By Dennis Rainey
As I write these words on Thursday, the race for president of the United States of America is still undecided. Regardless of the outcome, as you look to the future I know that many of you will feel discouraged, others elated. Because of this it’s been a good week for me to reflect on where my hope is and pray about how I should live.
Each morning I arrive at my usual comfortable chair where my Psalter (a book of Psalms with room to write notes), and Chuck Swindoll’s daily devo “Good Morning Lord, Can We Talk?” are stacked on a footstool, waiting for me to do my daily spiritual wheel alignment. I need these alignments every day, and the truth of Scripture faithfully corrects and directs me.
Earlier this week I had a devotional time from which I thought I’d jot down the major takeaways and share them with you. I’m reading through the Psalms for the fifth time in less than three years. Tuesday’s devotional just happened to be Psalm 43, which I had previously retitled, “Counseling Your Soul.”
In this pivotal week in our country’s history, Psalm 43 reminds me of my need to remain relationally connected with God and to know how He wants to use me in the coming days and months. I can’t do that if I’m discouraged or if my hope is in the wrong place.
Before I take you to Psalm 43, read the words of the legendary 20th-century pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Here are his reflections on the 43rd Psalm:
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc.
Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.”
I’d like to recommend you read the words of Psalm 43 and remind your soul of what is true. With each passage, talk to yourself … to your soul … about what it means to you.
Let me show you how it works. I’ll quote from Psalm 43 several times in this blog, and after each passage I’ll capitalize my paraphrase of what you may wish to say to your soul).
Are you ready? Here it goes …
Psalm 43:1-2: Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go on mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
SOUL, LISTEN UP: REMEMBER WHO’S IN CHARGE … IT’S GOD, NOT YOU OR OTHERS. DON’T EMPOWER OTHERS WITH POWER THEY SIMPLY DO NOT HAVE.
REMEMBER THAT GOD IS THE SOVEREIGN KING, THE RULER OF ALL CREATION. HE IS STILL ON THE THRONE. HE LOVES YOU AND WANTS A FACE-TO-FACE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU.
NOW, MY SOUL, GO TO GOD IN PRAYER AND TAKE REFUGE IN HIM, RIGHT NOW, DON’T WAIT. TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND EXHALE, ASKING HIM TO PROTECT YOU, VINDICATE YOU, AND DEFEND YOU. GOD CAN BE TRUSTED!
A number of years ago a friend gave me a 5-by-7 frame with a simple and profound quote. I have often reflected on it, and yes, counseled my soul with its words:
I have everything under control.
I have needed to read that reminder multiple times. Today is a good day to read it.
Psalm 43:3: Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
OKAY, MY SOUL, YOU REALLY NEED TO HEAR THIS: LISTEN TO HIS WORDS … THEY ARE THE LIGHT, ILLUMINATING THE PATH HE HAS CHOSEN FOR YOU, SHOWING YOU THE WAY, AND GUIDING YOU.
SUBMIT TO THOSE WORDS, OBEY THEM, LET THEM LEAD YOU. FOR HIS WORDS ARE THE TRUTH … HE DOESN’T LIE … EVER.
GOD’S WORDS LEAD US TO HIM, REMINDING US OF THE TRUTH OF WHO HE REALLY IS, BECAUSE WE ARE PRONE TO FORGET. HIS TRUTH LEADS US TO EXPERIENCE HIS PRESENCE AND HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM MOMENT BY MOMENT THROUGHOUT THE DAY. LET YOUR SOUL ENJOY THE JOURNEY TO HIS DWELLING PLACE AND YOUR MEETING WITH HIM. JUST THINK, YOU HAVE AN AUDIENCE WITH THE CREATOR OF A BILLION GALAXIES.
Barbara and I live on a ridge not far from the Ouachita Mountain Trail. It’s 200 miles long, and meanders through oak and pine forests westward, all the way to Oklahoma!
A number of years ago I took three of our children down that trail a mile or so to go fishing. We had such a good time that we lost track of the time and, as the sun set, I realized I had a challenge on my hands … we weren’t that far from home, but it got dark. I was not a very good dad and leader because I didn’t have a flashlight with me!
