Our psalm for prayer this week starts out reminding us that God is an ever-present help at the beginning of the chapter. I have to be honest with you; sometimes I forget this. And by forgetting it, what I mean is this. When things are going well, my default mode is to take it for granted, to just give it lip service. “Why do I need God’s help when things are going well?” And when things are going poorly, my default mode is to doubt it. “He is a help to most, but he’s not going to help me.”
There have been a couple very dark seasons of my life where I’ve battled confusion, anger, depression, despair, or whateveryawannacallit. For the most part, to this day, I have lived a very easy life compared to most. Grew up in a Christian family. Parents were great and some of my best friends in my adult years. Have been blessed with a great wife, four incredible children, and now two awesome grandchildren. In spite of God’s blessings, in my youth there was a side to me that was very insecure, selfish, arrogant, and hurtful. And I hurt a lot of people in different ways over the years. And while I felt guilty and sad about some of the hurt I’d caused, I had never truly repented with a godly sorrow. I had hurt different people in different ways without any temporal consequences. So when I was deeply hurting myself, I knew exactly why God was taking me through this. I didn’t have to guess why. God was teaching me not to be deceived, that God is not mocked. That a man reaps what he sows. I had to learn some things about God’s holiness and his justice that I would need for later years.
Even though I would never wish those experiences even on my worst enemy, I can see that God has used those episodes in my life to teach me some other very important things. First, I can see how people turn to substances to escape the problems of life. I am sympathetic while I don’t condone such actions. The second thing I’ve learned is very adequately summed up in our psalm for prayer. It is the need for a regular disciplined time in my daily life to sit still and think.
I used to dread going to sleep at night because I knew that the morning was going to be full of an unearthly darkness. But I had to sleep. And to counter that darkness, I learned to fill the first couple hours of my morning with working hard to think right thoughts about God. This very dark and angry time in my life was the cauldron in which the good fruit of my daily devotional habits came forth. Before this time, my prayer life was spotty at best. My devotion to Christ was heady with little heart. My understanding of the Gospel was largely limited to my justification and my evangelistic efforts.
For some of us, life is going OK right now. But you’ve been around long enough to know it’s not going to stay that way forever. For some, life is tough right now. What are the issues in your life that are causing you restlessness or anger or fear? What are those things in your life that are jolting you to forget what you know to be true about God? A preacher named Richard Cameron preached on this passage on July 18, 1680, three days before he was killed. He said something that we all know – “There are very few… that find themselves in no hazard of quarrelling with God.”
One of the most helpful resources I’ve ever come across to help me deal with my mind is Dr.Martyn Lloyd-Jones book entitled Spiritual Depression. In his discussion on Psalm 42-43, he said that one of the most essential disciplines any believer must incorporate into his life is the habit of talking to yourself rather than letting yourself talk to you. Talk to yourself because your self is always talking to you. Tell yourself the right things about God on a regular basis.
And I think the thing that God has taught me about this as much as anything is that this is something I need to be thinking clearly about when my life isn’t in the pit of despair or the slough of despond, when it is going relatively well.
This is how the Sons of Korah articulate that need from our psalm for prayer:
Psalm 46:10–11 (ESV)
Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
The conjunction “and” puts these two verbs together to show that it’s rather difficult to have the one without the other. “Be still AND know.” It’s not too profitable to be still if you’re not going to work at knowing something that is good to know. And it’s really difficult to know something when you’re too frenetic to be still. So I think that there is a discipline to be learned here in this exhortation to God’s people to be people who know what it is to sit still and think.
While there are many things that are true about God that we need to remind ourselves about on a regular basis, there are two that I’d like to bring out in this passage if we are to intentionally benefit from the fact that God is an ever-present help. Verse 10 reminds us that God is in charge. He IS God. Verse 11 reminds us that he loves us. He is WITH us.
So, whether you are in calm or in storm, take some time to talk to yourself. Think about what is true about God regardless of your circumstances. He is in charge, and he loves you. Sit still for a while and purposefully and intentionally think about that.