You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help. This I know: God is on my side!
I praise God for what he has promised; yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?
O Israel, trust the Lord! He is your helper and your shield. O priests, descendants of Aaron, trust the Lord! He is your helper and shield.
All you who fear the Lord, trust the Lord! He is your helper and your shield.
Do you ever find yourself wondering what exactly some familiar phrase means? This happens to me often in my life as a follower of Jesus – sometimes in the middle of a sermon – so that I want to stand up and ask the preacher to unpack the expression, explaining what is meant in hard daily life by the familiar words! If we cannot translate the phrase into meaningful action and understanding, then it is no use to us, and may even be unhelpful. The attempt to understand and grapple for myself is one of the motivations behind this weekly blog – if I can articulate it, then I have in some measure begun to make it my own and put it into practice.
“Lean on God”, is one such phrase, and I have been wrestling over recent days to work out what it means – because it sounds attractive, comforting and something I want to do very much!
Recently, I was part of a group who went out to climb a mountain, on a day when the weather was less than friendly, greatly adding to our difficulty in scaling the steep slopes and navigating the sharp ridge at the top. I walked with my poles, occasionally finding that they were in my way, but more often finding that they were giving me confidence and some measure of security as I struggled along the hillside, trying to resist the gale force winds which were continually threatening to topple me over. Here was an example of leaning in action! I was literally putting all my weight on these slim rods, trusting that they could bear it and would keep me moving safely in a very dangerous situation.
The words of Psalm 56 had struck me sometime earlier, where the writer declares that he is praising God for what has been promised – NOT what has been already received! Is this what trust is? For the follower of Jesus, we are called to look to the promises, and to put our faith in them, because we put our faith in the God who makes them.
Promises may seem slender and feeble when we are in the midst of a storm of life, and our own promises are often compromised by our circumstances. But our God is not one to break his word, and the revelation of his character in the stories of the bible encourage us to trust him – literally, to allow all that we are and treasure to be held by him, because we know that of ourselves, we cannot keep them safe.
When I am using the walking poles, they do not transport me out of danger, but enable me to move through it. When I lean hard on them, I am held up, stabilised, made stronger than I can be alone. So it is as I ‘lean on God’. My circumstances do not change; the storm rages, my emotions threaten to derail me and events to overwhelm me. But I trust in a God who is greater than these things, who has promised to be with me through all my life and to bring me safe home at last.
When I turn to this God, when I deliberately contemplate his works and praise him for who he is; then I am choosing to trust myself to him, in other words, I am leaning on him for the strength I do not have in myself. When I call to mind his promises, turning my thoughts in spite of my feelings, to consider the truths which never change, I can move(albeit slowly!) forward through the troubles and trials, always towards him, sustained by his word.
Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.
Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
What a faithful God we have; Alleluia! and Amen.