Within and Without

Within & Without  I am no stranger to difficult times. Like most of us, I have struggled through many very painful and stressful circumstances and I have felt the inner turmoil that comes with them. It seems today, more than ever, that people are really struggling. Depression, addiction, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and despair are just some of the symptoms stemming from the difficulties we face. If you are like me, you have probably even looked around at times for who to blame for the trials you’ve endured. And, indeed, sometimes our struggles do stem from the actions of others, but for me, more often than not, I’m pretty sure I need look no further than the mirror.

Like most of us today, King David was no stranger to difficulty. He was an adulterer and a murderer (read 2 Samuel 11). He was surrounded by enemies both within his kingdom and outside of it. Even his own son, Absalom, tried to overthrow and kill him (read the full story starting in 2 Samuel 15). If ever there was a person who might be tempted to blame his problems on others, one might thing King David would be just such a person. The ordeal with Absalom was devastating to David and upon hearing of the death of his son at the hands of the King’s warriors, the Bible says David was overcome with emotion and burst into tears (read 2 Samuel 18:33). David most certainly knew the reality of emotional pain.

In Psalm 38 we see that even in the face of his many enemies and the immense pressure he faced as king, David doesn’t start with blaming others. Rather, he starts by looking within himself and considering his own sin. Psalm 38 is an excellent example of how David cried out to the Lord in prayer, examining his own life and his own wrongs first, then the actions of others, and finally pleading with God for help and forgiveness. I have reprinted Psalm 38 in its entirety below. In verses 1 and 2 he addresses his lament to the Lord, indicating this is a prayer. Verses 3-10 address the onslaught from the enemy within whereas verses 11-20 address the enemy without. Verses 21 and 22 conclude the prayer. It is easy to see that David’s perspective was that his painful plight was, at least in part, due to his own personal sin.

A couple things strike me when I read Psalm 38; in verses 3-8, David articulates the anguish that he is feeling, describing it with words such as “crushing”, “broken”, “grief” and he likens his trials to sickness and fever. I can identify with the way extreme stress, sadness, and anguish can make me feel that the world is crushing in on me and how it can make my whole body feel sick, sometimes sapping me even of the desire to get out of bed. The second thing that strikes me is the way David cries out to the Lord, confessing his sin and acknowledging that God has the power to restore him. This is seen in verses 9, 15, and 18-22. So he starts with self-examination and concludes by reaching out to the only one who has the power to restore his spirit.

So here it is, Psalm 38, with my concluding remarks following:

1 O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your rage!
2 Your arrows have struck deep,
    and your blows are crushing me.
3 Because of your anger, my whole body is sick;
    my health is broken because of my sins.
4 My guilt overwhelms me—
    it is a burden too heavy to bear.
5 My wounds fester and stink
    because of my foolish sins.
6 I am bent over and racked with pain.
    All day long I walk around filled with grief.
7 A raging fever burns within me,
    and my health is broken.
8 I am exhausted and completely crushed.
    My groans come from an anguished heart.
9 You know what I long for, Lord;
    you hear my every sigh.
10 My heart beats wildly, my strength fails,
    and I am going blind.
11 My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease.
    Even my own family stands at a distance.
12 Meanwhile, my enemies lay traps to kill me.
    Those who wish me harm make plans to ruin me.
    All day long they plan their treachery.
13 But I am deaf to all their threats.
    I am silent before them as one who cannot speak.
14 I choose to hear nothing,
    and I make no reply.
15 For I am waiting for you, O Lord.
    You must answer for me, O Lord my God.
16 I prayed, “Don’t let my enemies gloat over me
    or rejoice at my downfall.”
17 I am on the verge of collapse,
    facing constant pain.
18 But I confess my sins;
    I am deeply sorry for what I have done.
19 I have many aggressive enemies;
    they hate me without reason.
20 They repay me evil for good
    and oppose me for pursuing good.
21 Do not abandon me, O Lord.
    Do not stand at a distance, my God.
22 Come quickly to help me,
    O Lord my savior.

The good news in all of this is that God loves you dearly. Just as you are. He says you are created in His image (Genesis 1:26) and that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Like a loving parent he created rules to guide us so we could live full and satisfying lives (as Dr. James McDonald says: “when God says ‘don’t’ he means ‘don’t hurt yourself’”). Then knowing that we had failed to meet his holy standards, he sent his one and only Son so that we could be forgiven and stand in his presence again (John 3:16).

