Updated: Jul 20, 2019
She had admired her older sister's hand fashioned clay teapot, now it was her turn to design her own creation. She decided on a coiled ring holder. As she sat turning the clay in her hands we talked about God forming the first man from the dust of the ground. I explained how God had spoken all other things into being; but when it came time to make a creature in His own image, He reached down from heaven, took some of the dirt He had created, and began forming Adam. We talked about God's command for Adam and Eve to take care of the rest of His creation and how we are obligated to obey this command. By the time we finished our discussion, her clay creation was complete.
As God's children we must hold high admiration and understanding of God as Creator, having this same regard for all of His creation. We should especially recognize and respect the sanctity of human life because we acknowledge God has made us in His image. We should feel a strong obligation to know and obey God's Word simply because He is Elohim. This is David's proclamation in Psalm 119:73:
"Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn Your commands."
As we learn to fear and obey God, respectfully following His ways, our lives become a testimony to others. Sharing our lives with other Christians is vital to the growth of God's church. Being vulnerable with each other about our struggles opens our hearts to truly hear one another and be the hands and feet of Christ for each other. Paul admonishes in Galatians 6:2
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
Far too often within the church body we are like the priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are dying on the side of the road and we're too busy or too afraid or too self-consumed to even notice. Within the walls of our churches people are struggling; physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally. Yet their struggles go undetected because everyone is "fine" when asked, and we're too busy trying to keep up our own charade of "fine" to stop and REALLY read a person's face, to look deeper than skin and see their soul.
Church, it ought not be so.
Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to love one another. The Message paraphrases Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:11:
"So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it." (emphasis added)
Living according to God's Word means we encourage our fellow Christians. It means we take the time to truly listen. It means we ask the hard questions. It means loving people in their struggles. It means sitting with the emotionally distraught, speaking truth to the one in mental turmoil. It means being vulnerable with each other; letting each other into the secret places of our hearts. Vulnerability leads to accountability. Living according to God's Word means we aren't afraid to share our struggles; nor are we afraid to lovingly correct another when we see them going against God's Word. Galatians 6:2 says:
"Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted."
When we are open with each other about our spiritual, emotional, and mental state we can better help each other, encouraging each other along the way. People want to be around encouraging, uplifting, right-living people; those who take the time to truly listen and see and understand. We find joy when we see a brother or sister who is living this type of life. This is what David means in Psalm 119:74 when he says:
"May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in Your Word."
Gathered manna from Psalm 119:73-74 is:
Acknowledging God as Creator brings with it the obligation to obey His Word.
Acknowledging human beings as God's image bearers gives us compassion for others.
What is your view of God? How does acknowledging Him as Creator help you obey Him? In what ways do you feel obligated (meaning morally bound or committed) to obey God? Who do you know that is dying on the side of the road? How can you reach out to help them? How does being vulnerable about our struggles help us hold each other accountable?
It is God who gives life. He is the architect of each of our lives. He knows what is best for us and always has our good in mind. God's ways are higher than ours. We must learn to respect Him as omniscient. Even when we are suffering hardship or walking through unparalleled tragedy, we must remember God's promise to make all things work together for our good. This is a hard truth to swallow when we are faced with things like the death of a child, or a young mom taken from her family for no understandable reason; the loss of a job with no viable income in view, or any other adversity we may face.
In times of our deepest pain, crying out to God for comfort becomes second nature when we have delighted in His Word. Making God's Word our mainstay when life is good puts us on track for holding tightly to Him when tragedy hits. Like Job we are able to proclaim:
"I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord." NLT
In our pain we must remember our omniscient God loves us. Our suffering is not evidence of His lack of love, rather it is proof of His lavish love. Paul, who had suffered many perils, was able to proclaim:
"Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?... No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow - not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below - indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:35, 37-39
If God allowed His very own Son, whom He loved beyond measure, to suffer untold pain as He hung on the cross; why do we doubt His love for us the moment we are suffering? We must believe God loves us and is with us no matter what we are going through. In Isaiah 41:10, 13 God tells us:
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand...For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you." NIV
And again in Isaiah 43:1-7:
"But now, this is what the Lord says - He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in My sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth - everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.'" NIV
Jesus is the One God gave in our place. Jesus is the One who carried our affliction to the cross. Jesus is the One who proves God's love for us.
Gathered manna from Psalm 119:75-77 is
Acknowledging God faithfully loves us in our affliction gives our suffering eternal significance.
Where are you suffering? Where have you turned in your times of deepest grief? How have you made God's Word your mainstay in good times? How can doing so help us in our times of adversity?
Concentrating on God's Word despite what evil is swirling around us enables us to stand firm against our enemies. David knew a thing or two about fighting enemies. As a shepherd boy watching his father's flocks he defended his sheep from bears and lions. When no one in Israel's army would face Goliath, he stood before the mighty giant with just a sling and some stones. As king, he led the army in many conquests against their enemies. Many times in the Psalms we read David's prayers against his enemies. He prays for their defeat and disgrace.
We see other examples of people praying for the downfall of enemies in the book of Esther. Haman planned to annihilate the Jews. He almost succeeded but Mordecai informed Queen Esther and she called a fast among all the Jews. They prayed for guidance and for their enemy to be destroyed; Haman was impaled on the very pole he had made on which to kill Mordecai.
Time and time again we see God coming to the rescue of His people who cry out to Him. He is our Defender. Jeremiah affirmed:
"But the Lord stands beside me like a great warrior. Before Him my persecutors will stumble. They cannot defeat me. They will fail and be thoroughly humiliated. Their dishonor will never be forgotten." Jeremiah 20:11
Allowing God to fight for us enables us to see our battles from His perspective. When we stand still beside God in our battles we can better recognize our real enemy and join shields with those who also fear the Lord. Those who know God and His Word know human beings are not the true enemy. God's children understand the spiritual battle that rages around us everyday. Recognizing this and fighting with our spiritual armor is how we unite with other believers and are kept from shame.
