Calming Life’s Storm

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  Psalm 27:13 NIV

In the midst of a world pandemic we are surrounded by scary statistics, rising death tolls, overcrowded hospitals, limited medical supplies, etc.  We’re told the safest place to be is home.  People wear masks and other personal protection equipment when they have to go to public places.  Personally, I have even resorted to “washing” my groceries before bringing them in the house.  Why?  Because our world is fighting against the spread of a scary and unpredictable virus that continues to wreak havoc and steals our hope and our freedoms.

Life, as we know it, has been put on pause for an indefinite time period.  People have temporarily lost their jobs due to businesses closing down.  High school seniors lost the last few months of their high school careers because school buildings closed in mid-March and have been ordered to remain closed for the duration of the school year.  Spring athletes like baseball players and track stars will have no season this year.  Weddings have been cancelled or rescheduled.  Family gatherings are halted.  Grandparents can’t see their grandchildren except through their picture window or via video technology.  It’s as if the world itself has stopped turning and is standing still on its axle.

For many, this sudden change in lifestyle, cancellation of plans and loss of  tradition has brought much despair.  Others wrestle with anxiety while trying to hold their family together with little or no income.  Still for others it brings anger, resentment, sadness and even fear.   Watching TV or scrolling through social media only adds to these emotions due to the barrage of false and overly exaggerated information that pours through both media channels.  Even in the comfort of our homes we cannot escape the eerie silence and chaotic noise of COVID-19.  It’s almost like that dreary calm in nature when the skies are dark and the trees are motionless just before the madness strikes as a destructive storm blows through.

I can imagine the disciples knew that exact dread and fear when their boat sailed right into a deadly storm.  Mark 4:37 describes it as a “furious squall…that broke the waves over the boat making them nearly swamped.” (NIV)  I  imagine twelve men scurrying around, panicked doing everything that can to keep the boat from sinking.  Although verse 38 tells us they ran to Jesus asking Him to save them, based on their history of unbelief, I think they tried to save themselves before running to Jesus.  Here’s the kicker of this story.  Jesus was in the stern, SLEEPING!  When the disciples woke Him, He stood up, “rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ (verse 39) Then He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

I think Jesus could be asking Christians of today’s world these same two questions-Why are we so afraid?  Do we still have NO faith?  Does His word mean nothing to us when we need it most?  Jesus reminds us in John 16:33 that “in this world [we] will have trouble. But take heart! [Jesus] has over come the world.”  In Deuteronomy 31:6, God told His chosen people to “be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake.”

We do not have to be afraid or in dread of a deadly disease.  We can be at peace through this tumultuous whirlwind the Coronavirus has brought upon us.  We do not have to entertain anger, despair, grief or fear.  We can choose joy, gladness, gratitude and hope.  How? Taking His word for the very truth that it is and standing on scripture that combats every negative emotion that floods our spirits.

Are you angry because your plans have been ruined and you feel stuck at home?  God’s word says “…human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:20.  Ecclesiastes 7:9 warns to “not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”  Instead of anger, God tells us to “Consider it pure joy…whenever we face trials of many kinds because…the testing of [our] faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV)  We combat anger with choosing joy.

Are you anxious because you’ve lost your job, maybe have no income and unsure how you will meet your family’s basic needs?  God is our Provider.  In fact, in Matthew 6: 25-27 (NIV), we are told this; “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body…is not life more than food…? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet [our] Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are [we] not of more value than [those birds]? Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Worrying doesn’t grow a money tree or put food on your table.  But prayer and faith can.  We don’t have to have big faith either, just the faith the size of a mustard seed.  Isn’t that ironic?

Have the cancellation of milestone events (graduations, weddings, etc.) left you grieving what you or your loved one are missing out on?  Are you crumpled in a pit of despair?  Grab on to hope and don’t let go.  1 Peter 5:10 promises us this: “The God of all grace, who called [us] to His eternal glory in Christ, after [we] have suffered a little while, will Himself restore [us] and make [us] strong, firm and steadfast.” Milestone events may not happen exactly as were planned or even in the traditional manner we looked forward to.  But that doesn’t mean they will not happen.

If it’s a part of God’s plan, it will happen.  Sarah and Abraham are the perfect example of that.  Sarah’s dream of becoming a mother fell to the wayside as she grew to be past the child bearing age.  She “thought outside the box” even and tried manufacturing her own family using Haggar. But God’s plan was for Sarah to bear a child, not adopt one.  Even though Sarah laughed at God’s promise, Hebrews 11:11 tells us that “by faith…Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered Him faithful who made the promise.”  Sarah laughed at God-clearly her faith was the size of a mustard seed.  BUT-God is a god of His word and He always keeps His promises.

