In the midst of some of the toughest places we could be in, there are moments when we just need to stop to take time to refocus. In this moment of refocus, we are really re-centering our eyes of Jesus - his greatness, his graciousness, and his gentleness. In the midst of chaos and terror, he becomes our settling peace. In the moments of uncertainty and wavering, he becomes our strong foundation. In the mountains of hardship and despair, he becomes our strong deliverer. Some of us need to refocus more than we recognize. On the surface, we might appear calm, cool and collected. On the inside, we are falling apart, failing to pass the tests, and frantically trying to avoid the mess we are in. As we face these tough places in life, we aren't alone. Not only does the guy or gal next to you feel the pressures of life, but so do you - if you were honest enough to admit it.
But let me run loose and free, celebrating God’s great work, every bone in my body laughing, singing, “God, there’s no one like you. You put the down-and-out on their feet and protect the unprotected from bullies!” (Psalm 35:9-10 MSG)
David always has been my favorite Old Testament writer because of how honest he was in his psalms. He wasn't afraid to admit his struggles and he was quick to look to the one he knew could deliver him from those struggles - but he didn't learn this overnight. His lessons came in times of testing - some embraced well, others requiring grace because he failed miserably - yet he always (and I mean always) came back to the place of trusting God.
David has many recorded adventures of being in tough places, surrounded by insurmountable odds, and just not in a good place emotionally. When the struggles of life come in against us, we have the same response (or similar) - we get a little withdrawn, thinking a little bit too much about the "bad" stuff which is haunting us, and just bordering on the edge of being a little "whiny" about it. Don't get me wrong - I don't think these emotions catch God off-guard one bit. He created these emotions, so he knows we will "use" them on occasion! His hope is that we will bring those emotions to him and allow him to set us in right order again. When we don't, we oftentimes just bemoan our circumstances and get deeper into the mully-grubs. Not a good place to be!
As David pens these words, they are sandwiched between a whole lot of other words describing just how much pressure he is under. The pressure is from without, but it is beginning to affect him on the inside, too. This is often the case with us - the stuff begins on the outside - exerting pressure of one sort or another. This pressure has a way of "bullying" us until we either succumb to it, or we get lifted above it. The time between being "bullied" by the pressures outside of us and the moment we begin to rise above it is what gives us the biggest hassle!
God wants us to get honest with him about he pressure we are facing - while it is on the outside! He doesn't want us to internalize that pressure and begin to wallow in our self-pity, fret over our inadequacies, or ridiculously believe we could ever get ourselves out from under the pressures on our own. In fact, he wants us to be open to allowing him to sort out the pressures in his way. Some of it he may take away, because it only serves the purpose of tearing us apart. Other pressure, he may actually use as a means of driving us closer to him - causing us to reach a little harder, study a little deeper, until we are changed by the pressure (much like a diamond emerges from the coal).
As with David, God's hope is for us to admit to the struggle, turning our eyes fully toward him as the hope of our deliverance and the means of our salvation. Isn't that the real Christmas story anyway? God coming to earth to provide a means of deliverance and salvation to a world pressured from without and struggling with those pressures within? As with David, God's hope is that we will realize his intent is to set us on our feet, squarely planted, no wavering to be found in us. Crying out is the first step to deliverance - it begins the work of salvation in our lives. I don't know about you, but when I finally get honest enough with myself about my need to be honest with God, I find the pressures within beginning to drain away. It is the outcome of releasing things which we don't need to carry around any longer to the one capable of dealing with them better than we could ever hope to on our own.
My prayer for you this Christmas - deliverance. Deliverance from all which burdens your soul and keeps your spirit weighed down. Deliverance from the pressures within which only tear you apart day after day. Deliverance from the pull toward that which only promises more misery in your life. The means to this deliverance - cry out! God stands ready - you just have to welcome him to do his work in your life. Just sayin!