When My Heart And His Word Disagree

This morning I studied Psalm 57. Psalm 57:7 in the English Standard Version reads:

My heart is steadfast, O God,
My heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!

Those words struck hard. My heart is not steadfast. I doubt. I worry. I despair. Like the words of the hymn, “Prone to wonder, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

How can a heart be steadfast? David had every reason to feel as I did this morning when he wrote this Psalm. In fact, he had more reason. He, the man anointed to become king, was hiding in a cave from jealous King Saul. David likely wrote this Psalm around the events of either 1 Samuel 22:1 or 1 Samuel 24. God anointed David for kingship, but instead, David was hiding like a criminal. The quickest way out was to compromise his beliefs and to kill God’s anointed King. He would not do so. Despite his circumstances, his heart was steadfast. How could that be? A few other verses point us toward understanding.

I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness. (vv. 2-3)

For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (v. 10)

David’s heart was steadfast because of his faith in the steadfastness of God. God would be faithful to fulfill His promise, His purpose for David’s life. David trusted in God’s constant love and perfect, unchanging nature. David had faith because even hiding in a dark cave he could see the light of God’s faithfulness. When I was younger, I used to have a poster hanging above my bed. It was a picture of a tall mountain with words written above, “Our faith does not rest in our feelings: it rests in the unshakeable character of God.”

Steadfast hearts do not come from willpower or training. They come from resting in God and His unchanging love.

 

 

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Saturday: Between the Cross and the Empty Grave

How was that Saturday? The day before the Romans had crucified Jesus as if He were a dangerous criminal. The Jewish religious leaders had wanted Him dead. They had what they wanted when Saturday dawned. What about the disciples? Where were they on that Saturday?

It was the Sabbath. Not many would be out that day. For that, I suppose they were thankful. It meant that hiding would be easier than on a regular day. Were they afraid that day? Who did they fear more–the Romans or the Jewish leaders? What were they thinking? Did they feel shame? For certain, Peter did. What about the others? All but John had watched from a distance.Was John looking for them to tell them all that had happened? I wonder if the weather was like it is today in Northwest Florida–clouds and rain to match their feelings of dread and despair.

But Sunday was coming. The Cross was yesterday. The Empty Grave would be tomorrow.

Today we live between the Ressurection and Consummation–between a single empty grave and many empty graves. This period is our Saturday.

Some disciples face death. Many face persecution. Some face illness. Others needlessly carry the shame and guilt that Jesus has already taken away. Despite the uncertainties of our present Saturday, we face tomorrow with hope, because we look back toward a Sunday with an empty grave. A perfect Sunday is coming.

What is certain in life?

I often say that my life is in transition. Recently, I stepped back and realized that I have said that for several years. At the moment, circumstances are such that I have little or no idea where that transition will take our family. It would be easy to ask if there is anything certain in life now.

The old joke is that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. However, because of God and Jesus Christ, there is much more certain about life than those two negatives. We can be certain that we have a great savior for us great sinners: Jesus Christ.

We also know for certain that all who know him have a great mission. They may carry out that mission in different ways and in different places. They may have different occupations as they carry it out. Still, all are on the same mission. Every Christian is to glorify God and to make Jesus known to all around them through the lives they live and through the words that they say.

Circumstances may be uncertain. For we who are Christians, our hope and our mission are not.

What to Do with a Downcast Soul

There are days that I struggle with being down. One may look at me and my situation and say, “Well, you have a right to be.” However, there are many who have much more right than I do. There are those who have experienced horrific trauma. There are brothers and sisters in Christ who face real persecution and threats of violence, because they follow Jesus. There are others who because chemical imbalances in their body need medical intervention to help them with their depression.

None of those situations describe me. God has blessed me beyond what I deserve. So, what right do I have to feel depressed? I can ask with the Psalmist, “Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”

That question is a repeated refrain in Psalms 42 and 43. The Psalmist answers his own question: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Apart from circumstances such as those I mentioned above, feeling down can be a sign of a misplaced hope. We hope for change in circumstances, for change in someone else, for someone to notice, for help to come, or any number of things. But God asks us—commands us—to hope in Him.

The first step out of a downcast spirit is toward God. Psalm 42 begins with the Psalmist expressing his absolute desperation to restore nearness with God. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

Being downcast is a sign that we desperately need to draw close to God. When I struggle with being down, it is warning light that I need to renew my thirst for God. It is sign that I have misplaced hope. Every disciple’s first urge of each day should be to drink deeply in God’s presence. It is there that we move our hope back to Him. It is there that we look beyond a nearsighted view of our circumstances toward the long view of an eternity that is in God’s hands. Even those experiencing trauma, persecution, and clinical depression have hope when they begin there.

If that is where their hope begins, can the rest of us believe that we can start someplace else? Let us look up from our circumstances, look away from misplaced sources of hope, and toward our hope found in God alone through His Son, Jesus Christ. Let us help others find eternal hope in Him as well.