Lastly, have you been paralyzed by fear-fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of this virus itself?  Then memorize these scriptures and follow these commands!

     1.) “Do not fear..when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not [even] set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)

2.) “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discourage for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

3.) “Tell everyone who is discouraged, be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” (Isaiah 35:4

4.) “Do not be afraid…The Lord your God Himself will fight for you.” (Deuteronomy 3:22)

5.)  “ not be afraid, just believe.” (Mark 5:36)

God is in control.  God is bigger than COVID-19.  This pandemic did not surprise Him.  I do not know His “why” for this world crisis but as He tells us in Isaiah 55:8; His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways the same as our ways.  He doesn’t call us to find the “why” in every situation.  He calls us to trust Him and take Him at His word. He also calls us to obey His word.  Right now I believe, He is telling us to “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10)

In the end of this terribly long pause, God will be exalted among the nations.  Until then, we can stave off anger, despair, grief and fear by  setting our minds on things above and turning off the earthly things.  When the news and social media posts feel like cataclysmic waves crashing into you life’s boat, remember these strategies and trust that just like he did for the disciples, Jesus is calming this life storm too.

Pity Partier or Powerful Praiser?

“O love the L ORD, all you His godly ones!  The L ORD preserves the faithful [those with moral and spiritual integrity] And fully repays the [self-righteousness of the] arrogant.”

PSALM 31:23

When you’re stuck in a pit and life continues to throw you lemons it’s easy to lose your faith and start doubting God.  Some people even curse or denounce God depending on the circumstances they endure.  When you’re in a crap storm of chaos it’s perfectly natural to want to just wallow in crap displaying a crap attitude and stuck in crap thinking.  (Forgive me if you find the word crap offensive-it’s simply the best word I can think of to give you the visual needed to make my point.)

It’s easy to throw your hands up in the air, make a declaration of giving up and then retreat to a pity party.  But God tells us to be thankful in all circumstances (Philippians 4:6.)  He doesn’t say “Thank Me only when you’re feeling happy.”  or “Praise me after I bless you.”  No-God actually tells us to give thanks in ALL circumstances.  Let me get real with you for one moment-in the crap storms that threaten to overtake me I tend to put God on a timeline and when He doesn’t move when I want Him to I get impatient, sometimes angry and that’s when my faith gets shaken.  I then jump in His way taking over the reins and try to calm the storm and shovel through the dung in my own strength.  I am sure you can predict what happens…I tend to make the situation worse while wearing myself completely out.  Then I’m left feeling defeated.  Because I have no energy left to fight, I’ll surrender it all to God.  Am I thankful?  No way.  Even when I surrender the circumstance to Christ, I tend to slack on the praise part.  Sometimes it’s because I’m not sure what to even thank Him for but most often it’s because I allowed my heart to harden instead of trusting that God is faithful, that He always keeps His promises and that He is on my side.

No doubt David threw some intense pity parties.  I think there were times he may have thought or prayed, “Why me Lord?  Why me?  But what David did more was praise God.  Through the first 30 Psalms I have read praise upon praise upon PRAISE.  David repeatedly stands on God’s truths and wisdom and even when he describes his misery he pulls himself out of a funk each time by praising God.  The next ten Psalms (31-40) are chock full of examples of David being a Powerful Praiser.  Here are the top ten verses that personally have spoken to me and bring great encouragement to praise Abba for who He is as well as what He’s going to do in your life and mine.

  • “I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love, Because You have seen my affliction; You have taken note of my life’s distresses, And You have not given me into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a broad place.”

PSALM 31:7-8

  • “Be glad in the L ORD and rejoice, you righteous [who actively seek right standing with Him]; Shout for joy, all you upright in heart.”

Psalm 32:11

  • “Rejoice in the L ORD, you righteous ones; Praise is becoming and appropriate for those who are upright [in heart–those with moral integrity and godly character]. Give thanks to the L ORD with the lyre; Sing praises to Him with the harp of ten strings.”

PSALM 33:1-2

  • “I will bless the L ORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. O taste and see that the L ORD [our God] is good; How blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

PSALM 34:1,8

  • “And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness (justice), And Your praise all the day long.”

