Psalm 142 (the message)
I cry out loudly to God, loudly I plead with God for mercy. I spill out all my complaints before him, and spell out my troubles in detail:
“As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away, you know how I’m feeling, know the danger I’m in, the traps hidden in my path. Look right, look left–there’s not a soul who cares what happens! I’m up against it, with no exit–bereft, left alone. I cry out, God, call out: ‘You’re my last chance, my only hope for life!’ Oh listen, please listen; I’ve never been this low. Rescue me from those who are hunting me down; I’m no match for them. Get me out of this dungeon so I can thank you in public. Your people will form a circle around me and you’ll bring me showers of blessing!”
If you read the Bible, you will quickly discover God plants dreams and seeds of purpose in the hearts of His people and then leads them down quite the twisty road. Like me, you have probably heard messages about why God not only allows the unexpected twists and turns but at times leads us directly into them. How so often the dreams and purposes He has for us come as we grow in character and maturity.
I realize the idea of God testing us is not popular. Smile. There was a time I surely balked at the mention of God testing His people. I would have none of it! Smile. Except I’ve been tested. And the times when I held on and followed God’s Word and leading in spite of the cost were times of growth for me. I also believe they were times God wanted to know if He could trust my character, my integrity, with the influence He was going to give to me. God’s goal and purpose is always people. Always. Often I believe He wants to see how we will treat others, will we love them when it’s not easy just because we love Him?
This morning, as I have been praying for a friend so dear and special to my heart, I briefly consider Abraham, Moses, David and Joseph.
God told Abraham to go. He didn’t tell Him where, just told him to move. He did and God called Abraham a friend.
God placed Moses in the house of Pharaoh to be raised and then sent him into the backside of the desert for years. Could pre-desert Moses last for the long haul in delivering God’s people from slavery? Surely not. But a Moses who encountered the Living God in a burning bush in the middle of his desert-life would.
And David. Goodness. Well, he is my personal favorite. Many times I have read through the books of Samuel for encouragement. I read the Psalms on a regular basis and yes it is David who wrote the Psalm above. While in a cave! Hiding for his life! God chose David as the next King of Israel when he was just a runt of the family litter shepherd boy. I highly recommend reading the Bible for his story. The adulterous, murderous wrong turns. The broken, repentant U-turns. Seasons of melancholy, joy, hopelessness, shame, loss, redemption and victory. But in every season David held onto God.
Joseph, favored son with the spectacular coat. Joseph, hated brother in the pit. Joseph, wrongly accused in Potiphar’s house. Joseph, discarded in a jail cell and yet rising to run the jail! Joseph, interpreter of dreams. Joseph, remembered. Called for by Pharaoh. Saving the people from starvation. Reuniting, no longer a boy but a man of integrity and character, with his brothers and father.
Here’s the thing. We nod in agreement and take a few shreds of hope when we hear about the ups and downs, the seasons of hardship, the God-loyal walk through. But when we are in the “downs,” when our spectacular coat feels like a burden in a pit, we sometimes believe the lie that it will always be that way. It can be really hard to hold on…to focus on the narrow shaft of light peeking into our souls while in a dark place.
This past year was quite an unexpected and turbulent time for me inwardly. Smile…since you read this blog you may have realized that. Part of the frustration was simply not understanding. I am very blessed. I could survey my life and count off, easily, the beauty and blessing around me. And yet within me a storm was brewing. Confusion reigned and melancholy lingered. I called out, cried out, to God over and over and over. I distinctly remember walking back to our house from the park one morning and looking up into the sky. I was so frustrated with God and I said, What do You want me to do? Just tell me what You want me to do!
He did not answer me that day. Nor many other days when I sat, sometimes sullenly, at this kitchen table trying to glean a way out of my discontent. I did everything I knew to do and still I was up against it.
I love the way The Message phrases David’s Psalm above. He felt stuck. Up against something bigger than he was. Up against a mountain he could not make move. Up against a sorrow, a confusion, a discontent he could not shake off.
Ever since nursing school the Psalms have ministered to my heart. I love words and imagery and I could not have made it through some of the seasons of my life without the Psalms, without David’s heart ache and passion pouring onto these onion-skin pages God gave to me. To us.
This may bristle, but I submit to you this morning that sometimes when we can’t make it move, it’s because it is God Himself we are up against. Sometimes we are pushing and pushing and wearing ourselves out trying to get past the hard season but God is in our way. And until we learn what He wants us to learn, until we see what He wants us to see, until we break in the ways He wants us to break, until we build the spiritual muscle needed for the road ahead, until we are ready, He is not going to move.
Because He loves us so much. And because He wants us to become people He can love others through so much.
Over the past couple of months I finally began to see some things. Things that broke my heart. Not only did I see these hard things, but I also had to face the mess I’d made around me while trying to bully God and my family into making me feel better. (When we are up against it things can become about us pretty quickly.)
See, I think there are times when God leads us into discontent to alert us to needed changes. I think sometimes He plans for the backside of the desert seasons so we become desperately wide-eyed for a burning bush moment. I think sometimes God uses our inward confusion and”lostness” to prompt us to ask questions such as, What do You want me to do? Just tell me what to do! In His time, in His deep wisdom and in His panaroma plan for the hurting people around us, God will answer. And He will move when He is ready for us to move.
A few weeks ago I caught sight of my burning bush. I heard a crackle in the words spoken as I sat in my chair listening. I felt heat singe my defenses. I saw the brightness of a God who had not forgotten me, had not let me go, and had prime purposes in this my past year of being “up against it.” Perhaps like Moses, I could not resist. When the invitation came I responded. It could not have mattered less what anyone thought. I came near. A slight tremor in my hands as I covered my face in His hot presence. This Holy place where I heard Him whisper…
It’s over. It’s over.
I could not make God move me. I could only hold on to Him and wait till I was ready to be moved.