I’ve been a Christian since high school. One of the people who helped lead me to Christ turned against God a few years later and told me to flush my Bible down the toilet. By then I was an impressionable college freshman. So maybe you’re thinking this blog is about one of my early experiences as a “baby Christian.” It’s not.
Two weeks ago, I almost hurled my Bible across the room.
In September I lost a contract that would have supplied me with steady work through the end of the year. In October I was awarded an almost-as-big contract, only to have it rescinded. On its heels, five days later, came the apparent death of two dreams: a work dream I’d toiled over for more than two years, and a creative writing dream I’d toiled over for five years.
A few days after those losses, the totally unexpected death of an author-friend sent me reeling. She was a wonderful Christian and encourager. She had published two book series. Her latest book was set to launch in January.
The WHY question reared its ugly head. Why all this heartache? What’s the purpose? Why am I even here? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Am I making any difference at all by anything I do? I’ve prayed those prayers for years. Why won’t You answer me, God?
Silence from heaven. A pregnant pause. Then … the slightest nudge to read Psalm 71.
I parked myself on that psalm for the next two hours. We don’t know who wrote Psalm 71, but the author clearly was mature in age and had seen God work through every stage of his life—birth (v. 6), youth (vv. 5, 17), and old age (vv. 9, 18). I mapped the psalm and found:
- 8 verses of praise (some of which I’d call adoration)
- 6 verses of petition
- 5 verses of affirmation (of who God is)
- 2 verses of trust
- 3 other verses (mentioning his enemies)
The psalm repeats a pattern of praise mixed with petition, followed by a statement of trust. Although you could read Psalm 71 as a prayer, it’s primarily a declaration of the psalmist’s trust and hope in God, based on the writer’s past experiences. He still has questions, and he doesn’t hesitate to put them before God. But the psalmist also says he trusts God even in the face of opposition because God has met his needs in the past and He’ll do it again in the future.
The psalmist says God is with us for the long haul. He_is_faithful.
When I’m in crisis, I don’t want to hear something flippant like “hardships last for a season, but God lasts forever.” Yet the truth in that statement is that trust is a choice—a choice we make repeatedly for God. Trust isn’t a one-and-done. Trust gets tested at each seemingly insurmountable hurdle. Trusting God also doesn’t mean plastering on a fake smile and the appearance of faith. Sometimes trusting God is crying out to Him in your pain.
So there I sat, weighing Psalm 71 against the equivalent of four months’ loss of income, a “soft pass” from the publisher that I thought was “the one” for my series, and the unexpected death of an author-friend. Other stuff added to the pile, but you get the picture.
At the pinnacle of my anger, sorrow, and grief, I’d had enough of God. But I needed all of God much more.
Me on repeat; God on repeat
My gut tells me my work and personal dreams may not be truly dead, but following them will require retooling. So what is good stewardship of my time, talent, and treasure, God? What the heck is my purpose? I don’t want to waste my time doing what I think is “good” if You have something better in mind for me. God, answer me!
Still Psalm 71.
It didn’t solve any of my problems, but it did shift my focus back to Him. After all, keeping the main thing the main thing is where we need to be before we can move forward with anything.
God’s economy isn’t my economy. His timing is His own. He measures results by His yardstick, not mine. Focusing on Him has to be enough—until He decides I’m ready for more answers or I get to heaven and can see the panorama of His plans.
God never asks us to figure out life on our own. He just asks us to trust Him, to recognize His leadership and sovereignty in our lives. When we do, He promises to make our path straight (Proverbs 3:6).
Lord, Psalm 71 is a sturdy statement of trust and hope in You. May we all live each day walking that out in whatever way You see fit. In Christ’s holy name, amen.
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BONUS: Verses about trusting God
(Click to read; verses open in a new window.)