Do me a favor and please read Psalm 71.
“Hope” is an ever present theme throughout the psalms. Hope for peace in in the midst of trial, hope in the joy of a new day, hope in the relenting of sin and darkness, hope in the forgiveness of sins, and the simple hope in a God who knows, works, relents, draws in, and protects. Today’s psalm is a psalm of hope that is weaved throughout the 24 verses as the psalmist struggles with their own afflictions. And as the psalmist deals with their own place, as he/she struggles with those around them…because of their hope there is a peace that they find. And it’s a hope that is in a God who responds but more so in a God who always was.
Psalm 71 kind of combines numerous other psalms (which is absolutely understandable because how many times can you really cry out to God in some “new” way that you haven’t before?) but really needs to be understood as its own as well – since it’s one piece of thought and hope. From the beginning we see that the author is up there in years (vs 18) and is still dealing with the harm others have caused him. There is still pain from the words of others, their actions against their life, and torment it has been throughout their life. But they are also struggling with the frailties that come as one gets older. So it’s almost like they are struggling with something that always was (people and their desire to harm them) and now struggling with something that is new (older age and the body’s slow deterioration). And yet throughout all of this, even though it appears to be an ever-present part of their life…so has God. That is their hope.
What I find truly fascinating and even convicting is the simple fact that so often we find ourselves dwelling on the constant pain that is in our lives – which is easy to do. When we have pain in our lives it becomes that which we then hold everything else up against. Because of the pain, because of the feelings, because of the ever-present ___________ (insert affliction here) …that affliction becomes the first thing we think of as well as often times the last thing we think of too. It almost becomes our litmus test in life. Since it is our “ever-present” affliction it always seems to find its way into our conversation, thought, and being. But what about the ever-present joy that we also have? What about the fact that God has also been present throughout it all? What about the proclamation that no matter where we go or where we’ve been so too has God? Where is THAT litmus test?
Some of my readers know that I struggle with a health condition that will never be fixed. That it’s a daily “struggle” for me that I HAVE to deal with – there simply is no way around it. And yes there are times when it’s really bad and I am frustrated and annoyed and am lost in that feeling. Yes there are times when it drains me and I simply do not want to do anything but stay in bed and what can be really consuming is that in those moments it’s really easy to simply focus on THAT and nothing else. Because of the pain, because of my frustrations, because of my annoyance it can consume me and push away all the blessings THAT I COULD FIND in that moment but have a hard time doing. And while I know that “this too shall pass” pain simply has this amazing ability to take over and push joys, blessings, and hope aside.
My experience, as our psalmist understands and declares, reminds me that God is faithful in all times. That God knitted me in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and that he knows all the hairs on my head…and he knows my pain and affliction(s). As we get older, as we get weaker, as our conditions and bodies begin to break down it’s going to become even more apparent that God has always been with us and our guide. That even though our bodies have changed or we have struggled from __________ the TRUE consistency in all of it has been God. Hope has always been in our lives…grace (as Paul reminds us in Gal 1:15) has been bestowed upon us before we even took a breath.
May we all be reminded not of our afflictions, not of our pains and struggles, but of the work of our Lord and Savior both then and now. May we remember that his grace was placed upon us LONG before our ___________ ever was.