How can you find peace when your dreams seem to be shattered? How can you feel calm even in the most frightening situations? How can you end your recurring feelings of shame? The psalms give a clear picture of how God responds to those who experience disappointment, fear, and guilt. When we understand God’s great love for us in all these circumstances, we can experience the renewal he provides.
This psalm is addressed to the “redeemed of the Lord,” referring to God’s redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Any mention of the wanderings in the desert reminded the Israelites of their forty years in the wilderness – a time when they longed to return to slavery in Egypt because at least that was predictable. Later the Israelites were enslaved by the Babylonians just as they had been by the Egyptians, yet God rescued them when they cried out to him.
Sometimes life leads us to dark places – places where all we feel is utter disappointment. Yet God can both renew us and even grow new dreams and opportunities as we live through those trying times.
In this Psalm we find four groups of people.
1) The first are the seekers (4-5): they are the restless hearts wandering through life without any purpose or destination. They are disappointed with life.
2) The second are the slaves (10-12): these are people who brought on their troubles themselves because they had rebelled against God’s words. In sinning, they became slaves to their sin, addicted to it. They find they can no longer control themselves or stop their wicked heart. They are disappointed with their powerlessness over sin.
3) The third are the sick (17-18): They also brought their trouble on themselves, but these people are dealing with the consequences that their sin brought about. They have become sickly and weak because of their sin. They are disappointed in their vitality
4) The fourth are the sailors (23-27): These are the ambitious people, who set out to conquer the world. They are the conquerors, the business people, the world-changers. Yet at some point they ran into a wall that knocked them down and they found that no matter how hard they tried or how creative their solutions were, they were defeated by it. They are disappointed in their dreams.
Yet in each circumstance, their disappointment drove them to the same place. After each description of these groups of people, the psalmist proclaims, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” It is through these times of disappointment that the Lord provides an opportunity for us to draw near once again to him and renew our sense of his redemption. For it is not the disappointment we face that makes us, but who we face it with. We understand that when we face disappointment and turn to the Lord, the Lord can use that disappointment to strengthen us. James puts it this way: “consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be pure and complete, lacking nothing.”
Psalm 107:2 declares: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” This is the power of a personal testimony. This is coming together as a body and sharing how the Lord brought you through personal tragedy or disappointments. Sharing it with one another does two things. First, it is a confession of the Lord’s grace to yourself. As you repeat your testimony you shore up your faith. Second, it is an advertisement of the Lord’s grace to others. Others who may be struggling through similar disappointments can see how the Lord redeemed you and take heart. This is how renewal becomes contagious.
Our brain and nervous system respond to fear dramatically. When we walk into a potentially dangerous situation, our nervous system immediately kicks in with a fear response. Our bodies release adrenaline, which intensifies our awareness and gives us extra energy. This reaction in the brain prepares us to run or defend ourselves, which we call the “fight-or-flight” response.
In this psalm, David wants to fly. He wishes he were a dove so that he could escape his circumstances. A trusted friend has turned on him and he just wants to get away. Maybe you’ve been there. You just want to crawl up into a ball and hide under your covers. You’ve thought about running away from your problems.
In verse 16-17 David takes courage and instead of running away and instead of fighting back, he prays in faith, “But I call on God and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I utter my complaint and moan and he hears my voice.” In overcoming his fears, David needed continual prayer. It wasn’t enough to pray once and say, well God heard me, that’s done. No. He prayed until fear turned to faith. In the morning when he woke up and couldn’t get out of bed, he prayed until fear turned to faith. In the evening when he lay awake and couldn’t sleep, he prayed until fear turned to faith. At noon, when he couldn’t eat his lunch because of the sense of dread in his gut, he prayed until fear turned to faith. That’s one thing to be said about fear: it makes us faithful in prayer. Yet, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Pray until you receive this mind of Christ and you will find yourself renewed.
Renewal brings forgiveness out of sin and guilt: Psalm 32
Have you ever tried to understand why forgiveness feels so good? True forgiveness is more than a feeling. It is relief from the spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical torment caused by remorse and guilt. This psalm was written shortly after David confessed his sins of adultery and murder. He speaks of how, when he tried to hide his sin, his strength and health diminished and he lost the joy in life. We know the story of how, when the prophet Nathan pointed out David’s sin to him, David immediately repented. I believe the Holy Spirit was already preparing his heart by pointing out his guilt to him that when Nathan spoke it was like a pin pricking a balloon. Sorrow and repentance came flowing out. Not simply emotional tears, but a relief of the soul that has been tormented by sin. This is repentance that brings renewal. Repentance is a little used word today in the Western church. We prefer to talk about rededication, or making a decision to follow Jesus, or coming to Christ. And because we have repentance-free conversions we have no experience of the exhilaration that comes from truly having our sins forgiven. Here is the gospel. All us are sinners. We have chosen to disobey God and we are therefore guilty of breaking his divine holy law. Our guilt condemns us and destroys us. We will all destined to die in our sins. Our guilt also kills us day by day. We suffer depression, failed relationships, sickness, weakness, hurt. We turn to alcohol, sex and pornography, video games and other diversions; we immerse ourselves in our careers, in our kids lives, in our recreation, anything to cover up and push away the understanding that we have rejected God and have been accordingly rejected by the only One whose approval really matters. This kills us. The only way of salvation is through Jesus Christ, who loved us to die our death. He suffered our pain, our rejection, our death so that we could be forgiven and acceptable to God. But we must repent. Look at your life. Look at what sin has done to destroy you. And turn away from it. Take it to Jesus and tell him – Jesus, I loved this more than you and it destroyed me. I hate it now and I want you. Forgive me, Jesus. Forgive me, Jesus. And by faith, you receive full forgiveness because of what Christ did on the cross, and you get up from your knees in the power of the resurrection that raise him from the dead, to new life. It’s exhilarating isn’t it? Christian, repentance is for you as much as it is for the unbelievers. We continually walk in repentance, hating sin for what it does to us, and bringing it to Jesus, daily confessing that we love him more than this junk in our lives. That is renewal.
We are going to pray now. Silently. I offer you this time, to bring your disappointments to God. Where is God working in this situation? Bring your fears to him; turn your fears into faith. Bring your sins to him. Tell him you love him more than the sin your repenting from. In a few minutes I will pray and have the worship team come up.