Back in my days as a Bible beater…err college student…I can recall making fun of preachers who preached from the book of Psalms. “Soft,” I’d think. “Sissies,” I’d judge. “Dumb,” I was. Thankfully I’ve matured a bit, recognizing that the Psalms contain more than gentle musings and platitudes about sheep and sunsets. The Psalms are the prayers and worship lyrics of David and other writers who experienced some real world challenges. Through prayer and worship they discover God in the midst of their messes, even when their messes are self inflicted.
Psalm 116 caught my eye in my daily Bible reading this week. Clearly in despair, the Psalmist rejoiced in God’s miraculous deliverence from his trouble, whatever it was. Meditating on the Psalm revealed a simple pattern for how we can respond to trouble that is beyond our ability to resolve.
First, the psalmist encourages us to pray with the expectation that God will come through (Psalm 116:1-11). Check out this sampling: “I love the Lord because he has heard my appeal for mercy. Because he has turned his ear to me, I will call out to him as long as I live. The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘Lord, save me!'”
Next, the Psalmist commits to worship God. Psalm 116:13 says, “I will take the cup of salvation and worship the Lord;” and again in verse 17, “I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and will worship the Lord.”
Finally, he determines to live with integrity. “I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people” (Psalm 116:14, 18).
Pray with expectation. Worship God. Live with integrity. That’s how we ought to live when things are going good, let alone when times are tough. Don’t let the adversity that invades your life keep you from doing life the way you’re supposed to do life. In other words, your problems are not an excuse to bail on God. Keep praying, keep worshipping, and keep living with integrity in front of your peers.