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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hey! You there?

There are definitely times in life when we just don't think God is moving fast enough, or maybe even that he is not near enough when we really need him. I don't think this is an uncommon phenomena for believers.  We struggle with "feeling" the closeness of God, not because he isn't here, but because we don't "sense" him the way we anticipated him "acting" or "responding" on our behalf.  We don't think he is moving at the speed we need him to, feeling like the things of life are just encroaching on us at a pace he is not keeping up with.  It is almost like we find ourselves crying out, "Hey!  Are you even listening right now?  It is me!  I am standing in need of some help right now!" We don't "feel" God - so we think he is really not listening or at a minimum, he is not paying close attention.  We sometimes sense this the most when we find ourselves faced by things way outside of our control - even when WE were the ones to get us into the muddle in the first place!  Our prayer in those moments would be more productive if it was stated as, "God, will you please set me straight?  Correct me where I went wrong, and help me get my focus right again."

God, come close. Come quickly!  Open your ears—it’s my voice you’re hearing!  Treat my prayer as sweet incense rising; my raised hands are my evening prayers.  Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips.  Don’t let me so much as dream of evil or thoughtlessly fall into bad company.  And these people who only do wrong—don’t let them lure me with their sweet talk!  May the Just One set me straight, may the Kind One correct me, don’t let sin anoint my head.  I’m praying hard against their evil ways! But God, dear Lord, I only have eyes for you.  Since I’ve run for dear life to you, take good care of me.  (Psalm 141:1-5; 8-9 MSG)

It should come as no surprise to anyone that we often turn to God as the source of the issue rather than seeing the issue as one we might just have created ourselves.  I think there are some things we might just learn about how it is our psalmist turned things around in this prayer to God.  Yes, he begins with the "Hey!  Have you turned a deaf ear to me?" kind of prayer. The psalmist even goes so far as to remind God who it is that is calling out - as though God could forget even one of his creation!  But...in short order, he turns his prayer around to really ask God for what he knows will be his defense in the midst of the battle he is experiencing.  It isn't in "sensing" God, but in reminding God how much he counts on him to provide his protection and watchfulness over his life.  Truth is, we all need to remind ourselves God hasn't abandoned his "post" over our lives - we just don't see him like we expected.

This might not seem like much at first, but our psalmist then turns his prayers around to what it is he sense HE needs in that moment.  I don't think he would have done that if he didn't think God was watching, hearing, and ready to act on his behalf!  So, our psalmist never lost confidence, even when he didn't immediately see evidence, or "sense" the presence of God.  Too many times, we count on the presence of God giving us the "goose-bump" experience, discounting his presence when we don't get that immediate "chill" up our spine.  God doesn't abandon his post - his watchfulness is NOT dependent on our ability to see or sense his presence.  In the military, we learned some things which appear as one thing often are quite another.  This is the purpose of camouflage.  I am not suggesting God camouflages himself, but we cannot expect him to always "appear" or "act" just like he acted before.  He will become what we need, when we experience the need, but it may be a different facet of his character we see with each new situation in which we seek his help.

Our psalmist also gives us some insight into how it is we "stand ready" when we don't see God's immediate intervention into our circumstances.  In the military, we also learned we might just have to respond in a moment's notice, so we did certain things to be "ready" when the call came to respond.  We posted guards to assist in relaying the message of readiness.  Our psalmist asks God to assist him to be ready by posting a guard over his mouth.  Now, at first this may not seem very significant, but think about all the Bible has to say about our words and you might begin to see why he prays this way. When our words are "free-flowing", we often complain way too much, say things we will later regret, commit to things we had no intention of committing to, and just don't know when to quit.  Since our words can open the door to so much "wrong" activity in our lives, I think it is important to ask God to post that guard!  In fact, when we are quiet long enough, we often get a clearer sense of what God is doing and how it is we are to interact with his plans!

The idea of only having eyes for one is also an important part of this prayer. Too many influences make demands on our lives - some of which are just not right for us at all.  The eyes behold much - knowing what is to be responded to and when is often a matter of "seeing" clearly.  I have to wear glasses, something I have needed to do since I was in fifth grade.  Without my glasses, I can see, but the image of what I see is kind of blurred.  I could get by without them, but I would miss out on so much if I did.  I wouldn't dare drive without them, nor do something as dangerous as working with a table saw.  I might just lose more than I bargained for in the process!  Focus is important - something my eyes have an inability to do without the correction of the lenses in my glasses.  The right lenses actually produce a great deal of clarity for me.  Guess what?  The right "focus" in our lives will produce as much clarity, if not more!  Only having eyes for one - God himself - keeps us from being lured into relationship with anything which might take away from our lives in any respect.  Someone once asked me what I was looking for in a husband if I were to remarry again.  It was easy for me to answer - for the primary desire of my heart is for that person to desire God more than he does me!  

We cannot always "sense" God's presence with us, or see him in the midst of our muddle, but we can get some things straight in our own lives which will help us to "stand ready" and not give into the outward pressures coming against us.  When the sense of his presence escapes us, what we most often need is to just what our psalmist prayed.  Just sayin!