Somehow we made it home, but the experience reminded me of our need for the truth of Scripture to illuminate how we live and where we go.
Psalm 43:4: Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
MY SOUL, COME NEAR, FOR I WANT TO TEACH YOU HOW TO ENJOY THE LANGUAGE OF HEAVEN NOW, AND PRACTICE IT SO YOU’LL BE FLUENT WHEN YOU GET THERE. THE LANGUAGE IS: PRAISE. YOU WILL LEARN THIS LANGUAGE AS YOU GO TO THE ALTAR OF GOD … THE PLACE OF SACRIFICE AND WORSHIP.
FULLY SURRENDER AGAIN TO THE KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, THERE YOU WILL FIND JOY IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR SAVIOR.
Perhaps singing the Doxology will jumpstart your learning of the language of heaven:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow Praise him all creatures here below Praise him above ye heavenly hosts Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Bill Bright, founder of Cru, constantly taught about the importance of praise, which he said was “an expression of faith, trusting God that He knows what He’s doing.” He told me the story of a wildfire that was burning out of control and headed toward Cru’s headquarters located in the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California.
He was out of town at the time, and as he drove home his first response was to begin to praise God regardless of the outcome. When he arrived at the headquarters a couple of hours later, he learned that the fire had burned toward the buildings and had abruptly stopped. He stopped and praised God again.
So regardless of who you voted for, here’s the question: Are you willing to trust God and give praise to Him, regardless of how the votes are sorted? Remember: Praise demonstrates faith.
Psalm 43:5: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
OKAY SOUL, ASK YOURSELF A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS: ARE YOU CAST DOWN? ARE YOU IN TURMOIL BECAUSE YOU ARE LOOKING AT CIRCUMSTANCES THAT DON’T MAKE SENSE? WHERE IS YOUR HOPE?
PRAISE HIM RIGHT NOW FOR OUR NATION AND FOR YOUR SALVATION THAT COMES THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.
Read those words in verse five again: “Hope in God.” Hope and faith are only as reliable as their object. God is worthy of our hope, our trust, and our faith.
We know Martin Luther as the great reformer whose courage inflamed a revolution of faith. But he was human, and he experienced many times of discouragement, despair, and even depression.
On one particular morning, exhausted by another sleepless night, his reddened eyes burned and an ache throbbed throughout his skull. He tried to pray, but his mind wandered. By sheer will he picked up his Bible and turned to the Psalms, a source of comfort when the blackness assailed him from all sides.
During the darkest moments of the previous night, when hope was but a misty memory, Martin had cried out for his God but heard only silence. Now his eyes attached to the opening of Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.”
Yes, of course! How could he have forgotten, even in the thick, numbing grip of depression? His only hope was in God. “Ein feste Burg,” Martin said aloud, “A mighty fortress…is my God.”
A man who loved words with a poet’s passion, Martin grasped a pen and scribbled phrases on a sheet of paper: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing …”
The words, filled with life and power, lifted Martin’s spirit. Line after line took shape, soon making a verse. A second followed, then another—finally four in all.
When he was finished, Martin knew he must find his wife, Katie, and share the new hymn—this might work in Sunday worship. “Our helper He amid the flood,” the voice boomed in the hallway, “of mortal ills prevailing!”
In the grip of darkness, the reformer had written a reformation’s battle anthem.
Martin Luther understood the power of truth as well as song, which both are found in Psalm 43. This country needs Jesus Christ … His love, peace, redemption and reconciliation. As we think about how to live in the days and weeks ahead, remember we need to counsel our soul to remain connected with God and put our hope in Him. He will encourage and steady us with His love, and He will love people through us.
As I conclude my piece today, I thought I’d lead you in the hymn I’ve just discussed—a hymn that is powerful for both our souls. Don’t be afraid to sing it or hum it, and be sure to look at the words, and let these words remind you of the truth about God.
A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe—
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not His equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He—
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him—
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure:
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also—
The body they man kill;
God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.
The story of Martin Luther originally appeared in my book, One Home at a Time. Although factually-based, the specifics of him writing the hymn as told here are conjecture.
Stand firm, my friend,
And send this on to another
who may need encouragement today,
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