Understanding the Lord’s love, presence, and nearness should lead us to serve him and to deepen our relationship with him. While we love God for so many reasons, we want to express our love to him today especially for his personal concern for us. At this, the eve of a New Year, in a world where people hesitate to spend meaningful and quality time around or with anyone who might infect them, we ourselves are truly echelons beyond blessed with an incomparable God who draws near to us, listens to our every single cry, recognizes our very own distinct voice, tunes his ear to hear every one of our whispers. Yes! I will call on him, praise him, thank him, and I will speak with him as long as I live!
Psalm 116 Easy-to-Read Version
116 I love the Lord for hearing me,
for listening to my prayers.
2 Yes, he paid attention to me,
so I will always call to him whenever I need help.
3 Death’s ropes were around me.
The grave was closing in on me.
I was worried and afraid.
4 Then I called on the Lord’s name.
I said, “Lord, save me!”
5 The Lord is good and merciful;
our God is so kind.
6 The Lord takes care of helpless people.
I was without help, and he saved me.
7 My soul, relax!
The Lord is caring for you.
8 Lord, you saved my soul from death.
You stopped my tears.
You kept me from falling.
9 I will continue to serve the Lord
in the land of the living.
10 I continued believing even when I said,
“I am completely ruined!”
11 Yes, even when I was upset and said,
“There is no one I can trust!”
12 What can I give the Lord
for all that he has done for me?
13 He saved me,
so I will give him a drink offering,
and I will call on the Lord’s name.
14 I will give the Lord what I promised.
I will go in front of all his people now.
15 Very dear to the Lord are the lives of his followers.
He cares when they face death.
16 Lord, I am your servant!
Yes, I am your slave, as my mother was.
You set me free from the chains of death.
17 I will give you a thank offering.
I will call on the Lord’s name.
18 I will stand before the gathering of his people
and give the Lord what I promised.
19 I will do this in Jerusalem,
in the courtyards of the Lord’s Temple.
Praise the Lord!
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
This psalm is a wonderful testimony of praise, giving glory to God for all the things He did to undertake for the psalmist. The Lord delivered him from grievous trouble, and he is not at all ambiguous about the fact that God is the one who did it. But in order to give thanks this way, we have to adjust some of our modernist assumptions about interpreting the events of history.
In his penetrating book about the theological crisis that resulted from the American Civil War, Mark Noll astutely pointed out the fact that the war badly rattled American faith in the intelligibility of God’s governance of the world. Both sides were praying to Him for victory over their enemies, were they not? And everyone retreated into the assumption that God’s ways are always and necessarily inscrutable. But how then can we pray as the psalmist does here?
Let us first try to unpack this amazing Psalm – verse by verse.
The psalm begins with a profession of love for the Lord, because He listens to prayers (v. 1). He inclined His ear to me, and that is why I call upon Him (v. 2).
As long as I live. The psalmist has been in deep trouble before, down to the point of death (v. 3). That is when I called upon His name (v. 4).
God is gracious, righteous, and merciful (v. 5). God preserves the simple, and it is a good thing too (v. 6). He helped when I was brought low. Calm down, soul, because God is bountiful (v. 7). God has delivered me in three ways—my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling (v. 8). I am going to walk around this place alive, and in the presence of the Lord (v. 9). Paul quotes this next verse in 2 Corinthians 4:13 and does so from a similar context. I believed, and therefore I have spoken (v. 10).
I said, too hastily, that all men are liars (v. 11). This appears to have something to do with men who were the instruments of the answered prayer. When I was in trouble I lashed out at men, but then God used such men to later deliver me.
How shall I pay the Lord back for all His benefits (v. 12)? I will take the cup of salvation, and then raise the glass (v. 13). The vows that I promised when I was in trouble are vows that I will pay in the presence of all God’s saints (v. 14).
As we saw earlier, God delivered the Psalmist from death, but here it says that the death of His saints is precious to Him (v. 15).