PSALM 35:28

  • “Your lovingkindness and graciousness, O L ORD, extend to the skies, Your faithfulness [reaches] to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God, Your judgments are like the great deep. O L ORD, You preserve man and beast.”

PSALM 36:5-6

  • “But the salvation of the righteous is from the L ORD; He is their refuge and stronghold in the time of trouble.”

PSALM 37:39

  • “For in You, O L ORD, I hope; You will answer, O Lord my God.”

PSALM 38:15

  • “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear [with great reverence] And will trust confidently in the L ORD.”

PSALM 40:3

  • “Many, O L ORD my God, are the wonderful works which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of your wonders, They would be too many to count.”

PSALM 40:5

Now if you noticed a pattern in this list then you realized I picked one verse from each chapter of Psalm 31-40.  But you will also notice there isn’t one from Psalm 39.  That’s because that chapter is a prime example of David’s pity party.  Because I couldn’t find any praise in that chapter I listed two from Psalm 40. It is also one of my favorite passages.   It’s filled with praise and confidence in God’s deliverance. I encourage you to check it out and read its full context.  You will definitely be blessed by David’s writings in that chapter.

If you’re in the middle of an endless crap storm rest assured that you are not alone.   My closest friends have nicknamed me a “modern day Job” so needless to say I can relate to what you may be walking through.  The Psalms have always brought me comfort during difficult times and I believe God leads me to this book as a reminder of how I (and you) should handle dismal circumstances.  Grumbling comes naturally.  Praise does not.  But pity parties only bring misery.  Praise and worship brings comfort, peace and deliverance.  Which do you want to be-a continuing pity partier or a redeemed POWER PRAISER?!  I’m still a work in progress but am making strides in becoming the latter.  I pray you choose the same!

I Will Not Be Moved!

“As for me…I said, “I shall never be moved.’”

Psalm 30:6 AMP

One of my favorite warfare songs is I Will Not Be Moved, by Natalie Grant.  This song epitomizes my life just in the first lyric, “I have been a wayward child, I have acted out.”  Anyone who knows the story of David knows this lyric is quite fitting for him also.   In Psalms 21-30 we see a lot of praise and lot of David claiming innocence, but in chapter 25 verse 11 David confesses this, “For Your Name’s Sake, O Lord, pardon my wickedness and guilt, for they are great.”  Later in another chapter David will speak of his integrity and character noting that he does not sit with deceitful men but here we see him admitting he too has faults.  Don’t we all?  I think it’s David’s awareness of his faults that allowed him to offer grace to his enemies (and by grace I mean he chose not to kill Saul when he had the chance but instead trusted God to deal with Saul accordingly for the one who pursued David’s life with a jealous vengeance.)

The second verse to Natalie Grant’s song is, “Bitterness has plagued my heart, many times before. My life has been like broken glass and I have kept the score. Of all my shattered dreams and though it seems, that I was far too gone.  My brokenness helped me to see, it’s grace I’m standing on.”  We see bitterness in David in Psalm 22.  David begins with, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?  O God, I call out by day, but You do not answer.  And by night, but I find no rest nor quiet.”  Psalm 21 is full of praise and worship to God but Psalm 22 throws the reader deep into a pit of bitterness.  Why?  Because even David, the man after God’s own heart, the man God anointed personally to be king, wrestled with bitterness.  It’s human nature.  The enemy’s best darts are bitterness, despair, and hopelessness.  If he can hit us with any of those darts he knows he can get a stronger foothold to drag us right down into anger, fear, depression, resentment and the biggest faith killer-doubt.  The best way to combat those darts-do like David did and turn that despair in to praise.  Toward the end of chapter 22, David writes (in verse 26), “The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; those who [diligently] seek Him and require Him [as their greatest need] will praise the Lord…”  That is the perfect example of the last line in verse 2 of Natalie Grant’s song-“My brokenness helped me to see, it’s grace I’m standing on.”  Psalm 22 starts out showing David’s brokenness.  But it ends with David praising God.  And in Psalm 26:12 David declares; “My foot stands on a level place, in the congregations I will bless the Lord.”  David stood on the Rock, claimed God as his Redeemer and never took his eyes off his Savior.  That’s a true example of being immovable.