Sometimes when we are struggling, we need the help of professional counselors and doctors, and we should always consult with those resources. But we should not hesitate to reach out to God also, for he will always respond to our sincere prayers. Jesus said these words and I hope they bring you as much comfort as they do me: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Today my prayer for you is that you will find the love and peace of our Savior and the promise of his coming.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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And Justice For All

courtroom-898931_960_720   She was walking home from work one evening. She had made this walk dozens of times since she took the dinner shift at the restaurant where she worked. Almost always between 10:00pm and 11:00pm; her route took her down the street, through the park, and just over the bridge near her apartment. Once across the bridge it was a quick stroll across the back parking lot and she was home. Very routine. She never imagined she would one day join the list of #metoo victims but this night there was a man waiting for her.

She had served him a few times at the restaurant, and he had taken a fancy to her. So much so that, hiding along her route, he had watched her walk home night after night for a couple weeks. He knew her route and he knew her routine. She always walked with her headphones on, her waitress outfit was dark red, the restaurant’s color, so passersby rarely noticed her, but there was little traffic anyway and rarely was anyone around at that time of night. He formed a plan. He was a very troubled man, and this was not the first time he’d done this.

One night, he hid between the cars in her apartment parking lot and waited. When she crossed the bridge and started through the parking lot, he stood up behind her, followed her quietly to the door. Coming up behind her, acting as if he was just going to see friend, he struck up a brief conversation, as two people heading to the same destination might, and she easily let him follow her inside and up to her floor, where he had stated his friend lived also. But as she unlocked her apartment door, he suddenly turned around and violently pushed her inside. And there, in her own apartment, he brutally attacked & raped her.

Thanks to the video surveillance at her apartment, it did not take the police long to identify the attacker and arrest him. And the DNA evidence assured a speedy trial and easy conviction by the jury. The evidence against the man was simply overwhelming. And there he stood at the sentencing before kindly old Judge Thomas. The judge was known as a loving family man and a deeply caring friend, always putting the needs of others before his own. But here, in the courtroom, faced with such convincing evidence and the resulting guilty verdict, there was only one thing the benevolent judge could do – he handed down the maximum allowable sentence.

And would any of us handle it differently than Judge Thomas? Surely not! In fact, knowing the facts of the case, we might feel that no punishment is harsh enough; such cases usually trigger our emotions in ways that are deeply passionate. This is not really all that surprising, though, because we are created in the image of God and we know that, in addition to being a perfect, loving Father, God is also supremely just, and he punishes sin wherever he finds it. Like the judge in our fictitious story, God is loving, caring, and benevolent…but completely just.

And so while we don’t often like to talk about judgment, the Bible tells us judgment is coming and we do well to understand this. The writer of Hebrews notes that it is appointed to a person to die once and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). John the Baptist spoke about God’s coming judgment saying, “Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees.” (Matthew 3:10) and Jesus frequently spoke of coming judgment with statements such as: “But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!” (Matthew 5:22) and: “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.” (Matthew 12:36) and: “Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.” (John 16:11) So the coming judgment might not be a popular topic we see that it is one of vital importance.

At this point many might say, “I’m am not concerned about judgment because I’m not that bad of a person, surely my good deeds will outweigh my bad on judgment day.” But even a statement like that reveals what we all know to be true about ourselves, that despite the good things we have done, we all have done bad things, too. So let’s not be disingenuous by refusing to admit our sins. We all have guilt and we all know it intuitively. And God doesn’t grade on a curve like your high school teacher, he judges sin wherever he finds it.

But God, being the loving, perfect, and just judge, made a way for us to be redeemed by sending his one and only Son to the cross to pay the penalty for us. And here we find the real conundrum; regardless of our sins, we can be forgiven only if we accept God’s free gift of grace through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. But many refuse. And this is where judgment comes. Jesus said, “But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.” (John 12:48) And in John 3:19 he said, “And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” And in John 3:36, “And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”

But in Romans 8:1 we read: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” And in John 3:18 we read that: “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.” So it is really very simple, we all know we have sinned, but we can avoid God’s judgment simply by acknowledging our sin and believing the Gospel message that Jesus died and rose again for us. The Apostle John wrote: “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.” (1 John 4:9) and “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” (1 John 5:12) That is the Gospel message. If you haven’t already, won’t you please believe starting today?

And for those who may be victims, who may have suffered by a crime committed by another, please know that Jesus loves you dearly and he stands with you, arms wide open, able to understand by his own suffering, and that he will one day make all things right. He spoke these words in John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” And we are assured in the book of Revelation that one day: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4) So we cry with you, come quickly Lord!

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.