O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me; many are saying to me: “There is no help for you in God.”
Psalm 3 offers a powerful demonstration of faith functioning without sight.
We know (in theory) that faith never comes with clear vision or guarantees. Even so, how often do we want reassurance of favorable outcomes before we allow ourselves to trust?
It is oh so easy to let our feelings of despair and hopelessness overwhelm our intellect instead of finding the tricky balance between our head and our gut.
Emotions are an important part of our humanity … but …
Emotions serve as a valuable gauge about what is going on within us. Our feelings serve as signals, alerts that something very real is rocking or roiling deep inside us.
But our mind, our thinking, our cognitive abilities must oftentimes provide an important counterweight to our feelings.
Whole humans seek to keep head and heart in good balance. This is what we see in our psalmist: he counters his feelings of despair with his affirmations of faith.
But … !
You, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory; the one who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the Lord and God answers me from his holy hill.
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
I am not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
Our psalmist proclaims the unseen (maybe even unexperienced) reality of his Lord.
He names his God as his Shield and Sustainer even as he struggles with the also very real reality of his tormenting foes. His faith allows him to look his troubles in the face and say: “I am not afraid of you!”
Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
Living our lives with courage, facing the various kinds of “foes” that rise against us, holding onto faith and hope doesn’t mean our knees aren’t knocking and our palms aren’t sweating. But courage does mean we can step up to the challenges of our lives in spite of our fears.
Courage keeps fear from paralyzing us.
Courage with faith means we step into the Shield and lean into the Sustainer.
Rise up, O Lord!
Deliver me, O my God!
Now, finally, the psalmist’s prayer moves to the ask.
Tucked away in his lament of his reality and his commitment to trust anyway is this one request for God’s intervention: Rise up! Deliver me!
And with this cry for deliverence, comes an expectataion of vengence. This psalmist sings the belief of Israel (and the understanding of many people of faith) that vengeance IS justice.
Maybe. Maybe not.
I don’t understand God’s ways of justice, judgment and setting the world back to rights.
But the psalmist shows us – whatever our need, whatever our heart, whatever our request – we can offer any of that honestly, freely and confidently to the God who is Shield and Sustainer.
It is not up to us to exact revenge. We may not always be able to execute justice. Whatever his feelings and emotions may tell him to do, the psalmist makes the choice to leave his dilemma in the Lord’s just and capable hands.
Whatever God decides to do about all the complexities of our trying situation – that is God’s place, God’s prerogative.
Deliverance belongs to the Lord …
Psalm 3 ends with beatitude, the pronouncement of blessing. And, in this case, blessing even in the very midst of turmoil and trauma.
As in The Beatitudes found in Matthew and Luke, God’s blessing doesn’t wait until our physical circumstances are resolved.
God’s blessing blossoms best in the dark, tearful, rich soil of our very complex, very real lives.
Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Flowers in cracked soil image credit: Guy Tal First Blooms
See these other amazing images of nature’s amazing grace from Bored Panda