Friday, September 26, 2014

Comfort in a Scary World

I usually have an optimistic disposition; I've never been a "doom and gloom" kind of person.  I never thought that President Obama would destroy the country and try to make all Americans turn into Muslims.  I don't worry that my preacher will go to jail next year for refusing to marry a homosexual couple. But sometimes when I watch the news, I get so discouraged that I want to weep with sorrow.  Human trafficking, passenger planes shot out of the air, Christians sentenced to death because of their faith are all stories to make me long for heaven and an end to the suffering on earth.

I know that I'm not the first person to look around me and be upset with what I see in the world.  David hid from evil men for much of his life, and the society he lived in was no better than ours today.  In many ways, it was more pagan and bloodthirsty. Yet the king also penned the Psalms that we go to again and again for encouragement. So how could David write such comforting Psalms while living a life of violence? How do we reconcile the two?  I think the answer can be found in the Psalms themselves, particularly the fourth.
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. (Psalms 4:1)
David called on God, and he believed God would hear him. David recalls the evil around him (v 2), but he even reminds the wicked people that God will hear him. 
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him.  (Psalms 4:3)
In Hebrew, "hear" means much more than just listen.  Like when we ask our kids, "Did you hear me?" What we are really asking is "Are you going to do what I said?"  In other words, David begins his Psalm by asking God to answer his prayer, and believing that God will do so. 

I don't pray enough, and I don't always pray with full confidence that God will answer my prayer.  Sometimes I feel fatalistic, as though my prayers won't change what is going to happen.  David suffered from no such pagan thought.  He was able to take comfort in God despite all the evil around him because he knew without doubt that God would answer him. 

How could he be so confident?  Part of the answer lies in the character of God and part of it in the character of David. 
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him. Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.  Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the LORD. (Psalm 4:3-5)
God had promised to hear a godly man.  In his quest to be holy, David feared God, avoided sin, meditated, and listened to God.  He attempted to live a righteous life and trusted in God for the rest.  In another Psalm, David spoke a little more about how this works.
Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday.(Psalms 37:3-6)

We can't be good on our own, but when we delight ourselves in the Lord, when we commit to him and trust him, He will make us more righteous.  And He answers the prayers of those whose righteousness comes from him. 
Prayer for USA

So how can I be more like David, and bathe in the comfort of the Lord even while seeing the pain and sorrow around me?  I think the answer is to pray more.  Ask the Lord to bring forth my own righteousness as I strive to trust him and seek to delight myself in him.  Those things alone would begin to bring me and comfort since God is a God of peace (Philippians 4:9).  Then I can pray for the world.  I can pray for the victims of violence.  I can pray for the violent.  I can pray for Christians all over the globe. I can pray for their persecutors.  Then I can take comfort in the knowledge that God will hear my prayer.


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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