From time to time, a young dad and his son go for a walk in our neighborhood. The little boy is five and just started kindergarten this year. He is curly-haired, caramel-skinned, full of energy and smiles and giggles. His dad is tall and lean, a head full of curls, and has a serious case of love for his son. The other day, the two passed my window in fits and starts… As they reached the corner, the young boy stopped, apparently done with walking or running or anything else…
Long hours filled with anxiety might get the job done, but they will not produce a life of value and significance. God intends for us to work, yes, but also to rest. Psalm 127 doesn’t suggest that it’s wrong to build a house or guard a city. The problem comes when we do it on our own strength, trusting in our efforts, working long hours, thus disregarding our health, our families, and, indeed, God’s gift of rest.
Psalm 124 begins by wondering how it would have gone for Israel if the Lord had not been on their side. Without God, the children of Israel would have been swallowed alive, engulfed by the flood (124:2-5). But the fact is that God was on the side of his people, and he still is today. That’s good news, to be sure. Now, the fact that God is on our side does not mean that we won’t ever go through challenges, heartaches, and sufferings… Yet, the truth is that God will use all things, even very hard things, for our good.
Why would we even dare to ask a holy, perfect, righteous God for mercy? Because God is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). He has more than enough to share with us. God’s mercy is not an add-on to his nature, but rather an expression of his gracious core. God’s mercy comes to us in many ways, but most of all through Jesus Christ, who bore our sin on the cross, delivering us from death, and leading us into the fullness of life. We all stand in need of mercy before a God who is ready to give us what we need.
I am reminded by Psalm 122:1 that being in God’s presence isn’t just a solemn and silent thing. It’s also a joyous thing. When we come together with the people of God to worship the Lord, it’s a time for robust celebration. As we read in Psalm 100:1-2, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Perhaps if we learned to celebrate a bit more in our worship, we’d feel more gladness about going to “the house of the Lord.”
“Where is my help? Who will help me get through the mountains safely?” We find the answer to the question in the following verses… When we see dangers ahead, when we fret about our future, Psalm 121 offers trustworthy reassurance. God is there to help us. He will guide us, protect us, guard us, and keep us safe. We are not promised a life without struggle and pain. But the Lord promises to be with us always, and this is all the help we really need.
This psalm reminds us that sometimes our conversation with God is messy, and that’s okay. Though it makes sense to begin our prayers with thanks and praise and to end them similarly, there is no biblical mandate for such a structure. At times, we simply cry out to God from our place of pain, loneliness, and despair. We don’t come to a sense of resolution when we run out of words. We simply stop praying and wait upon God, whether we like it or not.
Psalm 119 pulls out all the stops in celebrating God’s truth. His Word not only guides our steps and keeps us from getting off course, but also, in a phrase, it gives us life. Why do we read, study, reflect upon, and pray the Scriptures? Because in them we find life, life with meaning and purpose, life with depth and truth, life both now and forever. The Word of God guides us so that we might live life to the fullest.
This type of functioning depression is real and is often hard to detect because it is hidden beneath the myriad of works and services that these leaders provide to their community. Everyone around sees the public success, while the leaders struggle with feelings of private failure. So how can we combat depression and restore our hope in God as leaders? We must build strategies that break this code of silence.
Though we are often inspired, formed, encouraged, and instructed in worship, God is the primary audience for our worship… Psalm 117 calls “all you nations” to “praise the LORD” and “extol him.” Worship is not just for Christians. It’s not just for Jews. All people are invited to join in. Our worship should never feel like some closed club. Rather, it should be something we make available to our neighbors as we welcome them into our worshiping communities.