Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my plea! Answer me because You are faithful and righteous . . . I am loosing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear . . . I lift my hands to You in prayer. I thirst for You as parched land thirsts for rain . . . Let me hear of Your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you . . . Show me .where to walk, for I give myself to You . . . For the glory of Your name, O LORD, preserve my life . . . Because of Your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress . . .
February is here. And even though we are past the early days of the new year, we can still here the calls to come up with a plan or resolution to create a happier, more fit, organized life. Through the airwaves, we hear a lot about weight loss programs, discounted gym memberships, and more efficient ways to organize the clutter in our lives. Catchy slogans and sentimental prose populate social media sites encouraging us to ameliorate our lives and feel good about the possibilities of the months ahead. How is it going for you?
As Christians, however, followers of a loving, present, loyal and faithful God, we have more, much more than simply a kind word or an enticing advertisement or a saccharine poem to set our year by. We have God in the flesh. We know and believe in the God of the impossible, the One who lived and walked this earth to be in relationship with us.
But what happens when this truth doesn’t seem to penetrate the anxiety that dogs us, or the health issues taking over our lives, or the distress we feel from a wayward child, or the lack of peace in our lives from tensions at work, or the stress of constricting finances? Let’s be honest, how do we navigate our faith when answers to our questions don’t seem readily available and uncertainty seems like an impenetrable state in our life?
Over the holidays I spent some time reading Psalm 143. It is an upfront, direct prayer to God. One, if I’m honest, I do not use very often, if at all when praying to Him. Over the course of several weeks, while reading it, trying to pray its words and meditate on God’s character, I discovered several things which seem to relate right into my life and its circumstances.
In Psalm 143, we find someone with questions, seemingly impossible questions for God who isn’t afraid to voice them out loud. We also come across a person emotionally astute. The psalmist expresses his requests using feeling and emotion; he holds nothing back, nor tries to sanitize them. Not only this, but we also encounter someone with a desire to see God act on his behalf beyond human comprehension. This is his belief in the God of the impossible, the One who defies conventional wisdom. And we find a person profoundly thirsty for God. We don’t have to infer this in his prayer. It’s right there, out in the open, acknowledged for all the world to see. He admits his spiritual dehydration to the only One who can quench it and fill him spiritually. This is not a point of weakness, as we so often think when we admit out loud what we need. The psalmist seems to know his admission is a point of strength so that God can care for his dried up soul.
We also discover a person who remembers how God has acted mightily and powerfully in the past. Recalling is a part of gritty trust because self-pity and despair are often more comfortable companions when we are in a state of uncertainty. Nevertheless, remembering the mercies of God challenges our feelings and causes our minds to focus and think about the fact that we know and pray to a caring, powerful God.
There is no doubt, Psalm 143 is a prayer articulated by a person who is trying to hold onto his faith with gritty trust, using words which also ring of tenacious hope in difficult and uncertain circumstances. It is clear in reading it the psalmist’s faith transcends his emotions, circumstances, or understanding and produces a direct, passionate prayer to God. This person is David. He doesn’t beat around the bush or dilute his words. He prays to God with gut-wrenching, daring, candid honesty.
I’ve often heard it said we cannot gain perspective or understand something while we are in the middle of a difficult situation. We have to wait until we are through it to understand its purpose and meaning. Can you relate to this? This may be true. But we also do not have to be paralyzed by our circumstances. Psalm 143 shows us this. It is an example to us, especially when we are living in difficulty and uncertainty, that we can remain assured Almighty God is with us. We can believe He loves us unconditionally and personally. And we can continue to be persuaded He hears us when we cry out to Him, keeping His promises despite the ambiguity in our lives.
This is gritty trust and tenacious hope.
So, while it’s still early 2016, I don’t wish you happiness or a trouble-free life, as lovely as they both sound. Instead, I desire for you and me the kind of faith David displays in this psalm. One which boldly and honestly asks the Lord to move in his life while anticipating God’s action. Let’s spend some time reading and re-reading Psalm 143 at the beginning of this new year, asking God to show us more of who He is and how He is with us right now in our perplexing, uncertain circumstances. And let’s pray it each day, over and over, using David’s words as our pattern of prayer, crying out to God to increase our faith through His devotion to us and caring, merciful power.
Living in the Washington, DC area, Meg’s driving passion is to see men and women mature in Christ through reconciled, healed relationships. She writes a weekly column on practical spirituality called First Thoughts, self-published since 2001. Visit it at www.firstthoughts.net.