Godly Grief

Psalm 6

[1] O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
[2] Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
[3] My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD—how long?

[4] Turn, O LORD, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
[5] For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?

[6] I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
[7] My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.

[8] Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
[9] The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
[10] All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

How do people normally handle grief and hard situations? I find that within this question there are generally three kinds of people. The first is the person who is determined to muscle their way through any situation. No matter how hard and difficult the situation they will get through it no matter what.  They are stoics who refuse to show any emotion and continually talk about beating the odds, persevering in adversity, or not letting themselves wallow in self-pity.  They are the “I will do whatever it takes” kind of people.

The second kind of person is the one who isn’t so determined to overcome their circumstances, but they always have a smile on their face and say, “God’s in control and he’s got it.” Whether they have a death in the family, are dealing with economic despair, cancer, or world tragedies, their default is to always remain happy and positive no matter what comes their way.  They remind me of Joy in the movie “Inside Out.” The only emotion they want to experience is happiness and they will try as hard as they can to continually live in it at all costs while forsaking sadness.

Lastly, there is the person who only wallows in their circumstances.  They are Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh; always sad, always negative, and always assuming the worst in every situation.  When hard comes their default is to cry and complain, and even lash out at God because they believe that their is some cosmic plan conspiring against them. They are perpetually stuck in a place where they only see the bad and refuse to see the good.

Now it might be easy to look at the first two ways that people deal with difficulties and see them as admirable and something to be desired. It’s also easy to look at the person who deals with grief like Eeyore and role our eyes because they clearly are not trusting God with their circumstances.  However, when we look at David’s words in Psalm 6 we begin to see that none of these ways of dealing with difficulty are healthy, nor are they God honoring.

Why? Because they miss the reality that feeling and experiencing the hard in our lives is what shows us our need for Jesus.  It drives us to God.

We see this in David as he not only feels grief and despair, but also cries out to God for help. As he says in verses 1-2 and 7:

[1] O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
[2] Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.

[7] My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.

David isn’t saying “I can get through it on my own,” nor is he saying “I’m perfectly happy because God’s in control.” No, he is feeling the real weight of his sin and circumstances and he is grieving them.

But David isn’t Eeyore either.

If all David ever did was cry and complain it would be easy to call him a Eeyore or to say that he is a man who doesn’t trust God.  Yet, it is so amazing to watch David move from grief, stress, and sorrow to faith, hope, and trust in the God of the universe. As he says in verses 8-9:

[8] Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
[9] The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD accepts my prayer.

Yes, David was in despair over the many enemies that were surrounding him and he was grieved by his own sin. But instead of staying there he cries out to God and then lives in the reality that God hears his prayers, accepts them, and will act on his behalf. He felt the reality of the hard and yet he commit his soul to his faithful creator.

This is how we should walk through hard.  We should feel the weight of the hard situations that surround us because we live in a fallen world that is full of sin and tragedy which brings a sense of mourning, sadness, and despair to our souls. But our despair should drive us to God because we know that we have a faithful creator who hears our prayers and answers us.

We serve a God who accepts our prayers on the basis of the finished work of Christ, and he will and does work for our good even in the hardest situations that surround us.

So let’s stop believing we are able to just get through hard situations. Let’s stop plastering a fake happy smile on our faces when things are hard, and let’s decide not to live like Eeyore. Instead, like David, let’s feel the weight and despair of the real and genuine hard that exists within our lives, and in our despair, let’s cry out to God in faith believing that he will work good on our behalf, even in the midst or our sorrow. This is godly grief.