The reprise of this Natalie Grant song goes like this, “And the chaos in my life, has been the badge I’ve worn. And though I have been torn, I will not be moved.”  David wore a badge of chaos for most of his life.  It’s evident when Saul became jealous of him and pursued his life.  He literally hid in a cave for safety.  It’s evident when he became king and fought many battles against many nations.  It’s evident when he had an affair with Bathsheba and tried to cover up her pregnancy by having her husband Uriah killed.  It’s evident by the many wives he had and the dysfunction that took place between his children.  David lived a chaotic life.  But one thing remained throughout it all and it’s most evident in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my Light and My Salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the refuge and fortress of my life-whom shall I dread?”  We see evidence again in Psalm 27:13 when David writes, “I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  The one thing David did amidst all the chaos in his life was stand on God’s promises and trust in God for deliverance.

God calls us to do the same.  The scriptures are not written just for those who lived during that time.  In fact, these Psalms were written while David was in the midst of his storms.  He didn’t have the gospel to turn to for wisdom, solace or as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.  David only had his faith to rely on and God’s wisdom speaking directly to him.  His ability to hear God’s voice (along with God’s use of prophets in David’s era) and to choose to trust in God is what made David a conqueror over all his enemies.  God gives us the same ability.  In today’s age of the internet, media, cell phones and busyness it’s a greater challenge for us to hear God but He still speaks to us daily and like David tells us in Psalm 27:14, God wants us to, “Wait for and confidently expect the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.”

That’s easier said than done when you’re in the throws of a hurricane, right?  If that’s happening to you right now, I want to encourage you to try this (and I’m going to put it into practice too.) Meditate on Psalm 23 reminding yourself that God is our shepherd, we have nothing to want.  He leads us beside still waters, He restores us and refreshes.  Even when we walk in times of darkness and evil, we do not have to fear for He is with us.  He is our Shepherd, thus, His rod and staff bring us comfort.  Goodness and mercy are with us and we will dwell in God’s house someday.  Once you’re done with Psalm 23, meditate on this passage also from Psalm 30 verses 11 and 12; “You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.”  While you’re meditating on these passages, remember this.  David didn’t thank God after God delivered him.  David thanked God while he was in the eye of the storm, while he was hiding in a cave, while he was grieving the death of a child and while he was battling some pretty severe enemies.  David didn’t wait for God to answer, he knew God would answer and that was cause enough for him to praise Abba.  Please take the time to read Psalm 21-30 and see for yourself just how David again used praise and worship to stand on God’s promises and increase his faith.

What Happens When We Praise Him in the Storm…

“You lift me up on the wind and cause me to ride [upon it]; And You toss me about in the tempest and dissolve me in the storm.”

Job 30:22 AMP

As I was writing my previous post on praise what I had intended to say and what came out turned out to be two different things.  I had intended to simply write a post on praising God but the Holy Spirit led me to start a study on the book of Psalms focusing specifically on how David praised God during some pretty intense storms in his life.  Today let’s explore Psalms 11-20 and see again how David praised, trusted and fully relied on God in the eye of every hurricane he endured.

Psalm 11:  David starts out right away declaring that he takes refuge (and puts his trust) in the Lord (verse 1.)  He reminds himself (and the reader) that although the wicked are striking, God is on His throne-David is notably pointing out that amidst the danger he was facing, his God (and ours) is immovable!  He then admits that God tests the righteous and the wicked but God himself remains righteous and loves righteousness (vs 7.) The last sentence of this chapter is priceless-David writes, “The upright shall see His face.”  Think about when you’re in driving in a bad storm.  What’s one thing that brings the most fear or concern?  For me-it’s visibility. Not being able to see where I am going definitely heightens my anxiety and fear of getting into an accident.  But in this last sentence David is declaring we shall see God’s face.  Take that a little farther and think about this-when we focus on the face of Jesus and not the storm that’s huffing and puffing around us, we remain steadfast and at peace under His protection.  It’s when we take our eyes off Him and focus on the chaos that we allow fear, doubt, anxiety and worry to set in and feel like we are spinning out of control/heading for a ditch.

Psalm 12:  This chapter is talking about gossips-an enemy who seeks to destroy us by spreading false rumors.  Even more, it’s talking about people who can deceive us by speaking false flattery to our face all the while plotting evil in their hearts (vs 2-3.)  But David again keeps his eyes on God and declares in verse 6 that “the words and promises of the Lord are pure words…” and in verse 7 he adds, “You, o Lord, will preserve and keep them (godly people), You will protect him from this evil generation forever.”  Even though he ends this chapter with a bit of a rant about how pompous the wicked are, the important part of this chapter is how he combats his enemies lies by reminding himself that God only speaks truth (pure words.)

