Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by. I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me. He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. God will send forth his lovingkindness and His truth …. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing, yes, I will sing praises! Psalm 57:1-3, 7
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:1-8
Today's thoughts from today's verses:
We are looking at various Psalms this week for guidance in how to navigate those areas of life that we are powerless to change and cause us to experience significant pain and suffering. And once again we will couple our Psalm for today with a portion from our Luke passage. Remember that both the Psalm and the Luke passage are about God making himself available to us in times of trouble. The portion of Psalm 57 above was written by David, King of Israel in ancient times. Even though he was a king, David was not a stranger to hurtful, harmful things that he had no power over. Many of David’s Psalms are like condensed episodes from his life in regard to the impact of troubles, turning to God for help, and the outcome of faith and dependence.
Make no mistake, troubles of the kind we are talking about this week (things like severe illness, loss of loved ones, divorce, disabilities, past disasters, mental illness, etc.) have a terrific impact on us. David is very candid about his own experience with the impact of troubles on his life. Elsewhere in today’s Psalm, David says, “My soul is bowed down.” This is where he is when the Psalm starts. The impact of the trouble he is experiencing seems to be at its pinnacle when he cries out to God, “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me.”
Not only is David helpless to do anything about the trouble but for the moment he is struggling to escape its impact on his soul. When David cries out to God, “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,” he is asking for intervention in regard to both the trouble and the impact of the trouble. When David goes on to say, “my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by,” he is not there yet in this instance of “trouble” management.
David’s soul is bowed down and he wants to be in the refuge of God’s presence and care like he has been in the past so his soul can be lifted up, but it’s hard to get there. It is like he is reviewing what he knows is needed and is available from God. When David says, “I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me,” he is asking God to be gracious by moving him from the impact of the trouble to the impact of his presence.
Experiencing God as a refuge and shelter is what David needs and wants. This is where he wants to be and where he wants to stay for the duration of the problem (until destruction passes by). David knows that his focus needs to be on God and not the problem. When this shift takes place through God’s gracious intervention, then he will leave the problem in God’s hands. Notice what David says next: “He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. God will send forth his lovingkindness and His truth.”
David’s prayer for God to be gracious to him is answered and he is able to say confidently and boldly, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!” God has become more real to him than the trouble. No longer is his soul bowed down but lifted up. David’s experience here can be our experience. This is where Jesus’ story from Luke 18 comes in. Remember, Jesus tells the story of the nasty judge and the relentless widow to show us that at all times we ought to pray and not lose heart.
And remember, too, that the story depicts the judge as one who stands in stark contrast to God in regard to his willingness to help, while it depicts the widow as someone we should emulate in our looking to God for help. We learn from the judge what God is not like. The judge is totally reluctant to respond to the widows cry for help because he has entirely no regard for God and entirely no concern for the widows needs. As we see in today’s highlighted portion, it is only because the widow keeps coming before him for help that he is moved from being unwilling to being willing to help. The judge reveals he has had enough of being bothered by the widow and he is worried that she is going to wear him out.
God is never bothered by us no matter how often we come before him and he is never in danger of our wearing him out. Truly, God is not reluctant but rather he is willing and always available to us for the help he provides. Like the widow, we must keep coming to the one who has the ability to take care of us in our time of need and like David, God will become more real to us than the trouble we bring before him. Our soul will no longer be bowed down but lifted up. We may have to repeat the process over and over again (persistent prayer). God does not mind. He loves to have us call on him and count on him to be a refuge and shelter to us from destructive troubles. Whatever we are facing, we really can begin with “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me” and end up with “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.”
Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:
Lord, my prayer today is the prayer of David, “be gracious to me, be gracious to me.” I absolutely believe you are not reluctant but totally willing to respond to me and my need. Lord, help me to experience you as a refuge and shelter to such a degree that I am able to say, “my heart is steadfast, my heart is steadfast. Become more real to me than my troubles so that I can fully sing your praises day by day. Amen!