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Monday, August 1, 2016

Today’s Reading | Psalm 57

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
   for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
   until the destroying storms pass by.
I cry to God Most High,
   to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me,
   he will put to shame those who trample on me.
God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness.

I lie down among lions that greedily devour human prey;
   their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
   Let your glory be over all the earth.

They set a net for my steps;
   my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my path,
   but they have fallen into it themselves.
My heart is steadfast, O God,
   my heart is steadfast.
I will sing and make melody.
   Awake, my soul!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
   I will awake the dawn.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
   I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
   your faithfulness extends to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
   Let your glory be over all the earth. (NRSV)

Reflection
There’s no doubt that the person who wrote this psalm faced a huge challenge. The most graphic indication is “I lie down among lions that greedily devour human prey; their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords.” As challenging as life’s circumstances were for the psalmist, the end of the psalm proclaims a deep knowledge of God’s love: “For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness extends to the clouds.”

When people come to see me because they are facing terrible life challenges, they aren’t as sure about God’s love as the psalmist seems to be. They often have a strong suspicion that God does not love them, isn’t aware of them, or has abandoned them. They wonder whether God is punishing them. I remember a time in my thirties when it seemed as though every aspect of my life was crumbling. And yes, I doubted God’s love at that time. I couldn’t imagine why God was letting any of this happen to me.

When a work situation is unbearable, or when a loved one is withering away inch by inch, or when a marriage is rocky, or a teenager is impossible, it might feel as though lions are waiting to devour us and something like spears are coming at us from all directions. It is during those times when it might be helpful to proclaim to ourselves, whether we believe it or not, that “God’s steadfast love is as high as the heavens and God’s faithfulness extends to the clouds.” First, because it’s a great visual image. Second, because proclaiming this to ourselves might serve the same purpose as an anchor. And third, the proclamation might help us see God’s actions of love coming toward us through the loving and steadfast actions of people in our midst.

Prayer
Steadfast and loving God, when lions roar all around me and when I slip into wondering if you love me, put the words of sure proclamation in my mouth and help me trust. Help me see your hand at work in the care extended to me by the people in my life. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care


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