He Loves Me Despite Me

Psalm 5

 [1] Give ear to my words, O LORD;
  consider my groaning.
 [2] Give attention to the sound of my cry,
  my King and my God,
  for to you do I pray.
 [3] O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
  in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
 [4] For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
  evil may not dwell with you.
 [5] The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
  you hate all evildoers.
 [6] You destroy those who speak lies;
  the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
 [7] But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
  will enter your house.
 I will bow down toward your holy temple
  in the fear of you.
 [8] Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
  because of my enemies;
  make your way straight before me.
 [9] For there is no truth in their mouth;
  their inmost self is destruction;
 their throat is an open grave;
  they flatter with their tongue.
 [10] Make them bear their guilt, O God;
  let them fall by their own counsels;
 because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
  for they have rebelled against you.
 [11] But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
  let them ever sing for joy,
 and spread your protection over them,
  that those who love your name may exult in you.
 [12] For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
  you cover him with favor as with a shield.
This psalm is so easy to read as if the wickedness that these men commit doesn’t apply to me. Am I really boastful or someone who is bloodthirsty and deceitful? Is my throat really an open grave, and is there really no truth in my mouth?
If I am honest the answer to these questions is sometimes.  But the more honest truth is that though my wickedness may not be murder in the truest sense of the word, or always speaking what is false. The greatest evil that exists within me, which God still hates. is complacency and faithlessness.  I often don’t believe God, or worse, I don’t care about God.
I am so prone to walking in the pride of my own flesh and in turn I forget the reality of who God is for me and forsake his abundant and daily grace that he is pouring upon me.  In this way I am boasting and trusting in myself and I am rebelling against God.  Yet, this psalm provides a balm and salve for my spirit.
David reminds me that God’s love is abundant and steadfast.  It is perfect and it is always overflowing to me.  It will never stop and it will never give up on me.  And it is only through his overflowing and never-stopping love that I will enter his house forever.
This means that my today and my eternity are not dictated by my perfect obedience but by the love of God poured upon me through Christ.
This is a rich and everlasting source of joy and is an ever present cause for rejoicing.  I am a child who is held fast by the love of God and everyday, despite my faithlessness and the ever present wickedness of sin that can inhabit my life, I have a God that I can run to and hide in.  I have a perfect dad who loves me, despite me, a love based on who he is and the shed blood of Christ, and not on who I am.
This God is my righteousness, he is my refuge, and he is my shield, and I have a hope that one day he will put to death all the evil that exists outside of me, but more importantly the evil that exists inside of me.  To this God, my God, be all praise, honor, and glory, forever and ever, Amen.

O Lord, You Are My Righteousness

Psalm 4

 [1] Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
  You have given me relief when I was in distress.
  Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
 [2] O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
  How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? 
 [3] But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
  the LORD hears when I call to him.
 [4] Be angry, and do not sin;
  ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
 [5] Offer right sacrifices,
  and put your trust in the LORD.

 [6] There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
  Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
 [7] You have put more joy in my heart
  than they have when their grain and wine abound.
 [8] In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
  for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

O Lord, you are my righteousness.  You have taken this wretched heart and have made it clean. You have given me a right standing with you based solely upon who you are, and the incredible and unfathomable work you have done through your precious Son. You are the God who not only hears my prayers, but you are the God who relieves my daily distresses.  You take my burdens and remind me everyday that they are not mine to carry, but are yours.

I realize that I often turned your honor into shame, and am so prone to turn from your words to false idols and lies that are untrue and can’t save me.  Forgive me for my faithlessness, and for seeking after vain glory in the eyes of the world. Lord, hear my prayers, as I know you do, and forgive me of my sin. Help me to remember that I am set apart for your purposes and glory, and not for my own. Continually renew my heart by the power of your Holy Spirit and may my full trust be in who you have reveled yourself to be in your word and in my life.

Because you have saved me by the blood of your son Jesus Christ may I walk in step with your Spirit and not be given to sin. May I be given to the fruits of your precious Spirit and not the anger and malice of my flesh that can so easily over take me.  May all that I do honor you as I seek your face, joy and glory above all else.

I confess that there are times that I question your goodness and the reality of the everlasting life that is mine through Christ.  Forgive me of such foolishness. May I live in the truth that there is more joy and satisfaction found in you than anything else that this world has to offer me.  You are greater than all wealth, possessions, and worldly accolades, and you produce an everlasting joy within me that those things could never give.

Lord, thank you that my peace and security are found in you.  Thank you that I can lie down everyday knowing that you are with me.  Thank you that you will neither leave me nor forsake me. Thank you that through Christ you accept the weak and imperfect offerings of my life and you use them for your glory.  Thank you that you have set me apart by your own righteousness and power; that I can walk everyday knowing that I am secure in you.

Lord, in you, and in you alone do I dwell in peace, safety, and everlasting joy.

My Internal Awe Problem

Psalm 3

[1] O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
[2] many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.”

[3] But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
[4] I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill.

[5] I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
[6] I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

[7] Arise, O LORD!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

[8] Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people!

Have you ever read the words of David and thought how out of touch with reality he is? I have. And today is one of those days that I especially think that David’s words are ridiculous. I feel like I woke up this morning only to be accosted by the light of day despite being severely tired and in desperate need of an amount of coffee that would probably kill a horse.  Not to mention the fact that my children didn’t care that I was tired and my one wish was that they would somehow not want to talk to me for at least the first three hours of the day. But that didn’t happen.

