Monday, July 1, 2013

Psalm 4

From the New Living Translation

Answer me when I call to you,
    O God who declares me innocent.
Free me from my troubles.
    Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

How long will you people ruin my reputation?
    How long will you make groundless accusations?
    How long will you continue your lies?
You can be sure of this:
    The Lord set apart the godly for himself.
    The Lord will answer when I call to him.

Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
    Think about it overnight and remain silent.
Offer sacrifices in the right spirit,
    and trust the Lord.

Many people say, “Who will show us better times?”
    Let your face smile on us, Lord.
You have given me greater joy
    than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.

As I continue my look at the Psalms in the face of catastrophe, we come to this one. Remember that I'm taking them in order, so go back if you want to and read the previous three Psalms.

My particular "catastrophe" that caused me to delve into the Psalms in a way I had never done before was a stage 3b melanoma diagnosis in July 2008. Just because I use the "m" word often doesn't mean that you can't substitute your own catastrophe. I simply share principles I gleaned from this wonderful Book that helped me.

David sure starts this off kinda bossy doesn't he?  Demanding that God answer him! Rather impudent I'd say. And so totally me. I get this attitude. We aren't told the particular circumstance that warranted this, but a quick read and we can see that David was having troubles: people were falsely accusing him of something and telling lies about him that were ruining his reputation. He wasn't getting mercy from people, but he knew he could count on God for mercy. And he was very sure that he was godly and that his accusers were not, and because of that, he knew who God would rescue. Himself.

Catastrophes will set people to talking, won't they?! Tongues can start wagging about how someone brought it on themselves, they deserve what's happening. Gossip can turn mean and ugly. Lies can spring up and run rampant. Hard times don't always bring out the best in everyone to be sure. 

And we can pray this kind of prayer and have this attitude with God when illness strikes. We can get demanding of God and insist on an answer to our prayers. We can want to "shut up" our disease and want to watch God drive it from us. Illness can bring ruin and troubles and we shout out to God to free us from all that. I know I sure have done my fair share of this kind of crying out to the LORD. 

I'm godly. I'm different than everyone else. I'm a preacher for crying out loud! If God will rescue anyone from melanoma, surely it will be me!  Do those thoughts sounds even remotely familiar? Be honest. God knows the truth.

And I'm still here to tell and write about them. And you are still hear to read and maybe nod in agreement. God didn't strike us dead for lashing out in our pain and questioning. God was big enough to handle us then and He's big enough to handle us now. Not only that, but God is able to handle the people and circumstances that come against us. Melanoma is no match for God.

David starts this Psalm off clearly angry but as he works through his feelings, he realizes that he must work through his anger or it will lead him to sin. Anger can control us before we know it and lead us down a dangerous path and away from God. David was wise to that and kindly reminds us readers of it. It's an age-old problem. 

Getting a diagnosis of a deadly disease, or having another type of catastrophe strike, can make us angry. We can get angry at ourselves, at the people around us, at the people who have done the same things we did but they're fine, at the world in general, and at God specifically for letting this happen to us. It's normal. It's human. It's part of the process of dealing with what has landed on our plate like a bad piece of chopped liver. It stinks and it ain't pretty, but it ain't going anywhere and must be faced. Rats. 

So David gives us some great advice and it's free! We don't need to pay a therapist to tell us to: control ourselves. Don't say anything, in anger, that you'll regret later and can't take back and will only make matters worse. Just stay quiet. Think about your situation. Pray. Get a grip. Junk happens to everyone and lashing out will not help at all. Think about it overnight...get some rest and maybe things will look different in the morning. At least you should be able to separate what you're really angry about (the circumstance) from the people you really aren't angry at. And you can go from there a bit more clear-headed.

And remember God. Go to worship. Stay in connection with the family of faith. Give Him your tithes and offerings. Make a sacrifice of your anger and give it to the LORD and trust Him with what's happening in you life. Remember: we aren't called to like or understand everything that happens to us, but we are called to trust God through it, with it, and in it.

There are those who look to other people for better times, to make them happy, to bring them joy. The person of faith looks to God. The harvests that others enjoy are nothing compared to God's blessings, PLUS, those harvests...well, they come from God's hands anyway. So let's skip the middleman.

In the face of catastrophe, we, YOU, can know God's peace. That perfect peace that passes all understanding. Not only that, but where there is God's peace, we can be assured of God's perfect presence watching over us, keeping us safe from the worst that catastrophe can bring. 

There is no disease, or other catastrophe, that can separate us from God.

charis