Psalm 18:16-19 (the message)
But me he caught–reached all the way
from sky to the sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved–surprised to be loved!
After rescheduling a dentist appointment and dropping Rivers off at school, I found myself reading Psalm chapters 17 and 18 while sitting in one of my old rocking chairs on my deck. My heart drank in some of the words like a dry sponge and they spilled, one by one, onto my cheeks.
But God stuck by me.
When life feels hard, God sticks by us. When we don’t always do the right thing during the hard times, He still sticks by us. When we feel alone or like we are drowning in our circumstance, He sticks by us. When we question Him, cry out to Him or choose to ignore Him, God still sticks by us.
You gotta realize this Psalm was written by King David. And as I sat rocking in my old Cracker Barrel chair, my heart thought of this part of his life. I thought how while he was running for his life from Saul, hiding out in caves, he must have thought “are you kidding me, God?” David had been anointed the next King of Israel and yet he’s having a really hard time just staying alive! I wonder if during the hardness David doubted Himself. Doubted that he was chosen by God. Doubted that God really and truly had a good plan for his life. But see, David is known as a “man after God’s own heart.” And I wonder if the man who was so after God’s heart was grown and molded during the cave-dwelling days…during some of the hard parts.
Well, being real, I don’t relish what I’m writing. I much prefer living on spiritual cloud nine where my prayers seem like they are on the fast-track to God’s ears and I feel His love and presence in every sunset and walk around the block. Smile. However, (ugh!), this is not always the case as we journey with Jesus. Sometimes it gets hard. Sometimes we are treading water in that ocean of hate. In constant battle against enemy chaos. Drowning in a void. Sometimes it’s as difficult as an unexpected diagnosis, the death of a child or loss of a job and home. Sometimes the battle rages between the ways we’ve always thought and acted and how we want to be different. Sometimes it’s people. Let’s be real. Sometimes people hurt us. Make us mad! Oh and sometimes we do the hurting, as well. And sometimes what feels hard is not the result of the enemy or lack of spiritual depth on our part. Sometimes it is the way God leads as he stretches and grows us into men and women after His heart. See, I know of no other way, at least for me, to experience the heart of God than by needing Him. We like to think that our knowledge or church attendance qualifies us but I don’t think it does, really. We might like to think that the way we worship or our particular denomination qualifies us. But knowing things about God, knowing how to “operate” in church-world, does not mean we have been close to His heart or are becoming a person after His heart.
So, as I sit on my deck with a few reckless tears and less than polished prayers, my heart cries out. I surrender to the hard, Lord. And I sense His gentle whisper to my heart say, I know this is hard for you but this is my plan for you right now. There was a time in my life when if things felt hard I automatically assumed I needed to fight against it. No doubt that is true at times…but sometimes it feels harder than it needs to be because we keep getting off the potter’s wheel. A season of life when it’s one foot in front of the other…learning perseverance…sticking with God even when my praying seems like it’s going nowhere…when my need for His presence and power is so great I become frustrated with the seeming lack. Those times in the cave when a verse touches my heart like a million rays of sunshine and I know yes, God is absolutely for me and sticking by me.
When I surrender to the hard, it doesn’t mean I surrender to my weaknesses or lack. It means I surrender to the fact that this God I trust so much is letting it be hard for a reason. He is shaping me. Preparing me. Growing me. So, I surrender to that. I climb back onto the potter’s wheel and tearfully say, Okay, Lord. Have Your way.
I know I will have to say it again tomorrow and the next day. And I know I won’t always choose to. I’ll get off the wheel again. Then I’ll get back on. Either way, I know He is sticking by me.