Psalm 73:13-14, 23-25 (NIV)
Surely in vain I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. … Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You.
Psalm 91:9-12, 15 (NIV)
If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. …He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
In the instructions for writing this devotion, Pastor Scott included a list of emotions that the Psalms describe – joy, grief, anger, wonder, confusion, serenity. I feel like my experience over the past year or so has included all of these emotions at one time or another. Some of you know that I have had two spinal surgeries since October 2020, which have left me with limited range of motion and chronic pain. I can’t honestly claim as in Psalm 73 that “I have kept my heart pure,” but many times it’s true that “All day long I have been plagued.” But following the Psalmist’s lament (my mother would call it whining), I find that I can identify with his reassurance that I am ever with God, holding His hand, being guided by His counsel. His presence with me is indeed my greatest desire.
I read the promises of Psalm 91 with skepticism and disappointment. The claim that “no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent” simply has not proven true to me. However, I find that the physical limitation of not being able to turn my head has a spiritual discipline included: I must continue to look forward – not be distracted by what is happening behind me or even by the temptations off to the side that might try to claim my time and attention. Again, I choose to identify with the Psalmist’s closing thought that God will be with me in trouble; He will deliver me and honor me.
I love reading the Psalms and, like my mother, have developed the habit of reading one each day during my quiet time with God. And although it’s easy to wallow in the despair that is often evinced, I choose instead to identify with the acknowledgement that God holds my hand and will always be with me. What more could I desire on this earth?
Gracious and loving Father, help each of us to look ahead, past the daily roadblocks and worries that fill our lives, and to go, as C. S. Lewis so simply put it, “further up and further in.” Thank You for always holding our hands.