Psalm 13:  This is a short chapter and starting out a reader might think David has given up or lost hope.  How many of us can related to the question he asks in verse 1-“How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?” Again he asks in verse 2-“…How long will my enemy exalt himself and triumph over me?”  Triumph over him?  What?  That doesn’t sound like David.  Not the David who continuously declares God’s victory over all of his circumstances.  Well it was David and clearly his faith meter was running low when he started out this chapter.  I can definitely attest to praying similar prayers and even struggling with feeling as though my prayers aren’t going any further than my living room ceiling.  There are times and circumstances where many just lose their faith and wonder if God is really taking care of us.  It’s in those times we need to do what David does at the end of this chapter when he says, “But I have trusted and relied on and been confident in Your lovingkindness and faithfulness; My heart shall rejoice and delight in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.”  Clearly David is struggling and even feeling forgotten by God.  But he doesn’t get angry.  He doesn’t turn from God.  No he digs his heel firmly in the trench and he declares that God is dealing with him bountifully.  If that isn’t a heart that can give thanks in all circumstances, I don’t know what is.

Psalm 14:  David begins saying no one is good or faithful.  He even describes those who believe there is no god.  He again describes the wicked as those who eat up godly people like they eat bread (vs 4.)  But he refutes the plan of the wicked by reminding them they can come after the poor but God will protect the poor.  He also declares salvation, restoration and a land that will rejoice when God redeems His people from captivity.  Think about if you were held captive or taken into slavery?  Could you declare God’s redemption over such dismal and hopeless circumstances?  This passage definitely shows why David was a man after God’s own heart.  His faith was definitely bigger than his environment in this chapter.

Psalm 15-This entire chapter is filled with declaration of absolute truth describing who is permitted to dwell in the presence of God.  Because this was written before Jesus’ existed (and therefore before His crucifixion and resurrection), we have to keep in mind that people of David’s generation had to present themselves in the purest of form to be in God’s presence.  Thus, David declares those who walk with integrity, strength of character, work righteousness, speak and hold truth in their heart, refrain from speaking slander or doing evil to their neighbor and does not take up a reproach against a friend are those who may “Dwell continually on His holy hill.” (vs 1-3.)  David continues to describe godly characteristics that we all should pursue and strive to live daily.  This chapter may not directly reflect praise but in the midst of that storm in our lives, perhaps it’s a great eye opener to put ourselves in check and see if our behavior, actions, and choices did anything to start or stir up the wind that swirls around us.  Personally I can confess that I have been a contributor to many of the tornados and hurricanes life has thrown at me.  I haven’t always started them but my reactions to them have surely contributed to gale force winds and got in the way of Jesus calming the storm.

Psalm 16-Just 3 chapters ago we read David expressing feelings of being forgotten by God.  In chapter 16 we read the opposite.  Here, David overflows with praise by exalting God.  In verse 2 David says, “…You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.”  Later in verses 5 and 8 David states, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance, my cup [He is all I need]; You support my lot…I have set the lord continually before me, Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  He ends with verse 11 declaring God “will show me the path of life, In Your presence is fullness of joy, In Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”  Reading this you might think, “I guess God delivered David by changing his circumstances and calming the storm.”  Not necessarily!  Remember that David endured many hardships and this Psalm is simply another example of David choosing to stand on God’s redeeming love as the way to withstand the evil plotted against him.

Psalm 17-Reading this passage I pictured David in two possible positions-one he’s standing or pacing, looking up in the sky waving his finger and telling God what to do.   Why do I get that from this chapter?  Because I’ve prayed similar phrases like verse 1 “…listen to my loud [piecing] cry, listen to my prayer…” in the same position and from an angry heart.  Everyone has a breaking point and when I reach mine I tend to yell at God with very angry prayers.  Not my finest of moments and I am sure the devil has his best laughing moments during these rants.  Nonetheless it is something I am guilty of and later have to humbly seek God’s forgiveness for being so belligerent to our Heavenly Father.

When I read Psalm 17 a second time though, I picture David in a different posture-I picture him kneeling, head bowed, humbling himself before the Lord, boldly praying and speaking to God directly.  David reaffirms with God that he knows God has searched his heart and found no evil, therefore David knows God will redeem him.  David also asks God to “keep him [in God’s affectionate care, protecting David] as the apple of God’s eye…” That’s exactly where God keeps us as well.  As parents we cannot always protect our children from getting hurt.  God, as our Heavenly Father, doesn’t always keep us from getting hurt either.  But He is faithful in protecting us from being destroyed and He always affectionately cares for us-even during times of discipline and when He puts us through the Refiner’s Fire.  During these heated moments in life it’s best to remember we are always the apple of Abba’s eye.

