I woke to the sound of a barking dog (our neighbor's) and clanging drawers (my husband's) on Thursday. Not the most pleasant of ways to stir but certainly one of those mornings that causes one to just surrender to the interruption of sleep and say, "Ok, ok... I'm up!"
My kids have been waking up so early lately, which is unlike them, but it was clear this morning they were still asleep and my quiet house (minus the incessant barking from across the street) further beckoned me to get up and enjoy the brief peace that an early morning provides. So I did. With my new favorite Starbucks brew in hand, I settled in to "my spot" and opened up the Book that gives freedom... perfect peace... all I need for life and godliness.
I found myself in Psalm 4.
NIV (David writing)
"Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord will hear when I call to him.
In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.
Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?"
Let the light of your face shine upon us, "O Lord.
You have filled my heart with greater joy
than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."
There are a million things that stood out to me in this Psalm... Maybe not a million I suppose, but every line and every stanza is packed with truth and leapt off the pages this week. We are nearing the end of our home projects around here, which is a good feeling. With each new addition to our decor or fresh coat of paint, I am loving the outcome. Suddenly this condo is blossoming into the butterfly I knew it could be. Still, we are hoping and praying to pass the keys to someone else so that they can enjoy living here and we can enjoy living somewhere else, somewhere bigger to be specific. We know the Lord has a plan for us and we know He has and will continue to meet our needs. What we don't know is how. Or when. Or what our future holds. This condo has been victim to an inflated real estate market followed by a huge collapse. It's been a crushing blow to anything we had invested here and for years we've been and still are under the weight of it. There are big things to consider in a possible move and in the role of landlords, territory that feels very foreign to us. Next Fall Ava will be entering Kindergarten and suddenly school districts are of paramount importance to where we land.
If I list the odds "against us" in this scenario, the list grows long and overwhelming. We aren't too concerned about finding renters for our condo, the rental market is strong and we have lots of incentives in place in our building. We will need a rental ourselves to go to and that's where we start to waiver a little bit. We need wisdom that is not of us, we need discernment and we need the perfect place to land. Not perfect in terms of style or amenities or luxury, but perfect in size, location and affordability. It seems daunting to us... where do we start, will this actually work out in our favor, are we doing the right thing? It's been so easy for the enemy to insert fear and anxiety and to plant lies in our minds, when we LET him. But as I am learning to do daily, I make my list of odds "in our favor" to view next to our lists of odds "against us." One list is long and detailed, loaded with reasons to doubt. The other is unreasonably short, really just containing one thing... We know and love the Lord and He WILL take care of us. Psalm 4 soothed my soul this week with more reminders of Who God is, who we are and why He is totally trustworthy. We really have NO idea how this whole thing is going to play out. All along this journey we've felt the Lord only giving us enough light for one step at a time, keeping us in the dark about the destination or the journey ahead. While I'd love to know the big picture, I know that this place of daily dependence on the Lord is good for us. Good for me. Here are some reasons I know this to be true from Psalm 4...
Answer me when I call to you...
-Don't we all just want to be heard when it comes right down to it?? I say this line many times a day to my kids. When you hear me call you, answer me. And now David is saying this same thing to the Lord. ANSWER ME! Note that he isn't speaking in a demanding or authoritative tone toward the Lord, no... the creation is not commanding the Creator, but in expectancy and confidence he is calling out to the Lord. We know this because he calls him "my righteous God." For David to call God righteous is for him to declare and believe that in that righteousness there is goodness. And endless power. And perfect Sovereignty. He knows the Righteous One will hear him and will even answer him because that's WHO God is. He is able to hear our call and He longs for us to be in relationship with Him. To trust Him enough to call on Him, David reveals his dependence on God and we draw courage and strength to place our dependence on him too... Because His God is righteous, David knows his request will not fall on deaf ears. Oh how I need to remind myself of that truth often! When I lay requests before the Lord or feel burdened by a need that crushes me, it's easy to feel forgotten and left to fend for myself. But there is not truth in that feeling. He DOES hear me and He DOES answer me when I call. Every time. This morning I am clinging to the promise of that with confidence like David.
Know that the Lord has set apart the Godly for himself...