Gathered manna from Psalm 119:78-80 is:
Acknowledging God as Defender puts us on solid ground against our enemies.
What battle are you fighting? Who is your enemy? How can you best defeat him? With whom do you need to link shields in battle today?
Gathered manna from Yodh (Psalm 119:73-80) is:
Acknowledging God as Sovereign over all creation and circumstances leads to a victorious life.
What is your view of God when tragedy strikes? How are you able to stand firm in your faith when it seems the enemy has won? With whom can you share this truth?
"Gloom, despair, and agony on me..." the men of Hee-Haw crooned this song each week as a form of lament about life. Sometimes we just need to cry out in lament. Our soul feels weak, weary, and worn. When our soul languishes within us and we feel we can't go on we must hold tight to God's Word. We must remember the words of Isaiah:
"Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31
In ancient times old wineskins were hung from the rafters or in the chimney. In the smoke they would become misshapen and darkened by the soot. In Psalm 119:85 David may be saying that his sufferings have hardened his heart, made him feel useless, hung up and forgotten. We often feel forgotten by God and others in our trials. Wineskins filled with new wine were also placed in the smoke of of a fire to mellow the new wine. With this practice in mind, David may be saying his troubles and difficulties had mellowed his character. When we have endured a tragedy our character is either made better or bitter by that trial.
Regardless of David's meaning in this verse the lesson is clear: in our darkest days and deepest sufferings we must not forget God's Word. We hold tight to His Word in the smoke of suffering. When we're hanging in the chimney, sooty, dried out, misshapen souls, remembering God's Word brings hope. Through His Word God wipes away the soot, moisturizes our hearts, and re-shapes our soul to hope in Him.
Gathered manna from Psalm 119:81-83 is :
Turning to God's Word in our despair gives us strength and softens our heart toward His will.
When have you felt forgotten by God? Where do you turn when you are suffering? How can turning to God in our suffering bring His strength? In what ways has your suffering strengthen your character?
David laments further in Psalm 119:84: "How long must Your servant wait? When will You punish my persecutors?"
This is one of the few verses in this long Psalm that does not make mention of God's Word. Has David gotten so distracted by his troubles and the enemy that is bringing those troubles that he has forgotten God's Word? How often do we forget? Yet David quickly regains his focus and cries out, reminding God of the harsh treatment he has endured at the hand of his enemy. It is ok to complain TO God about our circumstances but we must be careful not to complain ABOUT God in our circumstances.
Gathered manna from Psalm 119:84-85 is:
Turning to God's Word in our despair defeats self-pity.
How have you complained when your circumstances are hard? TO God or ABOUT God? Identify ways you become distracted in your troubles and forget about God. What can you do to help you turn to Him more quickly?
Returning to God's Word for refuge David cries out, "Help me!" How often do we cry these words and truly mean them? We may say, "Lord, help me!" in a flippant way when things aren't going as we had planned. But to cry these words in our moments of deepest despair is to know the agony of the cross. To cry these words when we are unfairly persecuted is to know our Savior's pain. Jesus was treated the most unfair of any human ever to live yet He did not forsake God's Word. His physical pain was unimaginable but greater still must have been His emotional pain, when the Father turned His back and for the first time the Son knew the terror of separation. Satan meant to wipe Jesus from the earth and for three days he did just that. He almost succeeded. Then God called out and Jesus burst forth from that grave. God's unfailing love preserves life for all who will believe.
"They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken Your precepts. In Your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of Your mouth."
"Almost" means very nearly but not quite. David's foes had almost ended his life but not quite. Satan tries to destroy us and, though God may allow an attack, He limits Satan's advancement in our lives. We learn this truth in Job 1:
" One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, 'Where have you come from?' Satan answered the Lord, 'From roaming throughout the earth and going back and forth on it.' Then the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.' Does Job fear God for nothing?' Satan replied. 'Have You not put a hedge of protection around him and his whole household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread out throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face.' The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, everything he has is in your power but on the man himself do not lay a finger.'" Job 1:6-12
Satan attacked Job and took away everything God had blessed him with. Still, Job was faithful to God. When God gave Satan permission to attack Job's body, Job still would not deny God. He proclaimed in Job 13:15:
"Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him; I will surely defend my ways to His face."
Anyone else would have seen Job's situation as helpless and hopeless. Satan almost won. But Job cried out to God in his despair and God heard him and delivered him. We must learn the faithfulness of Job in our afflictions. Though it seems Satan has almost won the battle we must remember Jesus has the victory; and His victory is our victory.
When it seems our enemy has almost defeated us crying out to God brings His power to overcome.
Gathered manna from Psalm 119:86-88 is:
Turning to God's Word in our despair brings God's life-preserving victory to our lives.
When have you cried out to God for help? Where does it seem Satan has almost won in your life? Write out some Scriptures you can turn to in moments of despair. Make these your prayers when Satan attacks.
Gathered manna from Kaph (Psalm 119:81-88) is:
Turning to God in our despair renews our strength and revives our faith.
May we all acknowledge God is sovereign over our lives and turn to His Word in our times of despair.
Until next time,
God bless and keep you,
1) Read Psalm 119:73-88, marking all references to God's Word.
2) Prayerfully answer all the questions in this lesson.
3) Read Romans 5:3-5; James 1:1-4; 1 Peter 4:12-13
From these Scriptures, what should our attitude be toward our trials? How do our trials build our character?
4) Read Psalm 107. List the advantages of turning to God in our distress.