I am excited for this post on so few verses, and I hope that my post is just as long as previous ones as we dig deep into the word of God!
“There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.
Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” -Psalm 4: 6-8 (KJV)
I just left a wonderful Christian clothing store where I had been talking to the shopkeeper about my upcoming trip and about life in general. It has not been an easy week, and so we shared our woes- both in ways related, but also very personal. I have had a tough week with some of my students coming to me talking about being bullied to the point of having nightmares and not wanting to come to school or even wishing to harm themselves in their struggle. I work with K-5th grade children, and these weeks break my heart. One kid was doing all the right things that only a 1st grader can do with her bullies, and she was feeling so crushed…I have had this child in class fewer than 20 times, and she decided to come to me over her homeroom teacher. There is little I can do since I am not employed by the school and don’t know who are her bullies. I remember sitting on the floor with her on Monday while watching over the rest of my class, listening to her heart break- not just over her situation, but because deep down she knew those bullies have problems too. And I thought to myself “where is the good? What can I say to this little girl that will help her talk to her teacher openly about this so these bullies can be redirected? What good can come of this- how can I help her?” I encouraged her as best I could in that moment, but I sought wisdom from other teachers shortly after…Then came Friday. I have a bit of a ‘troublemaker’ at my Friday school, it is obvious he comes from a bit more of a broken family then the girl from Monday. He came to class late but still wanted to draw the lesson- needless to say, he ended up being the last kid in class (I teach after school, so kids leave when their parents get them or go to another after school care program- he was in the program so I let him stay to finish), I sat with him while he finished coloring and we chatted. The stories he told me of his day that had made him lash out angrily at himself, which only resulted in being sent to the principals office and the later lectured by his teacher over what caused his anger…his stories made me realize how much children need people in their lives that believe in them. That see their potential beyond what their home circumstances may say about them, or what other children say about them, or what maybe even they think about themselves. I sat there mostly shocked that a 9 year old boy could be so passionate about something it would cause him to bang his head against his desk. Again, I offered what advice I could, as the first words from his mouth after his story were “I don’t want to go to anger management classes”, I recommended some alternatives. But again “what good can come for this child in this place? Where no one is giving him alternatives, but just beating him down- who can see his potential?”
Then I met this lady today- one of those angels of perspective! She told me how happy she was to have a church that her kids enjoy attending, especially when there is so much bad stuff out there- And I got the perspective of a parent. Because raising kids isn’t an easy task to begin with, and most parents now seem to have the attitude of “however they turn out, that’s on them, they are their own person”. But they are so wrong. This mother’s cry is so similar to David’s in this Psalm- He knows what people are saying about him, the lies going around, all the corruption, and in seeking out shelter in the Lord he questions if there is any good in the world. This mother has thankfully found some shelter from the world for her children as she finds it difficult to protect them from the negativity this world offers that makes living as Christ has called us to such a persecuted way of life. She tells me how quickly they have grown in her eyes; all teenagers now, one is married and exploring the world, yet it seems like yesterday she was able to hold them in her arms to keep them safe! She feels the ‘light of thy countenance’ in the church for her children. David was seeking that too! So are those children with bullies!
David calls out for God to look upon him and bless him- a piece he took from Aaron’s promise in Numbers 6:24-26. David didn’t care what others thought of him, he just wanted God’s blessing! This was the advice I straight-forwardly gave my student on Friday- because others may throw you under the bus and say untrue things about your character, but what matters is that you know what makes you you. David is defined by God’s many blessings and promises to him, and that is represented in his character. And I so desire that for all the children I teach too! And that mother desires it for her kids also!
So David continues recalling how God has looked on him before and all the gladness it brought him. Though he was discouraged and distraught over his situation (like my kiddo on Monday), he could remember those times when things were great and praise God anyway. He picked gladness to keep in his heart though. I know often times we don’t think of it like this, but it is a choice to be happy. Lack of food, sleep, and other things may get in the way of us feeling like we have that control, but we totally do. I’ve heard it put this way before- you can wake up and say ‘Good morning, Jesus!’ or ‘Jesus, it’s morning.’ Are you taking that hardship you’re going through as a blessing or a burden? God saw potential in Peter, who was out fishing and had caught nothing- most would consider him a failure in his profession, and do you think he felt burdened not being able catch fish (his livelihood) while Jesus was on his boat? I bet he did. And then what happened? Jesus said to try fishing on the other side of the boat- he took the burden and made it a blessing, and Peter caught so many fish his boat began to sink! That gladness that pours over! David chose to keep that in his heart!
And he knows that the gladness he has is more than what his accusers feel during high times of harvest- more then what money can bring, or good food, or good drink! He knows that what he has is better! Because it is easy to be happy, and joyful, and cheery when everything is going well, but David can be glad even in his distress! He can be happy when things are great, and even happier when things aren’t going great! And, what’s more, he says he won’t lose a bit of sleep from his woes! He says “the enemy can try to tell me all these lies and make me feel unsafe- but my comfort comes from above! I can sleep despite these circumstances!” He has a joy that the world can’t take away! I have definitely been in such a place of being tormented by the enemy that I could not sleep. Instead, when I would lie down, my thoughts went to all sorts of discouraging places. Like my student from Monday who told me she was afraid to sleep because of the nightmares she had from her bullies. It is tough to escape, and sleep even seems like a place to escape to for most, but not when the enemy closes your eyes to hope. And David knows he could be that person, OR he could be glad despite everything.
The last bit of verse 8 could be taken a few ways, but let’s focus on two: God is the only secure shelter AND in our solitude with God we find shelter. The translation of it makes it tough to decipher which David was really talking about, but both are accurate. We should not seek shelter or comfort from worldly places. This means we should be weary of what we go to in our life when things get tough- for some it’s food, maybe it’s people for others, it can even be exercise or a hobby- and when we make those into a type of idol in our life (since we are not going to God, I call them idols) we make the things that God intended for good into something evil the enemy can use. God should be the FIRST and the LAST! When trouble comes, pray to God! And the other way we can take this is that we should seek God when alone. In fact, ‘only’ translates from the word ‘badad’ in Hebrew, which means ‘isolation, withdrawl, separation’. David pulls himself out of everything, away from people, away from worldly comforts, and draws near to God. He dwells there, in the place where he is with God alone. And there is where he finds safety. There he finds his peace and rest and where he gathers himself with all the thoughts the enemy has put in his head, and he sorts it all out with God alone to refocus himself on the One who fills his heart with gladness.
Days will come, if they haven’t already, when something happens and you will have to make the decision- Do I dwell in gladness that comes from the Lord or do I believe what the world is telling me? Do I find the good in this moment or do I continue to let this be a burden?
Be blessed my friends!