I’m not very fond of journaling. I suppose I’m like a famous author who, when asked if he enjoyed writing, responded by saying, “I enjoy having written.” I’m happy when an idea finally gets out my heart and mind and into print… a process that is often excruciating. Much less do I like reading my journal entries, because not all of them come from “happy” memories. So when I felt God telling me to read from my journal in the early morning hours… let’s just say I wasn’t jumping up and down for joy, for I knew that there must be a lesson in there that I needed to be reminded of… from my own hand at that!
The lesson was coming from Psalm 66, which is a song of high praise to God Most High. This is all fine and good, until I came upon a passage that I stumbled over in shocked amazement.
“Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard;
he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.
For YOU, GOD, tested us; YOU refined us like silver.
YOU brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.
YOU let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but [then] You brought us to a place of abundance.”
GOD!? God brought this trouble down on us!? It was almost scandalous to my mind and heart when I realized what I was reading. As the psalmist said elsewhere, “my foot almost stumbled” (Ps.73:2); my heart faltered. But then I saw that the key to understanding it all was found in verses 10 and 12b:
“For You, O God, tested us…”(v.10)
“…You brought us to a place of abundance.” (v.12b)
In all the craziness and uncertainty around us, God has a definite plan and purpose. If I am understanding this correctly, God is working in me, and He is working to bring me to a good place. It’s Romans 8:28- “God works all things for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” So I need to keep my focus on Him, NOT on the struggle, nor on my own strength (or LACK of it). I need to keep my eyes on God, put my trust, hope and faith squarely on HIM.
I love the psalmist’s response to all this: “I will come to Your Temple with burnt offerings” (ie.: sacrifices of committed devotion), “and fulfill my vows to you– vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble” (vv.13-14). He’s not mouthing “fox-hole faith,” that evaporates when the trouble is gone. He’s saying, “I will follow through with my commitment.”
Then I saw an unexpected piercing ray of hope in the last verses of the psalm:
“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!”
The psalmist said, “If I had cherished sin in my heart… .” He is not saying that he has never stumbled or sinned at anytime, but he has not “cherished” sin– he’s not holding on to it, making excuse for it, defending it, or being defiant in it. It would appear that he is quick to repent when he falls. And because of this, God hears his prayer and is moved in love to respond. That gives me hope. If I continue to look to God, choose His way over sin and disobedience, I am positioned in a place where I can experience His love. To put it another way, if I cherish God above all else, then I am open to receive His blessings.
But I need to remember that even the hard things of life are the things that God uses to grow and mature me. Instead of focusing my energy on reacting against these things, I should instead turn towards God, Who will not only bring me through them, but cause me to grow in my relationship and in intimacy with Him. As far as I’m concerned, THAT is abundance. I, personally, am for that, ’cause I so desperately need Him.