Monday, June 20, 2011

Don’t Be Hasty

For I said in my haste,
“I am cut off from before Your eyes”;
Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried out to You.
(Psalm 31:22)

Nobody likes turbulence. When things get rough, it is natural to quickly engage all of our senses to assess the situation. Often we panic, because we believe our senses are giving us the truth instead of just facts. There is a difference: facts change; truth does not. It may be a fact that today there is a storm on your horizon, but the truth is that it may be gone by morning. What we do in those difficult moments is very important. It is the difference between being driven by the facts and led by the truth.

David begins Psalm 31 with a declaration of trust, “In You, O LORD, I put my trust.” And a request, “Let me never be ashamed; deliver me in Your righteousness” (v. 1). He affirms that God is his rock, his fortress, his strength (vv. 3-4) and entrusts himself completely to Him, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit,” and follows with this a confident assertion, treating his request as already answered: “You have redeemed me, O LORD God of Truth” (v. 5).

The troubles he has been experiencing are not new but have been going on for a while, ebbing and flowing. But he has always come out on top. “You have known my soul in adversities, and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a wide place” (v. 7-8).

Now trouble has arisen again, and stronger than ever, it seems. Or maybe it just feels stronger because David is worn out: “My eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body! For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing” (vv. 9-10). The voice of guilt takes a toll on him: “My strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away” (v. 10). Not that there is some specific transgression in his life from which he has not yet repented, but the memory of sins past and the tendency of human nature haunt him. He feels the reproach of enemies and friends alike, and that he has become repulsive to all who know him, or just know about him (v. 11). He is forgotten and broken, slandered and surrounded (vv. 12-13).

Had he stopped there, the picture would have been relentlessly bleak. He has described the place for us, but he does not dwell there. He returns, instead, to declarations of trust in Yahweh: “But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand” (vv. 14-15). He calls again for Yahweh to deliver him, to make His face shine upon him (vv. 15-16). Let it be the wicked who are ashamed, not David. Let it be them whose lips and lies are silenced, who speak arrogantly and contemptuously against the righteous (vv. 17-18). He follows this with a declaration of God’s goodness and assurances of deliverance for the righteous (vv. 19-20). And then — there it is! — the outcome for which he has been believing:
Blessed be the LORD,
For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!
For I said in my haste,
“I am cut off from before Your eyes”;
Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried out to You.
(Psalm 31:22)
Yes, he had been in a panic, and had spoken out of anxiety, saying something that on better days he knew was not true. He had not been cut off from before the eyes of Yahweh — not by his circumstances, not by his enemies, not even by Yahweh Himself. Fear held him for a brief time and might have swallowed him up, except that he returned once again to words of faith, speaking light in the dark. “I trust in You; You are my God. My times are in Your hand.” God heard his prayer and his cry, which is to say that God answered and delivered him, just as He had intended all along.

You see, there is very often a period of waiting between the time we first pray and entrust a matter to God and the time the answer shows up. And sometimes, between “Amen” and “There it is!” we are tempted to become impatient and lose heart. But that time differential (I hesitate to call it “delay” because that assumes we always know what the correct timing should be) does not mean that God has not heard or has not already arranged what is needed.

Don’t be hasty and speak out in the panic of the moment. Keep your mouth shut and meditate on the faithfulness of God, who has never forgotten your or cut you off from before His face. “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the LORD,” is the advice David gives at the end (v. 24). Then let the words of faith return once again to your lips. All will be well.