Good morning. It’s Jenny picking up the reins of Zeph@10am today.
Why a picture of a swan? Well in the past I have been described as being like one – apparently calm and serene on the surface, while paddling like mad to keep going underneath. However, it’s probably fair to say that my colleagues don’t see me like that…… They know me well enough to only see the panicked paddling.
Can you think of a time when people’s perception of a situation and how you were coping with it was somewhat at odds with your own experience?
My wedding was a bit like that. Whenever I was asked how everything was going in terms of preparation, I’d say, “Oh fine.”…….. Except there was still an unfinished bridesmaid dress two days before the wedding. All my lists and bride-zilla worries over perfection masked the fact that I wasn’t actually getting things done. (Note to future brides: don’t try to work two part-time jobs, and complete a PhD whilst preparing for a wedding).
I’m returning to David and his Psalms today. I’m looking at Psalm 60. You might want to have a read now. Spoiler alert for Yvonne….. we’ve reverted to ‘not cheery’.
I took a break from psalms last week, to look at Pentecost. In part that was because I didn’t really know what to say about this Psalm. I’m reading the Psalms of David in a chronological Bible, so his psalms are set within the appropriate texts from 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. This Psalm follows immediately after the account of the relevant battles in 2 Samuel 8: 1-18 and 1 Chronicles 18: 1-17.
Those two passages paint a very different picture to the one that David paints within Psalm 60. Two records of a successful military campaign, cataloguing the gains in terms of equipment, and prisoners, and numbers killed, and the longer term benefits of tributes from conquered people and political alliances. No mention of any difficulty in defeating the enemy. No sign that these were difficult battles for David to win. Set against these, the tone of the Psalm was quite jarring and out of place.
Psalm 60 paints a very different picture. The first part of the Psalm makes it clear that the battles were perhaps not so easy. In fact they may have initially been facing defeat:
You have rejected us, O God, and broken our defenses.
You have been angry with us; now restore us to your favour.
You have shaken our land and split it open.
Seal the cracks, for the land trembles.
You have been very hard on us,
making us drink wine that sent us reeling.
Sometimes, even when we know that we’re in the right place with God – and at this point David was – life still isn’t easy. There are still difficulties to be faced. Perhaps share with God some of things that you are finding particular hard or are worrying you now.
The Samuel/Chronicle accounts present David as the swan – gliding into battle, taking everything in his stride, serenely in control of everything. In contrast, Psalm 60 shows us what was going on in his head. We see the frantic paddling under the surface. As we thought about just now, there are times when public perception of us is at odds with what’s going on in our heads and our experience. There are times when we appear to be coping, but underneath we are finding it overwhelming. David was able to express his thoughts in his Psalm. Let’s ask God to help us to share when we aren’t coping.
No matter what struggles David has in defeating his enemies, and no matter how lacking in cheerfulness this psalm is, David does know where to turn for help. The last two verses say,
Oh, please help us against our enemies,
for all human help is useless.
With God’s help we will do mighty things,
for he will trample down our foes.
I don’t think I agree with him that all human help is useless….. Without human help, my friend wouldn’t have had a bridesmaid dress to wear at my wedding. (Thanks Mum). Without human help, lots of people would currently be struggling to get food because they are isolating. In fact human help is extremely useful…… but how much of that is God-inspired (knowingly or unknowingly)?
Thank God for the people around you who you can rely on when the frantic paddling becomes a bit too overwhelming. Give thanks for the people helping out in big and small ways now.
‘With God’s help we will do mighty things’. Personally, I’m not planning on defeating an army this week, and it certainly isn’t my ambition to kill 22,000 enemies…. I don’t think I have that many! In fact my ambitions for this week aren’t even very mighty. I want to be there for my friends who have just lost a close friend (non-Covid related); I want to continue to make face-coverings for people who need them; I want to continue to provide a ‘safe-space’ for my son during what is a very weird time for our children; I want to make sure Brian along the road doesn’t miss out on fish and chips just because he needs to stay at home to keep safe. These are very small ambitions for this week. But, if it’s true we can do ‘mighty things’ with God’s help, then we can certainly do ‘very small things’ with God’s help.
Tell God your ambitions for this week, and ask for His help.
Sometimes, when our experience of a situation is at odds with what the world sees, it can be lonely – feeling like we’re struggling alone. Let this song remind you that you aren’t ever alone.
Whatever ambitions you have this week – whether they are ‘mighty things’ or ‘very small things’, I pray that God will be your help and that you will know His presence with you.