Psalm 18-This Psalm is longer than the first 17.  In fact, it’s made up of 50 verses.  Most of this chapter is praise filled.  David describes how fierce our God can be.  In fact, his description includes earthquakes (vs 7), fire (vs 8), hailstorms (vs 12), thunder (vs 13 and lightning (vs 14.)  As David details God’s wrath upon his enemy, he shows no sign of fear or anxiety.  How many of us could remain calm in the midst of this type of description, even knowing it was coming from God?  I don’t think I could.  But David doesn’t bat an eye.  He continues to describe God as a mighty warrior similar to Mel Gibson’s Braveheart character.  He also offers praise to God-not once, not twice but approximately 14 times.  He describes that not only did God fight for him, God empowered David to fight for himself.  There are storms in our lives that God will want us to be still and trust him to fight the battle.  But there are also storms in our lives that God will arm us and deliver our enemies into our own hands.  It’s through wisdom and discernment that we can know which direction God is leading us-to fight or to be still.

David also describes being blameless in chapter 18.  In verses 19-27 David reminds us that we are called to remain blameless.  David did not act as his enemies did.  He did not react to Saul’s pursuit to murder him.  In fact, he refused to kill Saul when he had the power to do so.  Instead he followed God’s leading and when Saul was killed, David grieved.  That’s the heart Jesus wants us to have for our enemies.  We cannot expect Him deliver us when we harbor hate and unforgiveness toward those who bring us harm or hurt us.  We cannot expect Him to calm the storm if our actions/behavior are fueling the fire.  It’s a tough thing to not react.  It’s one I personally struggle with.  And it’s an area God continues to humble me in.  I need to follow David’s example and choose to forgive, choose to show love (Matthew 5:44) and choose how/when to respond but never to react.  Sometimes the best thing we can do is not respond at all.  That’s the time when we need to trust that God is fighting the battle for us and calling us to just be still.

Psalm 19-David spends most of this chapter describing the awe of God.  In verse 1 he tells us, “…the expanse [of Heaven] is declaring the work of His hands.”  In verse 7 he reminds us that “The law of the Lord is perfect (flawless). Restoring and refreshing the soul…”  But then David gets more personal.  In verses 13 and 14 David asks God to reveal to him sins (hidden faults) that he’s not aware of.  He also asks God to keep him from deliberate sins.  He ends asking God to keep the words he speaks and the things his heart meditates upon pleasing to God.  These last two verses clearly show how sold out for God David truly was.  These two verses are the perfect prayer for each of us to lift up to Abba every day.  It’s certain to humble any heart and is the exact reminder needed to remain in His word and to keep our eyes, speech and heart focused on God.

Psalm 20-This chapter is written as if someone else is praying for David.  I believe David is merely referring to himself in third person.  He is asking God to rescue him in the day of trouble (vs 1) grant the desires of David’s heart (vs 4) and to fulfill all of David’s petitions (vs 5.)  In verse 7 he points out that some put their hope and trust in things (horses and chariots) but David chooses to “remember and trust in the name of the Lord our God.”  He’s clearly seeking deliverance yet again but also choosing to focus on God’s faithfulness fully knowing he will be delivered.

David endured a lot of turmoil and this is evident in these 10 chapters.  Each one has a few common themes including; David is in trouble, he has some very hateful enemies, but he trusts God for protection and deliverance.  God calls us to do the same.  Jeremiah 29:11 tells us God has plans to prosper us, not harm us.  Some people believe this verse promises only good for us and thus bad stuff cannot come from God.  That’s a false belief.  God’s plans for us include the good and the bad. When we go through storms in life we can feel as though God abandoned us (like David did in Psalm 13.)  But remember this-God uses forest fires to actually regenerate the forest.  Pine cone seeds remain dormant until a forest fire melts the protective layer around them.  It’s after this layer is melted that the cones pop open and their seeds spread.  God’s refining fire for us works the same way.  It’s in the process of burning that God can melt down the layers we have that are keeping us from being all He made us to be.

