Pastor’s Ponderings: July 2020

by John Armstrong
 

I’m just kind of reeling because it is full on Summer and I’m not sure what happened to Spring.  My tomato plants are about four feet tall and I’m already getting zucchini out of my garden.  As you all know this has been a very strange time in our world, in our nation, and in our communities, including our church community.  The stressors on us all have been much greater than I realized.  I used to think that I had a pretty high ability to absorb stress in my life.  When I was younger I would say stress didn’t really bother me.  I’ve spent almost all of my adult life living on the high side of the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory scale.  It took several thousand dollars’ worth of broken teeth and dental crowns for me to realize the stress I was under was being absorbed, but it was doing damage to me physically, and in turn emotionally.

 

In the past several years I’ve become more mindful of my stress levels and have put things in place in my life to help mitigate stress.  For one, I wear a night guard to protect my teeth.  I like my dentist, but I don’t want to give her anymore of my money than is absolutely necessary.  Also, I like going to the gym to work out.  Getting a good night’s sleep is also very important.  There are a number of other things that you can do to help lower your stress levels and I’ll leave you to your own investigation for those things.  However, I would say the best way to deal with stress in your life is to spend time with the Lord in His Word and in prayer.  This week I’ve been reading and reflecting on Psalm 131.  I think it is instructive for us in this time.

 

Psa. 131:0  A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF DAVID.

Psa. 131:1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;

                        my eyes are not raised too high;

             I do not occupy myself with things

                        too great and too marvelous for me.

2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

                        like a weaned child with its mother;

                        like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Psa. 131:3 O Israel, hope in the LORD

                        from this time forth and forevermore.

 

This is a psalm of humility that speaks to our need to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought.  In the midst of turmoil and uncertainty, none of us is happy, none of us like the times or issues we are confronted with. We want it all to change, and we want it now.  We must remember that we are not in charge.  What we want is not always best.  What we want may be counter to God’s will for our life.  Sometimes, fighting the turmoil and uncertainty to maintain your illusion of control is just so much futility.  In this psalm David is saying, stop striving to be God when you are not.  Get a grip on who you are in relation to God and then you will know peace in the midst of whatever comes.  The weaning process is not an easy one for a child as he or she learns to trust the mother fully to provide in a different way than what he or she has become accustomed.  There is a struggle, but that struggle ends with a child weaned from the breast and still fully dependent and trusting upon the mother.  How is it, that if we know God, that we can continue to struggle and be discontent?  I have made the point before, and I’m sure I’ll be making it for the rest of my life, by God’s grace, that “to know” God is not to just know about God.  To know God means to know Him experientially.  There is an element of knowledge that is information and facts stored up in our brains, but there is also the knowledge that only comes through experiencing God in His mercy and grace.  Seeing how He provides, how He delivers, how He saves, how He forgives, how He frees, how He strengthens, etc., etc., etc…  When we experience these things the head knowledge of God is translated to an experience that affirms and convinces.  Our faith is grown this way as the Holy Spirit moves in our lives and gives us understanding.  That knowledge (factual and experiential) serves to change us at our core, in our heart.  The Holy Spirit changes our hearts so that we become more like Jesus from our hearts outward and that changes who we are in our thinking, and acting.  That full-bodied knowledge of God, by His grace, enables us to trust Him even in the midst of the most difficult times.  Therefore, when we know God we can indeed be as that weaned child with his/her mother.  With that we close with the prayer of David for Israel (the people of God), O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.  No matter what we face today, no matter what tomorrow may bring, there is hope in the Lord.