Psalm 20 (the message)
God answer you on the day you crash,
The name God-of-Jacob put you out of harm’s reach.
Send reinforcements from Holy Hill,
Dispatch from Zion fresh supplies,
Exclaim over your offerings,
Give you what your heart desires,
Accomplish your plans.
When you win, we plan to raise the roof
and lead the parade with our banners.
May all your wishes come true!
That clinches it – help’s coming,
an answer’s on the way,
everything’s going to work out.
See those people polishing their chariots,
and those others grooming their horses?
But we’re making garlands for God our God.
The chariots will rust,
those horses pull up lame —
and we’ll be on our feet, standing tall.
Make the king a winner, God;
the day we call, give us your answer.
God answer you on the day you crash…
I find it oddly encouraging, really. This first verse of Psalm 20 doesn’t suggest you might crash and God will answer you. David, the Psalmist, addresses the notion as a given! Not if the day comes when you crash, but on the day you crash. Of course we don’t want to crash. I don’t believe God wants us to, either. But the fact is we do…we are human…we live in a fallen world where injustice and sin are very real combatants. What I find encouraging right away is that God knows and understands the human condition. We are not “odd man out” or less spiritual because we face opposition or suffer calamity at times. I believe our spiritual depth is seen not in the avoidance of a crash, but in what follows…
What do we do when we crash? Perhaps circumstances out of our control hit us head-on. Perhaps we make compromises and go our own way, drifting from our relationship with Jesus, and find life spins out of control in time. Or maybe we have never experienced a genuine friendship with God and so the idea of hearing His answer for us in a crash is hard to comprehend. However the crash happens, I believe what we do with it is paramount. First, realizing that being a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t encounter hardship can actually be somewhat freeing. This idea if you are super spiritual you will not struggle or face difficulty heaps condemnation and doubt on many God-loving believers. It ties their hands. Instead of worshipping and trusting God in the hard times, they spend far too much time wondering where they went wrong. Instead of focusing on God’s answer for their situation, they focus on themselves. How do I know? I’ve been there, of course.
One instance that stands out in my mind was a miscarriage I had several years ago. Looking back, I believe the confusion I felt over what I didn’t do right spiritually was almost as painful as the loss. Instead of my first response being to trust God completely and worship Him in the midst of my crash, I mentally went over the check-list of how I had prayed, what I said, had I sinned, etc. I am not suggesting we do not need to take personal inventory of our hearts, words and behaviors because they most certainly affect our lives and reap benefits or consequences. What I am suggesting is that victory in our crash won’t come while we are focused on ourselves or how we ourselves can repair the damage.
Psalm 20 may start with the assumption of a crash, but I love what follows! I love that David clearly declares God’s response to our crash is one of answers, provision and help. I love how in verse 5 David writes, when you win…not if you win or hopefully you’ll win. When. Obviously, however, we all know people who suffer a crash in life and never seem to recover. You may even find yourself there today…a place of hopelessness…stuck…in defeat. So, what moves us from “if” we recover to “when” we recover?
As written many, many times on this blog, I am an ordinary person. Not a Bible Scholar. Not a Bible College graduate! I write because I have been mended from a crash or two…have experienced a recovery more than once…and so I know why the following verses resonate with me so soundly:
See those people polishing their chariots, and those others grooming their horses? But we’re making garlands for God our God. The chariots will rust, those horses pull up lame — and we’ll be on our feet, standing tall.
When we crash we have two choices, really. We can put our faith and energies into finding answers outside of who God is or we can trust Him completely. We can “take charge” right away and begin reorganizing our lives and reassigning roles, blame and responsibilities or we can sit still for a bit. Listen and let God speak to our hearts. We can determine, perhaps in our pride, to set things right and point the necessary finger or we can lift our hands to God in worship. We can yell and scream and rage or we can lift our heart-cries to God. We can become stuck in the mire of self-recrimination and condemnation or we can humble ourselves before our God and let Him wash and mend us.
See, we can polish our chariots and groom our horses all day long. We can come up with a plan and determine in our own strength to make life right again. We can put our faith in our own wits, abilities and answers but in the end the chariots rust and the horses pull up lame. I could still be grieving parts of my childhood. I could still cling and grasp for what I think I should have had in certain ways. I could still be questioning myself and why I suffered that miscarriage. I could still be stuck in the shame and regret of decisions I made in my early 20’s and attempting to build a life apart from drawing near to God. I could still be trying to find the right formula for a happy and fulfilling marriage based on changing someone else. Even now, I could determine every day I will be better, different, more, stronger and could set out to do so in my own strength…based on advice from friends, family or books. I can put my hopes in my own efforts at “winning” a fulfilling life and recovering from the crash. I mean really I could search all my life for the answers and wear myself out polishing and grooming, all the while avoiding that whisper in my heart inviting me to sit down and “make garlands” for my God.
For me, the idea of making garlands for God represents the expectation of a win. It is the winner who is festooned with garlands and praise. We are not called to wear the garland or receive the praise. We are meant to offer devotion to the only One able to bring about real and lasting victory. Instead of wringing my hands over how to be strong enough…how to find the right formula for knowing God…how I can disguise my crash even…I cherrish this breathing room He offers. Come, sit down and spend time with Me. Get to know Me. Hear My answer as you make garlands for me through your worship and sacrifice of time.
When you crash, you are not alone. Even if you have been faithfully walking with and seeking the Lord. The crux of the matter is not whether or not you crash but who do you call on to mend your life? Even as you read this you might know, deep inside, that you crashed a long, long time ago but you have never truly taken the shattered pieces of your life to Jesus. Maybe you have been angry with Him. Maybe you just aren’t familiar enough with Him to know how. Maybe you let the pain of your crash harden your heart or the shame and condemnation of the past keeps you in fear of His presence. I invite you today…put down your grooming brushes and polishing paraphernalia. Let Go. Your Creator has the answer. He wants to help you, heal you and pull you to your feet.
Garlands of worship and surrender, made and offered on our knees, bring us to wholeness and heal our hearts. We find in Jesus every answer and the way forward. Not a path we carve out for ourselves or engineer by our own planning and strength…not a path in which we lead and ask God to bless our efforts as He brings up the rear. As we fully surrender our lives to Him, we are pulled to our feet to follow…eventually looking back over our crash knowing Jesus has changed who we are. Who we will be. Winds will blow again, storms will rage and day will seem black as night. But we have learned to worship, trust and follow. Knowing even in the crash, especially in the crash, as our knees are knocking and hearts are breaking we can trust Jesus to keep us on our feet. No matter the circumstance, His offer of grace, mercy and redemption beckons us to draw near. Our deep and desperate need for repair leads us to bow before Him only to be lifted ever so gently…standing tall over every obstacle in the safety of His arms.