***Please note, I am not a bible scholar.  This study into Psalms is my own interpretation of what David is going through and speaking of.  If you read commentaries on the Psalms you will get way more in depth explanations of the book of Psalms.  I want to give this disclaimer as it is not my intention to mislead anyone with this study nor speak falsely.  Thus, if you find yourself reading something and feel you have a different interpretation please share it in the comments section. I welcome the conversation and differing perspectives.

The Power of Praise

“Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable.”

Psalm 145:3

Praise-a fairly simple word but at times, most challenging to speak and nearly impossible to do.  But it was David’s go-to through many of the trials he endured.  In fact, the book of Psalms is filled with scriptures of praise!  Don’t get me wrong there are many passages in Psalms where David is crying out to the Lord in great desperation but a lot of those same passages start or end with powerful praises also.  In fact, I want to challenge you to look up each Psalm and see for yourself just how much David praised God.  I am going to challenge myself as well. There are 150 Psalms and I will get through each one but in order to not turn this into a chapter book, I will do a series of posts over the next month covering 10 Psalms in each post searching for David’s accolades to God. So get ready to get your praise on!

Psalm 1-There’s no direct mention of praise in the first chapter but it does start out on a thankful note when David talks about how we are blessed when we delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on His teachings day and night.  Knowing how God blesses us is worthy of praising Him and having a thankful heart!

Psalm 2-This chapter starts out a bit scornful, but through it, David reminds us to worship the Lord (worship is a form of praise), serve the Lord and rejoice (another word for you guessed it-praise!)  David also ends this chapter with a mention that we are blessed when we take refuge in God.  Remember that focusing on our blessings is an act of thankfulness.

Psalm 3-Let the drama begin!  Verse one opens with “O Lord, how my enemies have increased! Many are rising up against me…”  Now I have read the Bible in its entirety and I have studied David’s life before.  But I’m not a scholar on every Psalm to know exactly what was going on in David’s life when he wrote each one.  I can guess this from Psalm 3-David had a few people who were TICKED OFF at him and he was feeling quite helpless.  But in verse 3 he reminds himself (as we also need to do) that God is a shield for him.  He confesses that he sleeps safely because God is watching over him.  He ends this chapter in verse 8 with, “Salvation belongs to the Lord; May Your blessing be upon Your people.”  Speaking God’s truth in the midst of helplessness, reminding yourself Who God is and how MIGHTY He is, that’s a form of worship and in an essence-a form of praise.  For those who disagree-ask yourself this; when you’re listing quality attributes or characteristics of someone to that person, are you not offering them praise?  Well it’s the same with God.  We don’t have to just say “thank you” for it to be considered praising our Heavenly Father.

Psalm 4-David gets direct with God and says, “Answer me when I call…”  He also gets direct with his enemies (“How long will you love worthless things and seek deception and lies.”) His prayer in this one gets even more direct with God when in verse 6 David says, “…Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord.”  (Did anyone else notice he didn’t say “please”?)  But again, David ends this passage with “You have put joy in my heart…in peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety and confident trust.”  I have to stop right here and point something out that just popped out at me…David ends this passage with “confident trust.”  I’ve gotta be real with you and admit those two words are a HUGE struggle for me.  Anyone else out there wrestle with this or am I the only doubter in the bunch?  Ha-I am confident (no pun intended) there are a few of you who share the same struggle.  I pray this passage and especially those two words inspire us doubters that praise works best when we confidently trust in the Lord.

Psalm 5-In this chapter David is seeking God’s revenge on those who do evil.  It’s reassuring to know that the man after God’s own heart prayed some vengeful prayers.  But again-he didn’t stay stuck in that thought process.  He ends with declaring God’s favor upon himself by saying, “…O Lord, bless the righteous man…surround him with favor as with a shield.” In spite of the fear David wrestled with, the turmoil he was enduring, David knew God’s protection and favor and he declared it over himself and his land.

Psalm 6-When you read the beginning of this chapter you may think as I did, “David has cracked-the pressure has sunk him deep into despair.” At one point, it almost sounds as if he’s saying, “God where are you?  Can you hear me?  Are you even listening?”  I’m thinking he definitely entertained doubt in this chapter.  But even in his admission of weakness, he finds enough strength to declare that God has heard his weeping, God has heard his prayer and that God received his prayer.  That last part is super powerful.  It’s not enough for us to believe God hears our prayers.  We need to believe He receives them as in He has accepted them and will act on them.  This doesn’t mean He says “Yes” to every request we make.  This just means we know that God listens and moves according to His will when we pray.