-Those who call on the name of the Lord belong to Him. When we trust in Him as Savior and give him the place of LORD in our life, we can know that we know, we are His and He only acts in our best interest. Everything He does for us or allows in our life is always for the purpose of His glory and our good. He literally sets us apart from everyone else and protects us. Sometimes I forget that my salvation through Jesus Christ gives me a standing before the Lord that is privileged. Not because of my own righteousness or my own goodness, apart from Him I can do nothing that is inherently good. It's only by the person and work of Jesus Christ at the cross and in the grave that secures my place in God's family and allows me to stand in his presence un-condemned and free. David reminds us here to know this. Not just believe it, but know it and act out of that knowledge accordingly. If I know that God has set me apart for himself, even when my circumstances are less than favorable or when I fall for the lie that I'm the "only one" who is experiencing this hardship and God has left me to struggle on my own, I can refute that lie with the truth that I belong to Him. He answers me when I call and I am so dear to Him that He has set me apart as one of His own. I do not have to fear what this world offers me, I have a protector who is greater than anything in this world and is taking care of those He loves. And I don't have to hope that God loves and cares for me like this, I can know it and rest in it.
Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord...
-I appreciate that David reminds us of our responsibility when we are facing hardship and even being wronged. Before this phrase he exhorts us to not sin in our anger... which doesn't mean we can't be angry, we just have to keep it within the realm of what is Godly and be sure that in our anger we are free of sin. He also says to be silent before the Lord when we lie down at night, examining our hearts before Him to see if there is any sin there. I think this is an area where we can go terribly wrong if we are not careful. When we are guided and dictated by our emotions and our feelings, it's very easy to feel justified and to be blind to the reality of our own sin. To even think we have no sin. But according to David, we are to lay ourselves bare before Him. When we do that, the Holy Spirit will help us see the truth of situation, recognize our own shortcomings, and prompt us to confess them and make sure we are free in our conscience before God, through the grace and mercy He offers us in His forgiveness. Only then can we rightly offer the sacrifices He's commanded of us, being obedient to His word, making us free to leave the rest up to the Lord. We can place our burden or the circumstance we face, squarely on His shoulders with complete trust that He will take care of us. We know this does not mean He will necessarily answer us in the way that seems favorable to us, but in the way that He deems best so that His name is lifted up and we are made more like Him through it. If we will do what He asks, we can simply leave the rest up to Him. The details that can keep me from sleeping are not mine to obsess over. I am to know God's word and obey it and He will take care of all that I don't know.
You have filled my heart with greater joy...
-This truth is one that I am grounding myself in. The complete verse says "you have filled my heart with greater joy, than when their grain and new wine abound." In other words, when the "grain and new wine abound" it's pretty easy to be happy. To be content. When life hands you sunshine and roses, who among us struggles with joy? But as David had come to know and believe about the Lord, the joy that comes from God is a greater joy. It's a joy that transcends circumstances and abundance. It's a joy that sings in the lean times and trusts in the face of disappointment. It's a joy that gives hope when bottom falls out and helps our soul find rest when the struggle looms large. David calls it a greater joy and so do I. There is no conjuring up this kind of joy, it's not something we "lean into" or look within to find... I grieve at that very misguided lie that has permeated our post modern culture. We can't manufacture this kind of peace or do more to find it. It is of the Lord, it is from the Lord and it finds it way into our hearts and minds as we invite Him to make His home there and write His truth on the tablet of our heart. Regardless of where this journey takes us and even if we never leave this condo when it's all said and done, He has filled my heart with a greater joy and I can and do delight in Him because of it. My joy is not found in the square footage of my home or in the neighborhood we live in. Some days I lose sight of that and have to confront my own sin of envy or an ungrateful heart. But when I fixate on what Christ has done for me, the chief of sinners like Paul, I am reminded that He gives me a greater joy than when grain and new wine abound. That's the kind of joy you can take to the bank and cash in on any time you want.
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
-The funny thing about this whole process is I am sleeping better than ever. I have dreams for my little family, hopes of how we could serve the Lord, longings that are unfulfilled... but the Prince of Peace soothes my soul and His Words command my soul when I start to give way to fear. The only reason I'm not panicked or stressed or in despair constantly is simply because of Christ. If I didn't know Him or trust Him or love Him I would be operating in my natural, type-A, control-freak state and wallowing in self-pity or shame. I have certainly gone there before and from time to time, but the Lord faithfully shows me the grace I am rejecting and the peace I forfeit when I forget Who is really in control. I agree with David, the Lord alone makes me dwell in the safety of a loving God's arms and gives me rest and peace when my head hits the pillow every night. What a game changer that really is, right?
These are the depths I've been ruminating in this week. We are well. God is on the throne and in control of every aspect of our lives. We are not defeated, just challenged to walk in faith and not in fear or discouragement. As we seek Him and put one foot in front of the other in faith, we know He will be all these things from Psalm 4 and more. We are expectantly waiting to see what He does! Stay tuned for the journey ahead, I'm committed to sharing with you as we go!
"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory..."