Do me a favor and please read Psalm 116.
Whereas Psalm 115 was more congregational (and you can find my blog and thoughts on Psalm 115 here) this one is personal. As for background and context – we don’t have any as this psalm is anonymous. Here’s what we know (from gleaning things from the text): They give thanks, they speak of their love for the Lord for all that he has done, and they know that no matter where they are, where they go… no matter what happens to them, God will deliver them from death as he has done countless times before.
So why am I so stuck on verse 7?
- “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”
Bear with me here, and this feels weird to say, but I have been set aside since day 1. I come from a loving home that is not only fully intact but my parents are still together and still love each other (not that they’ve never had their problems – but they’ve seen it through). I know too many people that come from broken and/or abusive homes, or even homes where Mom and Dad are together but their love for either each other or their kids simply isn’t shown and received. I also come from a home that has parents that taught me the love, grace, forgiveness, and fear of the Lord. I was raised going to church with parents that were either Elders or Deacons at some point, and I’ve simply always known God. This is why I feel that I have been “set aside” since day 1. My upbringing could have been broken – as many are – but by God’s grace I have never known that pain nor that wonder. I have never known extreme chaos, familial heartache and brokenness, or simply anything BUT God. And for that I give thanks. So why am I so stuck on verse 7?
The psalmist clearly has been through quite a bit in their life. Verse 1 speaks of a crying out and a need of mercy and God delivered. Verse 3 speaks of death entangling them and anguish overcoming them (we get very similar words from Jonah in 2:5) and then verse 8 speaks of death, tears, and stumbling and all along God delivered. Every single time…God delivered. And their response to all of what God has done? Praise. Thanks. Vows of love and service. And why? Because every time…God delivered. It didn’t matter what they went through or experienced. God always provided, cared for, watched over, protected, and delivered. So why wouldn’t they praise him? Why wouldn’t they give thanks! I too would give thanks!
SO WHY AM I SO STUCK ON VERSE 7?
When I read verse 7 I’m drawn, challenged, and convicted by the “Return” and “has been” that we read. The psalmist, to me, is telling their own soul that God has always been good…God has always protected them…so return to rest. Which to me means…THEIR SOUL ISN’T AT REST AT THIS POINT. For whatever reason their soul is uneasy, restless, and wavering.
For all the protection God has had over my life, for all the things that COULD have happened to me, for all the guiding God has made – there are times my soul still is not at rest. There are times when I still struggle with wondering if I’m going to make it through this. There are still times when I doubt if God really is going to continue to protect me. And why? He’s never failed…but I’m not the best follower and truster of God (I know that’s not a word – but it fits).
I think most of our lives are sprinkled with seasons of doubt. I think most of us have times that while we know God, declare his love and grace, we still wonder if we’re going to pull through this and if God is still going to watch over us. And while this psalm doesn’t speak of sin and forgiveness I do know that many of us, when we have doubt and have fear, we then wonder if THAT DOUBT will then make God question his protection of us. THAT is why I’m stuck on verse 7. For all that God has done there are still times when my soul is not at rest. Even though God has always come through, even the though the Lord has been MORE THAN GOOD to me – more so than I have ever deserved…I still find that I have seasons of unrest in my soul.
I think for all of us that have these seasons we need to remember that not only does God always come through (there isn’t a promise that he hasn’t broken or failed to deliver on) we need to remember that this is not only OK but it’s also common. We are all broken. We all doubt. We all are struck with fear…and we all wonder about God’s love and grace. This is normal. It’s normal because, again, WE’RE BROKEN. Sin has ravished every inch of our lives, penetrating every fiber of our body, and corrupted every space in our head. So first off…we all need to remember that this is common.
Secondly, and more importantly, Christ came to redeem the broken, the doubter, and the fearful soul. God did not send his Son to die for the perfect or the “always-at-peace” person. You and I and everyone else is included in that. So remember…God died for you – your brokenness and all.
Thirdly, and lastly (and more importantly than the other two), God’s love and grace always is. God’s protection will always be. His deliverance is final and complete. None of these are dependent on my faithfulness, my completeness, nor the ability of my soul to stay strong and focused on him. Grace, forgiveness, deliverance simply is. It’s based on him and his love, his work and his completion upon the cross. And why? Because while Christ was fully human he was also fully God and his faithfulness to the Father is 100% pure and complete. And the joy and hope we have is that our times of faithlessness don’t hold water to what he has done. So while our souls might not be at rest at this point it doesn’t undue what he has done. Our unrest doesn’t undo our deliverance.
So yes, “return, O my soul to rest, for the Lord has been good to you” even though you are not always good to him or deserving of his goodness.