28 March 2014

An Open (and Desperate) Letter to God

Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplications! In Your faithfulness answer me, and in Your righteousness.  Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous. For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in darkness, Like those who have long been dead.
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed.  I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land.
Answer me speedily, O Lord; My spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, Lest I be like those who go down into the pit. Cause me to hear Your loving kindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.  Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; In You I take shelter. Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness. Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake! For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble. In Your mercy cut off my enemies, and destroy all those who afflict my soul;
For I am Your servant.

      -- David

I am not sure what all David experienced in his life - but from his writings, I think it is safe to assume he knew of fear, doubt, guilt, discouragement, and depression.  His writings are raw and authentic. He holds nothing back when communicating his inner turmoil.

As you just read in Psalm 143 David is struggling. His feelings are on his sleeve, open for the world to read:

For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground;  He has made me dwell in darkness; Like those who have long been dead…my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed…My spirit fails.

Wow.  If I didn’t know any better I would say that David was reading some of my journal entries.  Have I not cried out to God with those very same fears and weaknesses?! David is desperate.  I can relate.  I’ve been there. Maybe you have too.  Is your enemy pursuing? 

When I began to study this portion of scripture I came across various opinions as to whom David was talking about here. Whom did he mean by enemy? He could have been speaking of King Saul as he did just chapters before.  Maybe he was speaking of his son Absalom.  Or maybe he was speaking of the enemy within: his thoughts, his doubts, his guilt, those voices in his head that wouldn’t leave him alone.   Whatever his enemy, it is obvious here that they are in heavy pursuit.

I tend to think his enemy was the latter.  It’s a common enemy--one that had preyed on David before; one that preys on us today.  A battle seemed to be raging in his inner being.  Here was a man who truly wanted to follow God, trust God, and love God.  Here was a man who failed in pursuit of righteous living and failed hard.

Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous. 

It’s obvious pretty quickly in verse one that David realizes his standing with the Lord.  David knew that on his own he was nothing.  He wasn’t comparing himself to anyone here but the one true holy God, and he obviously did not measure up.  His eyes were on his own failures; his focus on his shortcomings and sins.  But thankfully that is not where his focus stayed.

Had the chapter ended with verse seven, we would close the book in utter hopelessness.  After all, David has just stated how he had remembered the days of old, when life was good, and God’s work evident.  And now?  Now he feels alone. Now he feels his spirit crushed before his enemy.

Been there. Done that.  I know what it’s like to live on the mountain top.  As David, I have seen His works evident in my life, His protection, His hand guiding my every footstep.  But between every two great mountains is one deep valley.  Yes, I’ve been there too. I have begged God not to turn His back on me, the reality and awareness of my own sin bearing down on me mercilessly. I know what it is like to make a conscious effort to trust God, yet falter at the first sign of fear finding its way to my soul.  Sin is a familiar to me, sometimes more than God is. 

The easy way out is to stay in the valley--to embrace my hopelessness and stay in the mire. “Woe is me, I will never get this right.  I can’t live victoriously, look at me!  I’ll just keep plugging along...defeated.”    Sometimes, it’s easier to give up than to get up.  I believe it’s one of Satan’s cruelest tactics – to keep a Christian in that continual state of defeat.  Guilt is a powerful weapon.  If David were to have closed this chapter right after verse seven, his eyes would have stayed on his own sin, his guilt and Satan would have claimed the victory. 

David yearns for righteousness. His heart is in the right place.  He wants to do right, but he messes up. David fails, yes. We all do.  But he doesn’t stay down. Rather than proverbially beat himself over the head, he looks up and gets up. 

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; in You I take shelter. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.

His focus is now upward. Not on his own failures, but on God’s goodness, direction and forgiveness.  David doesn’t take shelter in his own holiness, but in the Lord’s.  He is not safe from his unseen enemies because of a miraculous and immediate perfection in his own willful flesh, but he takes shelter in Christ.

My righteousness isn’t in my determination not to fail, but in Christ’s blood when I do. Even with the best of intentions, if Satan can take my eyes off of Christ's grace and forgiveness and keep them focused on my failures and sins - then he's accomplished his goal.   

Are you struggling? Is guilt slowing you down in your pursuit of Christ?  Is the reality of your sin ever before your eyes? Don’t keep them there.  Take your eyes off of your failures and put them on the One who has forgiven you.  Don’t let the enemy weigh you down with a misplaced guilt.  When Christ died for you, He died for all of your sins—past, present and future.

David failed, but did not stay down.  He wrapped himself in God’s forgiveness.  That wasn’t pride; that was gratefulness.  David wasn’t trying to forget what he did wrong and shrug it off.  He was dealing with it by taking it to the Lord.

Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake! For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble. In Your mercy cut off my enemies, and destroy all those who afflict my soul;
 ____________________________________________

Posted by: Michelle McPeters (@mammamcp)          Don't forget to subscribe above!

2 comments :