Needless to say I woke up on that side of the bed or in that mood.  I woke up with the dreaded feeling that everything is wrong in the world and all of that wrongness is conspiring against me in the wee morning hours of a day that I wished had never existed in the first place. My only wish was to crawl back into bed and just skip the entirety of a day that was bound to be full of badness.

So yes, I feel like David’s words are foolishness today.

Of all the people in the world that have a right to complain David is at the top of the list. He spent so much of his life not only fighting battles against ruthless nations, but also fighting battles within his own house and even within his own heart.  The foes are always rising against him, trying to take his life, and in Psalm 3 it is his own son who has run him out of the palace and is trying to kill him.  HIS OWN SON!

To make matters worse, his son, Absalom, and his surrounding enemies are taunting him by saying that God won’t help him.  Yet, in the continual litany of stress, persecution, and battles that he seems to face David doesn’t wallow in self-pity, and he doesn’t despair as a man who has no hope.  Instead he does what seemed impossible to me this morning when I endured the seemingly endless persecutions of the morning light.

He cries out to God. I mean, really cries out to God.

And not only does David cry out to God, but he says that God is his shield, and that the LORD sustains him in such a way that he is not going to worry about the thousands of enemies that surround him. David was a man who believed God in a way that doesn’t make sense to me this morning.  He believed that despite all the enemies, all the wars, all the family struggles, and all the sinful passions and turmoil that existed within himself, that God was with him and would answer him. EVEN WHEN HIS OWN SON WAS TRYING TO KILL HIM!

It is safe to say that this isn’t my existence.

I can so easily curse God or loss my faith when the sun hits my eyes wrong in the morning light and disturbs my otherwise copacetic slumber.  I can live as if the everyday, run of the mill, situations of life are really evils from the pit of hell that are some how conspiring against my very existence. Am I really being persecuted? No. Am I really enduring hardship? No. Do I have thousands of enemies surrounding me every day? In my saner states I would of course say, no.

So why does David respond so differently to adversity than I do?  Why does David so trust God in the really hard when I can’t even trust God in the trite?

I think the answer is found in verse 4 of this Psalm where David says, “I cried aloud to the LORD…” David had endured and continued to endure the kind of hardship that brought him to a place where all he had was the LORD.  He had nothing else to turn to, nothing that could relieve his situation, and nothing that could make him feel better in the midst of such crushing circumstances and sorrows.  God had brought David to the end of himself; to a place where he couldn’t trust in himself or some other earthly savior. No. David’s only hope was in the God of the universe moving proverbial mountains on his behalf.

David in turn cries out to God in faith, and in the midst of his trouble, God answers him.

For many believers today, including me, we don’t cry out to God and trust him like this because we are too easily entangled by lesser things.  When I wake up in a funk I can turn to coffee, Facebook, or television to make myself feel better.  When my kids are being crazy and are seemingly out to ruin my life I can set them in front of a screen because that 15-20 minutes of quiet is going to be my savior instead of Jesus.

You see, more often than not, my problems, struggles, and persecutions (I am using that term in a sarcastic manner) are so small, but very often my solutions and comforts are also small.


Because I have traded the immortal glory, majesty, power, and even pleasure of our God for lesser pleasures and lesser powers that I think will fulfill me or make my life better. And the hard truth is that this is not just normal for me, but it is also normal for a vast majority of people who call themselves Christians. We are clinging to mud pies and are asking them to be our savior’s.

Where do we go from here? How can I not just write this, but actually move from a place of trusting in smaller things to a place of trusting and rejoicing in the God of the universe who moved cosmic mountains to save me and call me his child? How can the vast majority of Christians regain a robust view of who God is? How can we begin to cry out to God in faith, like David, believing that he hears us and will answer?

I think we find the answer in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Did you catch it? Did you see how we move from lesser god’s and small irritations to a robust faith and love for God that can endure the greatest trials and tribulations that this world throws at us?

The answer is to behold.

We as Christians are called to look at, observe, examine, and cherish who God is, his glory.  And as we behold or stare at who he is, as we daily examine all the promises of God that are ours in Christ, and as we begin to see him as someone who is remarkable, lovely, precious, and powerful, we will begin to be transformed, little by little, from one degree of glory to another. Adoration will lead to transformation.

