do with them. God, not their feelings, was the center. God, not their souls, was the issue. God not the meaning of life, was critical… The Psalms come from people who hear God speak to them and realize that it is the most important word they will ever hear spoken.” The Psalmist writes of a relationship with a diverse God who bears many characteristics that are familiar to us, like that of a gardener who plants or someone who sustains life by providing water and someone who laughs at our grandiose ideas and finally is a deliverer who protects us with a shield of love and care. As we read the text, the challenge for us is to read the words and find ways to make them come alive in our circumstances. How do we adapt the words of a father like King David, who laments over the betrayal of his son Absalom to relate to our pain and struggles? Let’s look at a few verses of Psalm 3 and see if we can make sense of it:
LORD, how many are my foes!
David had many enemies not only as a King, or as an army general but also as a man who knew the great pain of betrayal and fear as a parent and husband. What are our foes? Could they be self-doubt, self-critique, distrust or fear? Most of us often struggle with feelings of inadequacy and get stuck with no clear way to make changes.
How many rise up against me! Many are rising against me;
many are saying to me, “There is no help for you in God.”
How often do we feel alone and more precisely inadequate? Is it easier to listen to negative voices surrounding us than to believe in the words of those who affirm who we are? Are we living in the past, with an unwillingness to forgive and let go rather than trust in God’s love and forgiveness?
But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the Lord and he answers me from his holy hill.
Just as the writer trusts in God, his protector and shield, we are given the same assurances that we too are loved and cared for by God. Even as we doubt and cry out, “God are you there?” the Lord answers us with a “Yes, I am here, beside you holding you.”
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
Believing in God’s promises, we are able to sleep, rest easy and awaken refreshed to face a new day or a new beginning trusting that God walks along side us day or night.
Do you see how this works? The psalmist gets to the core of his feelings of doubt and fear and yet articulates his comfort and trust that God is actively listening. They are in a real relationship with each other based on trust of a powerful and mighty God who protects and shields us while providing the love and comfort of a caring Father. Real relationships are based not on our wants, needs and desires or how we will benefit but on taking precious time listening to and praising our God the creator and deliverer. I think the more we can identify the attributes of who God is, the more we will be able to praise God and trust that God is actively involved in our world guiding, directing and loving us through it. Let this be our prayer…