There are times when it feels like everything is going wrong. So just to transition into the new year as smoothly as possible, in the span of about a week I've experienced a small series of mechanical failures, each one having an accumulative effect on me. This has had a way of testing my sanctification lately.
Oh sure, I can handle having my watch being unexpectedly torn off my wrist, because watches don't cost that much to replace. And Fiona and I can afford to lose some sleep when her dialysis machine keeps going wonky lately, because we've been able to just sleep in a little later. And when our DVD player suddenly fails, I'm sure I can find another one for under $100. But then when I'm on my way home with the new DVD player, and the van's dreaded "Maintenance Required" light comes on, I'm beginning to lose it. I found myself growing increasingly irritated as this little list of minor inconveniences grew.
And it was then that I felt reminded of a psalm I'd read quite some time ago that puts these problems in a proper perspective -- one that sees God in the midst of them. Although the writer of this psalm had been through circumstances exceedingly worse than mine, it's clear that God was in control of them, and that without God, he would have been facing far bigger problems!
Psalm 124:2-5 says, "Had it not been the Lord who was on our side when man rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the waters would have engulfed us, the stream would have swept over our soul; then the raging waters would have swept over our soul!"
If this is about the Babylonian captivity (as one might expect from a Song of Ascents), then it's worth remembering that it was God who raised up these men against Israel, as well as God who defended and delivered Israel from them all. In other words, it's possible for God to be the author of both our difficulties and our deliverances. And because of God's goodness and worth, we can know that it's all meant for our good and His glory!
And yet Psalm 124 also tells us that if God wasn't for us, or "on our side", the troubles we face would be much worse! The staying hand of God is a reassuring thing! It assures me that among God's people, God will never allow difficulties to be bigger than the purposes for which He allows them in the first place. It's encouraging to know that God will measure them by His mercy, and will be "on our side" through them all! So if I'm tempted to dive into self-pity or bitterness of soul -- or to just grow increasingly irritated -- I need to remind myself that whatever troubles are coming my way, God is in charge to make sure I'm not "swallowed" up amidst them, and that they're not more than He intends for His purposes.
In fact, if it weren't for a merciful God, I'm certain that for every person in this world, such waters would have long ago "engulfed us" and "swept over our soul". But as those whose "help is in the name of the Lord" (124:8), God is for us, and we can be sure He'll sovereignly keep a leash on how big our problems become.
© 2009 by Ken Peters