The blog lives! We – the ladies of HFL – have taken a much-needed sabbatical over the past month or so, but we’re back! If you’ve been keeping up with us over on Instagram, you’ve probably seen that we’ve been doing some looking at the book of Psalms and will continue doing that through the rest of the summer.
The psalms are so beautiful and rich, with gut-level honesty about the bitter lows and the elated highs of a relationship with God. I’ve always loved the cyclical pattern so many of the psalms take, swaying from one end of the spectrum all the way to the other over just a few verses, trudging honestly through life’s hard stuff and eventually saying – sometimes through clenched teeth! – that God is still worthy of praise.
“How long, O Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever? How long will Your wrath burn like fire?…Praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and amen.” (Psalm 89:46, 52)
I have often read through the 150 chapters of Psalms and focused on those elements – the swings from the deep despair to passionate praise, and the psalmist’s faithful return to God in all situations. That resonates with me. Life with bipolar depression makes my life a bit pendulum-like, and the different circumstances of the psalms and their insistence on God’s goodness – even in hard times – is something I easily relate to.
However, it has always been a little hard for me to relate to another aspect of the psalms’ intimate cries to God: the constant reference to enemies.
“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men.” (Psalm 43:1)
“My disgrace is before me all day long, and my face is covered with shame at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.” (Psalm 44:15-16)
Verses like those remind me that while I can relate to the very normal emotions of the psalms, they were written in a very different time by people living in a very different context than mine. Many of the psalms were written by King David – some when he reveled in the glory days of his reign, some when he found himself literally pursued by men who wanted to kill him, and some when he faced real human suffering because of his (or others’) choices.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t count violent armies among my daily struggles. But sadness? Anxiety and worry? Fear? Shame? Jealousy?
Those? Yes. Those, I am familiar with. The psalms don’t usually refer to those as “enemies,” though, making it hard to place myself in the verses I’m reading. But because God saw fit to include these chapters of poetry in His Word, I can be sure that it does apply to me.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize that those feelings I struggle with – the emotions themselves, regardless of what put me in that frame of mind – can be my enemies. Sadness can be like an anchor tied around my ankles, pulling me deeper and deeper into numbness. Anxiety can tie my head and heart in knots until I can’t see anything but my small view of the world. Jealousy makes me cynical and unloving toward the people around me. Fear pulls me away from God by implying that He isn’t trustworthy.
And friend, anything that has that kind of power over me is not on my side. Anything that draws me away from the life God has for me is my enemy, whether it’s pursuing me with swords or not.
My challenge to you today is to find a psalm – any psalm – that references war, enemies, or being pursued by “evil men.” In place of the word “enemy,” insert the thing you are wrestling with the most. Doing so declares to God that you are aware of how those things work against you as you seek to pursue Him. They are our enemies. When we do that, we can begin to fight against them and swing the pendulum back toward victory.
“You, O Lord, have mercy on me…I know that You are pleased with me, for [depression and anxiety…fear…anger..envy…illness…shame] do not triumph over me. In my integrity You uphold me and set me in Your presence forever.” (Psalm 41:10-12)
Whatever the enemy, God is fighting for us. Whatever the battle looks like, we can be assured that we are on the winning side.