"Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to encounter some turbulence . . ."
It had been a peaceful flight. Now, 35,000 feet above terra firma, the attendant told us to buckle up and hang on. Sounds like a necessary prescription for life.
If you are going to survive a bumpy ride, it is imperative that your seat belt hold. The psalmist understood this. Long before days of flight, the singer of God songs had his own restless ride -- and survived it. You can too when you do what he did: seek God, remember how he has come through in the past, and keep walking with him even when you don't see his footprints.
Trouble was the name of the singer's companion. You've walked with that unwelcome guest, haven't you? He is an antagonist with a thousand strategies: discouragement, frustration, hardship, and doubt, to name a few. Sometimes he mounts a whispering campaign: "God has abandoned you!"
The psalmist was no stranger to Trouble's intrusion, but the singer knew the tactic that righted his heart and strengthened his resolve: He stretched out his hands to God in prayer.
Too often I will try anything, but prayer. I'll work harder, plan better, stay up longer, pull someone to my side to help. It is not that any of that is bad, it just isn't best. A friend shared with me this piece from the pen of A.C. Dixon:
When we rely upon organization
We get what organization can do;
When we rely upon education,
We get what education can do;
When we rely upon eloquence,
We get what eloquence can do,
And so on.
But when we rely upon prayer,
We get what God can do.
I know what I can do, but I need what God can do. The singer of the psalm "got that." How about you? What are you struggling with? Go to God. Seek him about that trouble.
Remember how he has come through in the past
Mired in the present, I lose all sense of history. Not the psalmist. When confusion pounded on the door of his heart; when doubt pummeled his confidence in God's love, grace, and compassion; when adversaries threatened to undo him he leafed through the pages of God's past dealings:
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion? Selah
Then I said, "I will appeal to this, to the years
of the right hand of the Most High"
I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all you work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Charles Spurgeon said, "Memory is a fit handmaid for faith. When faith has it seven years of famine, memory like Joseph in Egypt opens her granaries."
In times of trouble and discouragement God uses the volumes of the past to steady my gaze and encourage my soul. Interestingly, the memory pages the psalmist turns are not from the book of his own experience. They are the stories of God's gracious acts among his people:
- God redeeming Israel from Egypt
- God splitting the waters of the Red Sea
- God demonstrating his unmatched majesty
I need this reminder. At times, as I scan my recent past, I don't see the hand of God. No worries. Look farther into the record of God's dealings. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). That's why I can look back and take heart even though the experience of God's work was not in the theater of my own life.
Walk by faith, not sight
Last night, after a long and tiring day, I was writing this post. Working hard to persevere, to "finish it," I lost my internet connection and about an hour's work.
I was frustrated. It was late. I was tired. In my mind there was no way I would be able to stitch together the words in quite the same way. Needless to say, "I wasn't feeling the presence of God." At that moment I could not see his footprints. But as I read the singer's last few lines I realize that did not mean God was not there.
Growth in the Christian life often come through adversity (turbulence). And often, when I most need the "footprints of God's presence" they are nowhere to be seen. The psalmist did not let that bother him. He did what believers have always done -- he walked by faith, not by sight.
Faith is not believing in someone who isn't there. Faith is trusting the One you just can't see. So keep seeking, keep remembering, keep walking.
- "Memory is a fit handmaid for faith..." from C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David. Volume 2: Psalms 58-110. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Corporation. 1977. Page 315.