Now you might be annoyed by this solution because you probably think it is no solution at all.  Your probably saying to yourself, “where is my five point action plan for trusting Jesus in the hard times?”  Instead I have given you what barely feels like a one step plan, but it is the only plan that matters, and it is the only plan that can produce real life change within us.

We need to be in a place where we are cherishing, loving, and standing in awe of who our God is before we will ever see any change in our daily lives.  We need to be like the woman who against all odds pushed through the crowd to touch Jesus’ robe because she believed that he could heal her from a bleeding issue that she had.  She was beholding Jesus as the powerful Lord and God of the universe and she was healed just by touching him. This is a type of awe and trust that is escaping my personhood this morning.

So my exhortation and challenge for you and me this morning is to continually look to Jesus.  Look into his amazing and perfect word and be confronted with who he is, his power, majesty, beauty, holiness, and sovereignty.  Daily behold him as the one who exists from everlasting to everlasting.  As we do this he will begin to transform us from one degree of glory to another. He will begin to make us into his image, the image of Christ.  And all the troubles and worries will eventually seem trite and fleeting in comparison with the weight of who Christ is and the weight of the eternal glory that is our in him.

Do I believe what I am writing this morning? On an intellectual level, but I know that my only solution is to begin to look at Jesus and behold him.  I don’t know how long it will take, and I imagine that there will be other days just like this one, but I need to start today. I need to stare at Jesus every day and pray that God will slowly reignite my awe for him. And my prayer is that little by little I will stop clinging to mud pies, and instead will stand in awe of Jesus and cling to him as my only joy, my only hope, and my only Savior.

Our Everlasting Refuge

Psalm 2:1-3; 7-12
 [1] Why do the nations rage
  and the peoples plot in vain?
 [2] The kings of the earth set themselves,
  and the rulers take counsel together,
  against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
 [3] “Let us burst their bonds apart
  and cast away their cords from us.”

 [7] I will tell of the decree:
 The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
  today I have begotten you.
 [8] Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
  and the ends of the earth your possession.
 [9] You shall break them with a rod of iron
  and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

 [10] Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
  be warned, O rulers of the earth.
 [11] Serve the LORD with fear,
  and rejoice with trembling.
 [12] Kiss the Son,
  lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
  for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Have you ever wondered why our society today is becoming so opposed to the things of God? Why there seems to be such a vehement attack on people and institutions that would take a stance or opinion that is opposite of what our culture as a whole believes? Why people are working so hard to live free of any religious or moral belief that would impede on their freedom to choose what they feel is best and most convenient for their own life?

The current cultural storm that has seemed to engulf the church in a battle for truth and even relevance is seen right within the second Psalm.  The psalmist is asking why the nations and kings are plotting against God’s anointed.  His anointed being David in the immediate context, but it is clear that this Psalm is pointing to Christ as the one who is “begotten,” whose heritage is the “nations,” and possessions being the “ends of the earth.”

The kings and the people in the surrounding nations have decided that they don’t want to live under the rule of the LORD’s anointed.  They want to “burst their bonds apart” so they can order their lives according to their own desires, instead of living according to God’s law. In this way the culture that David was writing about is very similar to the current culture that exists within America and in many of the European nations.

On a personal level, this is desire to cast of the bonds of God also exists, at times within us, his people.  We call ourselves Christians on one hand, while at the same time, we often are distorting the truth of his word to suit our own desires, or we are just leaving it behind in favor of a God who is more loving and excepting of our sin.  We are often trying to remake God in our own image.

Yet there is a King, an eternal King, who is the holy King of Zion, who owns the nations, and possesses the earth and all that is in it. He hears and sees all that is happening.  He sees and watches as the culture so easily casts of his rules and authority, and he is watching as his people distort his truth and make it something that is devoid of any real power.  But he isn’t silent, and he will surely bring judgment.

As the Psalmist writes, “You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 

God is not and will not be silent about sin, and one day his Son Jesus Christ will return to judge all ungodliness and to break apart all rulers and powers that set themselves up against him. Yet this Psalm isn’t all about destruction.  There is hope for those who are called according to God’s good and mighty purposes. Those who “serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

Our hope is tied to the reality that no matter what the culture does, no matter how far they stray from the LORD, no matter how morally corrupt the world gets, and no matter how much persecution we have to endure because we stand on the truth of God’s Word, we have a God who is our everlasting refuge.

As the psalmist writes: Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

We don’t have to fear the decline of our culture both morally, socially, or economically because we serve a God, and a Savior who is protecting his people. Now this does not mean that we won’t endure hardships or persecution, but it does mean that we can live knowing that Jesus wins. He not only wins the culture war, but he also wins the battle for out hearts and our joy.

