Psalm 56:3-4, 10-11

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Do you often feel that your life as a believer is a literal tug of war? A fierce battle between two opposing sides pulling against each other, trying to move a little red flag tied to the middle of life’s rope across a set line or goal?

Opposites are common place in life and part of the world in which we live. Peaks and valleys, peace and conflict, love and ill-will, good and evil, sin and grace.

For me, this season of life is an intense battle between the opposite of what I know to be true against that which I am feeling. And if I’m honest, it appears that little red flag tied to the rope of life is closer to the line of emotions than it is of truth.

Could David, when writing this psalm have had the same battle? He knew and spoke truth…In God he put his trust, in God he would not be afraid, in God’s Word he would praise. Yet, the opposite side was pulling on his emotions and feelings. He asks, “what can flesh do to me, what can man do to me?” The answer to those questions are, “a lot.” Flesh destroys, man can kill.

David had just been seized by the Philistines and was certain that they wanted him dead. He admits to the emotion of fear and being afraid, yet battled that fear with what he knew to be true; that the God of the universe can be trusted and praised even in the circumstances he found himself.

Instead of being led by his fear and giving in to his emotions by sinning and sacrificing truth, he used the emotions to guide him to the truth he so fully knew. His response to the tug on his emotions is a repetition of reminding himself that God sees his concern, feels his fear, and does not ignore his concern. God can be trusted.

If current circumstances find you in a tug of war, follow the guidelines outlined by David. Don’t be led by your emotions, be guided by them. Renew your mind with truth that says, “I might be anxious but God loves me, is my refuge, and can be trusted to carry out His will and plan for my life.”

Heavenly Father, we know that you do not get angry with us for having emotions and feelings for you gave us them. Yet so often, it is easy to be enslaved by those emotions and allow them to control us in ways that are not from you. As David laments in many of his Psalms, he reminds us to use those emotions to guide us to Truth, your Truth. Truth that you love us and will never forsake us and are the anchor and author of that Truth. In Jesus’s Precious Name. Amen.

Jeff Mottice

Psalm 25:8-10

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Is God worth all the glory and praise? In short, yes! But why? These few short verses give us a snippet of his character which is “good and upright.” Maybe some of us would consider ourselves good, but to call ourselves upright seems a bit like wishful thinking. When we study the law of the Lord, we can see we fall short not only in our actions but in our hearts, and miserably so. God is no such thing. He has always been and will always be good and upright in everything. When we read the Bible, we see that it depicts many human failings but as a whole, the entire book is dedicated to chronicling God’s goodness and righteousness. His unchanging, steadfast commitment to righteousness, in contrast to our fickle hearts, is highlighted all the more.

Keeping his character at the forefront of our minds, we come across the word, “therefore” which shows the relationship between action and response. It helps us understand the motive behind the response and points back to the previous statement as its foundation for the next. It exhorts us to remember who God is as we keep reading. When we read that he instructs, leads, and teaches, we know that it is not just because of our doing but a direct response out of God’s character. It does not say that because of his good and upright character, he runs, he fears, he rejects us. It is because of his character that he does what he does.

I fall short daily of graciously instructing, leading, and teaching my children. Many times, I fail to communicate my expectations and other times I live in a fantasy land, laying out expectations that far exceed what my children are capable of. Similarly, in my first quarter of college, I had a professor quite unsympathetic to the learning process. In addition to assigning and grading material before he taught it, he gave failing grades on those assignments for everything below a B. In both scenarios, instruction, leading, and teaching are sorely lacking. And coupled with a lack of compassion, it is a recipe for failure.

Our God graciously instructs us, shapes our hearts to be humble, then leads and teaches. He does not refuse to instruct then expect the results of having done so. He does not leave us hopelessly where we are. These statements of instruction, leading, and teaching are active statements made by a God who understands, who has made the “paths of the Lord” and guides us along that path. He is intimately acquainted with us and our sin, unafraid to press in to the hard places. He draws near to us in relationship and initiates, sustains, and fulfills a covenant with us. He upholds both our end and his, while he does the good work in us. His goodness does not keep him from us but compels him to draw near to us as we draw near to him. Yes, he is worthy of all of the praise and glory forevermore.

Heavenly Father, you came to us when we could not draw near to you. In your good and upright character, you don’t just give us the tools. You intimately instruct, guide, and teach us in your ways. Make our hearts humble to recognize the glory of who you are, giving you every ounce of glory that is due to you. Amen.

Brittnee Barlow

Psalm 102: 1-4, 12, 18-20, 27-28

1 Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.
3 For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.
12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.
18 Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
19 “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.”
27 But you remain the same, and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”

Jeff and I were blessed with grandparents, aunts, and cousins who spent time researching our family tree. We’ve been given names, birthdates, death dates, and in some cases, marriage dates for generations dating back to the 1700s. History tells me that our ancestors lived through wars, famine, sickness, death, loss, political unrest, and even leaving their home country to settle in America. Yet I know very little about each one. I don’t know if any of them were believers in Christ. I don’t know how they handled the emotional stress of the difficulties they went through. The only stories Jeff and I know very well are those of the relatives we were able to spend time with here on earth.

I write this in late 2020. Our country has recently lived through a deadly pandemic and ensuing economic shut-down, intense rioting, and bitter political struggles. It is easy to focus on the difficulties we all have endured this year; honestly, we don’t really know how these struggles will affect us in the months and years to come. The media repeats that we are living in “unprecedented times.”

However, a look into Scripture tells me there is nothing new under the sun. The anonymous author of Psalm 102 knew the Lord, yet he experienced doubt and anxiety in the midst of his troubles. He cried out to the Lord and at times was certain his prayers went no higher than his head, that the Lord hid His face from the author’s distress.

Honestly, I have found myself at the same places as this author. As an “essential worker” during the pandemic, I experienced a wide range of emotions as I struggled going to work in the hospital each day while my family stayed home doing “virtual” work. Anxiety, doubt, anger and hopelessness were often evidenced in my prayers over the past 8 months, maybe like I’ve never experienced before in my Christian walk. The things I knew to be true of the Lord and the words of Scripture I could read were sometimes enough to pull me out of the pit; other times I lingered in worry and self-pity.

Verse 18 stops me in my tracks and puts things into perspective…how can I possibly influence a “people not yet created” so that they may praise the Lord? I can live in community with my immediate family and church family. I can remember the promises of Scripture as I influence my unbelieving coworkers. I can talk honestly about how the stresses of 2020 are affecting me and encourage those around me to trust in the Lord in spite of what we are living through.

Lord, the events of this year did not surprise You. Scripture records how You use events and people to shape history and hearts for Your glory. I long to see how You will use this year to glorify Yourself and your kingdom objectives. I also remember the places my heart has gone during this year, and I see places where doubt and fear were larger than the hope I have in You. Forgive me for those times, and help me remember the ways You tenderly shepherd my heart out of anxiety and into peace. As believers, strengthen Your children to be a force of hope and love in our communities as we move into a new year and new challenges. We long to glorify You…help us to do so in Your strength.

Angi Pierce