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Give Me Understanding

Do you ever find yourself returning to a passage of scripture but not knowing why? I am stuck on Psalm 119.  I want to look away, I promise. But God keeps turning my gaze back to this Psalm. So here I am, in the longest chapter of the Bible, almost dead center of The Book. I’m sure He can feel my squirming.  Verse after verse about the word of God, the testimony of God, His precepts, judgments and decrees (eight different Hebrew words are used to refer to God’s Word in this Psalm) A few weeks ago I mentioned how precious His testimonies are and the very reference to His testimonies in this Psalm wrecks me! This week I’ve been struck by the phrase, “give me understanding,” which is repeated six times in Psalm 119. Have we not whispered this prayer as we read the day’s headlines? Haven’t we shaken our head and said this as we consider our friendships or perhaps even our marriages? What are these patterns in our life? What’s our purpose? Why do we struggle to walk out the Christian life in this world? Lord, give us understanding.  Let’s dig deeper.

In Psalm 119:34 we read: “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.” It makes sense that we can follow whole heartedly if we only understand. Clarity is curative, right? Lord I so want to understand to be whole toward You. C.S. Lewis said, “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.” Our hope, delight, and trust are in God. Our head knows this but sometimes our heart has to catch up!

“Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.” (Psalm 119:73) Our identity and purpose flow out of this fact: God made us and fashioned us.  Yes, how desperately we need understanding on this point today. WHO we are is designed; we are not an accident. God made us for His heart. At the most basic level, our identity is literally stamped on every cell in our body. But so much greater than that simple fact, God chose every unique aspect of our existence: our eye-print, lip-print, fingerprint all unique. Our laugh, our gait, our thoughts, family background and experiences are unique. Who doesn’t want greater understanding in the why behind their identity?

“I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every false way.” Here in verse 104 the writer shifts from asking for understanding to stating an impact of clarity received. We hate the false, fake ways that lead us away from real life. When we see the truth, beauty, and goodness in God’s ways, we realize the short-comings of all other options.

In verse 125, the writer states: “I am Your servant; Give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies.” I’ve prayed this one. I’m all in, God. My answer is Yes to You. Help me understand what You are saying right now! I don’t want to be the person who reads story after story of Jesus feeding the 5000, the 4000, taking care of people and not understand He wants to take care of me! Give me understanding that I may know Your testimonies! Jesus healed every.single.person who came to HimGive me understanding when I need healing Lord! We want His testimonies to be our story as well.

“The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting; Give me understanding and I shall live.” (verse 144) I’ve questioned this one: are His ways right? It hasn’t always felt right but the older I get the more I see the rightness of God’s ways and the permanence of them. Give me understanding and I shall truly live.

“Let my cry come before You, O Lord; Give me understanding according to Your word.” (verse 169) Give me understanding clearly communicates I have no resources in myself. I’ve exhausted all of my means of problem solving and gathering insight. An understanding remains which can only be revealed. God is hiding things for us not from us! He is waiting on that prayer of Lord, give me understanding!  Dear friends, may you dig into His Word this week and dance in God’s presence! May His understanding and revelation be the highlight of your week. I would love to hear what catches your heart in Psalm 119

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Reader’s Question: Overcoming Difficulty

Here is a question I get from young and old alike: how can we overcome difficulty? Failed marriages and broken relationships. Financial strain and poor health. Disappointment and shame. We will never rub shoulders with someone who hasn’t experienced some kind of pain or struggle in life. Knowing that we each carry burdens and sorrows, the question deserves careful thought.

How can we overcome difficulty? I think of a time in David’s life that roiled in pain and trouble: returning home after several days away, he discovered his city burned and all the women and children carried away. (See 1 Samuel 30:4) “Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.” Have we ever cried until we couldn’t cry anymore? If this wasn’t bad enough, the people then talked of stoning David because of the tragic loss of their homes and families. Everything David knew and cared about was gone-his house burned down and his wives and children kidnapped and then his own people wanted to kill him! How did David overcome this tragedy? “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (v.6)

He strengthened himself in the Lord. David got with God. In the middle of confusion, weeping, and pain, David turned his broken heart toward God. He reminded himself of the goodness of God. He remembered all the times that God provided for him and protected him. He fed his heart with hope in God. David then asked God a very direct question: should I pursue this troop? God answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.” (v.8) David trusted that he heard God right and he went after his enemies and recovered all that had been stolen.

Do we have difficulty in our life? Are there broken relationships and discarded dreams? Are the struggles of daily life sometimes too much to bear? We must strengthen ourselves in the Lord, dear friend! How do we do that? Just like David, we remember the testimony. “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” (Psalm 119:2,24) Do we see it? Blessing rests in keeping His testimonies. The testimonies of God are a delight and our counselor. Remembering all the good things God has said and done throughout our lifetime as well as throughout history will strengthen our heart in the day of trouble.  Our hopefulness anchors in the God stories we share and remember. They will be our delight and they will give us strength to follow what God says.

Do we have a testimony of God’s goodness in our lives? If not, take someone else’s! That’s right, take someone else’s God-story as our own, because if He did it for them, He will do it for us. Let the testimonies in scripture become delightful counselors. Relive those God encounters—remembering who God has been and what He has spoken —and we will be strengthened in the Lord. God alone has the encouragement, strength, and direction we need to overcome our difficulty.

*A personal side note to this: Psalm 119 WRECKED me this week. I cried my way through this psalm as God opened my eyes to His wonderful truths hidden in these verses. This psalm is an alphabetic acrostic divided into 22 stanzas with eight couplets in each stanza. All the couplets in the first stanza begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph; the couplets in the second begin with the second letter, beth; and so on to the end of the poem. This appears to be an expansion of David’s Psalm 19:7-11. Wow, God’s Word never gets old. I hope you get wrecked by His love this week!

For more good stuff, check out my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassionanywhere books are sold. Keep those questions coming and feel free to share my blog with anyone who might need an encouraging word!