So let’s live everyday with confidence. Knowing that God, through Christ, will win and has won the battle for truth that is raging within or culture.  Yet also knowing that he has already won the battle for our hearts.  We are his sheep and he is our Shepherd, and he has called us according to his good purposes and those purposes will never fail.  For our God is truly our everlasting joy and refuge.

The War of Delight

Psalm 1

 [1] Blessed is the man
  who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
 nor stands in the way of sinners,
  nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
 [2] but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
  and on his law he meditates day and night.
 [3] He is like a tree
  planted by streams of water
 that yields its fruit in its season,
  and its leaf does not wither.
 In all that he does, he prospers.
 [4] The wicked are not so,
  but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
 [5] Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
  nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
 [6] for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
 but the way of the wicked will perish.

Have you ever thought of how the idea of “delight” affects your life?  The reality is that we as human beings put our time and energy into the things that we believe will give us the greatest pleasure.  Which means that we are continually in a pleasure war.  A war, as the psalmist points out to either take pleasure in and live for the things that are against God or to delight or take pleasure in who God is and his Word.

Now we should understand rightly that God has created many things in this world to be good and pleasurable.  We take pleasure in food, drink, friends, family, possessions, nature, etc. This on one level is a good and right thing to do.  We are called to enjoy all that God has created.

Yet the delight and pleasure that the psalmist is talking about is the type that rules our hearts.  What are we trying to find our greatest pleasure, delight, and joy in?  Is it in who God is and how he reveals himself in the word of life, or is it in worldly endeavors

In the end, if our greatest delight and joy is found in what the average man pursues apart from God, job, status, money, and even relationships; then all that we have will be burned up and will perish because we have placed our pleasure in something created and temporary. However, if we seek to delight in who our God is, and especially in his Word, we will be people who prosper and bear fruit.

This may not be a prospering that leads to greater status or wealth, but it will be a prospering of hearts that are content in Jesus.  Hearts that are finding real and everlasting peace, and joy in our God, maker, and Savior.

So let’s make war.  Let’s fight not just to resist sin, but more importantly let’s fight to find our greatest delight and pleasure in our God and Savior Jesus Christ.  For he is our only source of real and eternal life and joy.

My Help and Deliverer

Psalm 40:16-17

But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the LORD!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!

In this Psalm David is not only recounting what God has done for him, “He drew me out of the pit of destruction,” “set my feet upon the rock,” “made me secure;” he is also petitioning God, in light of these truths to continue to deliver him.  He is crying out to God not only for deliverance from his enemies but also from his sin.  This is a recognition on David’s part of God’s past faithfulness and ultimately His future faithfulness.  God has not only kept his promises to David, but He will continue to keep them and in doing so He will sustain David and deliver David despite the internal and external enemies that surround him.

David’s assurance in God’s deliverance was so strong that he not only trusted God, but he also delighted in Him and proclaimed His truth and goodness to all those around him.  He was firmly rooted in who God was for him, and in the reality that God would always deliver him from the devils within the world and within his heart.

For God’s people today, David’s words should not only be intellectually agreed with, but they should also cut us to the heart.  We are living in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to the truth of the gospel, and yet we, as God’s people, are often confronted with a piercing anxiety and fear over what we are going to do and how we are going to respond to this hostility.

For some of us we will decide to conform our understanding of the gospel in such a way that it won’t offend anyone. For others of us we will take a retreatist approach as we group together in our hoy huddle with little regard to what is happening in the world around us.  Others of us may decide to jettison our belief in the gospel all together and will settle for a more inward focused kind of spiritualism.

Yet, none of these option is what David chose.  He was plagued both by the inward turmoil of his own sin and the outward turmoil of pagan kings and even is own family members who were trying to kill him.  Despite these circumstances his resounding cry was, “I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation…” 

David was a man who believed that God’s deliverance was real for him.  No matter how difficult the persecutions, no matter how difficult the inner turmoil, he believed God’s promise that he was known and that his God would help and deliver him, and this was his foundation for joy and for walking faithfully with his God.  Will we, will I, take a lesson from David and learn to see, believe, and live as if God is our deliverer and our help both for the inner and outer turmoil that will meet us in this life until Christ returns?  Will we, like David, speak of God’s faithfulness and salvation, despite what the world around us does, knowing that our life is held secure in Him because of Christ?