God loves bringing us home. In other words, it would have been an answer to the Psalmists prayer either way. Enslaved by our God’s answers to his prayers, God’s devoted servants are the ones for whom God has loosed the bonds (v. 16).
The sacrifice of thanksgiving is the only way to pay Him back, and so we call on His name (v. 17). Again, the vows that were promised will be vows paid—in the presence of all His people (v. 18). Thanksgiving for answered prayer will be offered in the courts of the Lord’s house (v. 19). Hallelujah.
You read a lot from me about trust from my blog. My fervent prayer is I want readers to experience trusting God and others with who you really are, creating authentic relationships with God and others where you are truly known, loved.
As we are about to enter into the New Year, or perhaps you are already there by the time you come to read these words. I want to us all to be able to collectively reflect on where each of us are spiritually following the events of the year 2021. Each of us experienced this past year differently and uniquely. Each of us has been both effected and affected by the circumstances and events of Pandemic. Each and every one of us has had their trust, hope, their faith severely tested.
With the greatest measure of his exhilarations, the Psalmist’s words declare his steadfast, immovable trust in God despite all the worst things he experienced. I am wondering right know, where are each and every one of us in those words of Psalm 116? How close are we to identifying with the events of the Psalmists life? How far away are we from identifying with those exhilarating words of praise? Could our hearts, our souls and our pens or computers or I Pads write even one word of them? Write them with any serious meaning, serious depths of truth?
Everyone absolutely matters to God! Everyone absolutely matters to Jesus, and everyone absolutely matters to the Holy Spirit. Everyone absolutely matters in the Kingdom of God – believers and even non-believers. God desires everyone! Everyone, without exception has a significant role to fill and a purpose to fulfill. God is not partial, Jesus excludes no one, the Holy Spirit reaches out to all of us.
Still now, this world is in the throes of pandemic. In the real and devastating throes of social distancing, quarantine and isolation. serious medical issues, serious socio-economic issues, serious socio-cultural issues we have never seriously expected to occur in our lifetimes or needed to be considered before. Business and leisure Travel is seriously impacted! Too much is just too much! We are looking at our families, friends and neighbors and complete strangers and seriously wondering, “Are they contagious?” “Should they breathe on me?”
Our sense of personal security is being tested. Our personal measures, intimate degrees of connection and personal relationships and trust are being seriously challenged. Trust is an essential characteristic and attribute in any relationship. Whether that trust is places in our fallow man or in God the Father, Son, Spirit. As man comes to trust in their fellow man, so goes their trust in their Creator! Trust not in the ways of man, erode that trust even .01%, so it connects to God!
Psalm 118:8-9 Authorized (King James) Version
8 It is better to trust in the Lord
than to put confidence in man.
9 It is better to trust in the Lord
than to put confidence in princes.
These two verses from Psalm 118 are believed to be the very center verses of the biblical canon. So, trust in the Lord taken together with trust in mankind are the very center of what we need to be extraordinarily mindful of in coming years.
But what if trust isn’t an easy thing for you?
We could easily argue it isn’t an easy thing for most of us, depending on our current and past experiences and how we come to view both ourselves and our relationships. There are a lot of reasons you and I might be finding it hard to trust people, but here are three of the big ones.
#1. You and I believe WE have to protect ourselves.
This one is a deep—and common—root.
Many of us were taught from our early experiences that we need to protect ourselves from others. While serious issues of abuse and neglect are clearly deeply harmful, even the best-intentioned parents hurt their kids at times. They reply sharply, don’t notice distress, tell their kids how they “should” feel, or misunderstand what their child needs. All parents are humans too after all, with their own preoccupations, hang-ups and patterns.
Unfortunately, when we are young, we don’t have this perspective. Many of us quickly internalize the understanding that we need to look out for ourselves, protect ourselves, and not trust others—after all, they might just let us down or someone else will certainly, inevitably let us down This usually gets ingrained so early we don’t know there’s another way. This is just “how the world works.”