Psalm 7-David is still struggling with despair and appears pretty weak at the beginning of this chapter.  He even starts thinking maybe God is punishing him.  So he asks God to judge him and if he has sinned to then allow his enemies to crush David into dust.  David was a true warrior-but I think he also wore his heart on his sleeve and felt emotions on an extremely deep level.  He again though stands on God’s truth reminding himself that God is the judge of the people, not man and that although God may punish those who do evil, God shields and defends the righteous.  Then suddenly it’s as if David gets a bit of boldness and he starts describing God’s almighty wrath as if God was Chuck Norris kicking arse and taking names later! In the ends, David writes, “I will give thanks to the Lord…and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.”  David’s choice to praise God is consistent no matter what he is feeling or experiencing.

Psalm 8-This chapter starts and ends with the same exact phrase, “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic and glorious and excellent is Your name in all the earth!”  This chapter is only 9 verses but filled with affirmation to God and a declaration of who God is.  David even humbles himself when he writes, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?”  David is so much in awe of God that he struggles with comprehending God’s favor over him.

Psalm 9-David again begins this chapter with thanksgiving and praise.  Reading this one I picture David standing on a palace balcony or perhaps at the edge of cliff near the cave he hid in from Saul and I can see him confidently declaring God’s victory over his circumstances, reminding himself that God will conquer his enemies.  In a few of the verses he speaks of calamity that will fall upon the wicked but he describes the stability of the Lord when he says, “But the Lord will remain and sit enthroned forever;…” (Vs 7).  He again reminds himself of God’s protection in verse 9 when he writes, “The Lord also will be a refuge and a stronghold for the oppressed…”  It’s as if David is saying, “You may have a tornado of trouble swirling around you but God is not moved by any of it-He is in control and He is your protector and shelter from this wicked storm!”  Now that’s confident trust.  Am I right?  Oh and he uses those same two words in verse 10 when he declares that he will put his “Confident trust” in God for God does not abandon those who seek Him.  Wow!  That verse alone just made me want to lift my hands up in worship and cry out, “Thank you Abba!”

Psalm 10-Holy bipolar Batman!  And no, I am not making fun of bipolar people.  But when you leave chapter 9 with the mindset that David has increase his faith and then read “Why do you stand so far away, O Lord?  Why do you hide in times of trouble?” in the beginning of chapter 10 you may ask yourself, “What just happened here?”  At least I did.  If David was coming out of the pit of despair in chapter 9, he quickly dove right back in in chapter 10.  This chapter is full of questions and grumbles that I am confident a lot of us can relate to.  David’s not taking a “poor me” stance though-this chapter is more of a “Look at how disgusting my enemies are” stance.  Throughout it I think he either gets bold with God or he cries out in frustration because he writes, “Arise O Lord! O God, life up your hand in judgement and do not forget the suffering.” But then he reminds himself of this, “You have seen it (referring to acts of evil he previously described), you have noted [it],” and “you are the helper of the fatherless.”  Now I don’t know if David was orphaned at this point or if he used the word “fatherless” to simply describe either being absent from his father or lacking that influence in his life.  Regardless, he starts pulling himself back out of the pit by declaring that God hears the desire of the humble and the oppressed, that he strengthens hearts and that he does incline His ear to hear.  He also ends this chapter with verse 18 which reads, “To vindicate and obtain justice for the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth will no longer terrify them.”  Even in his deepest moments of hopelessness, David not only remembered but matter of factly stated that God. Is. Our. Vindicator.

I don’t know what season you’re in but I can tell you what season I’m in…I’m at a crossroads and I am full of despair.  I’ve prayed for deliverance for what seems like years and seeing very little movement from God.  In fact, at times, it’s as if God, like in chapter 10, is “far away and hiding in times of trouble.”  I have prayed for peace, wisdom, strength-all the things you’re supposed to ask for during this kind of season but still struggle with anxiousness and feeling so bogged down that I’m exhausted and scatterbrained.  I cry Every. Single. Day. When I’m not crying, I’m fighting back tears and pouring myself into my work or house cleaning simply to feel some sense of control.  What I’m not doing is handling this season like David did.  And that is coming to an end today.  These first ten Psalms have really turned my focus off my circumstances and back on God where they should’ve been all along.  If you’re in a similar season, my prayer is that you battle your enemies like David did-through prayer, standing on God’s truth and believing in the unbelievable power of praise!