This belief stays with us into adulthood, and often gathers more evidence. We get more sophisticated about learning it—we learn how to have relationships with others that we keep “socially distant” at arm’s length, ensuring we can still protect ourselves. Our core relational template begins and ends with those others cannot be trusted, and we need to everlastingly look out for ourselves.
While understandable considering our current circumstances, this belief that others can’t be trusted doesn’t lead to deep, healthy, vulnerable relationships—and those relationships are what Jesus calls us to as one of the primary ways He weaves His joy, fulfillment, purpose and peace into the tapestries of our lives.
#2. Your hurt and mine is holding both you and me back.
We travel through this broken, beautiful world, we will be hurt. It’s a simple fact of living in a land of imperfect people and systems. We have too many reasons not to trust, based on our own experiences, relationships. If we don’t work through our hurt with Jesus, we let each one become a barricade to our hearts. Each experience with a flawed human becomes another reason not to trust.
Unfortunately, all those barricades leave you alone—and it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).
We are called to forgive from the heart, clearing those barricades we’ve set up to guard ourselves. This might sound impossible, and depending on the very real pain you’ve experienced, this might sound unfair or unfeeling. But Jesus is the expert at this. He’s walked this road in order to get to us, and he can lead us both together along its winding and blind curves. You and I were not made to carry a hardened, barricaded heart within us. You and I were made to have a soft, compassionate, trusting heart is filled and protected by the Holy Spirit.
#3. You and I both have unspoken realistic and unrealistic expectations.
This one is more common than we realize. Most of us are walking around with unspoken, unclear, and potentially unrealistic expectations of those around us. We might not even be aware of our expectations, until someone breaks them! This is a recipe for hurt and broken relationships. One way this comes out is when we expect others to love or care for us in the same way we care for them. We get hurt when our friends or family don’t express their love for us in the same way we express it, we internalize that as “I can’t/won’t trust them.”
Let’s put an example to this. Say we are going through a hard time with a family conflict. You and I get together, and I never asks you specifically how that conflict is going. You expect that if I genuinely cared, we’d ask about it. I expect that if you genuinely want to share, you’ll bring it up on your own. Now your hurt, so, it feels as though you cannot trust me as much as you originally thought or believed, because I did not meet your (unspoken) expectations.
It’s awkward, and difficult, to have conversations about our expectations. It takes courage, and it takes self-awareness (because if we aren’t aware of our expectations, it’s pretty hard to convey them to someone else!). But if we carry around unspoken expectations, it’s only a matter of time before our trust feels flimsy, unbeknownst to the person on the other side. So, please, please, do pray, prayerfully choose to step out in courage, and communicate your expectations.
How can you and I prayerfully, biblically apply this today, the coming year?
Proverbs 3:5-8 English Standard Version
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh[a]
and refreshment[b] to your bones.
Proverbs 16:1-3 English Standard Version
16 The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the spirit.[a]
3 Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.
1. Spend some time getting familiar with your past and your expectations. Some good questions to ask yourself are: What was modeled for me growing up? Where am I holding on to past hurts, and letting them affect my current relationships? What do I expect from those around me to keep my trust?
2. Step out in courage and share some of these answers with those in your life. These past stories and wounds can surely help others understand us better and sharing them can actually build trust itself. Additionally, talking through your expectations can help get both and me on the same page, so both of us come to that place where we can both say; “I understand what trust looks like to you!”
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us now pray,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you know each hair on my head and every thought on my heart. Thank you for hearing my prayers. Thank you for answering so many of them with the answer I sought from you. Give me patience when I cannot see your hand in the other answers that do not come as soon or do not bear the result that I request. I believe and trust that you are there and working for my good even when I can’t see it. I believe you always answer to your glory and my best interest. But please, dear Father, strengthen my faith so that I will never outlive my trust and faith in you. In the name of Jesus, I ask it. Amen.