Psalm 3 (The Message)
1-2 God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms,
Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery:
“Hah! No help for him from God!”
3-4 But you, God, shield me on all sides;
You ground my feet, you lift my head high;
With all my might I shout up to God,
His answers thunder from the holy mountain.
5-6 I stretch myself out. I sleep.
Then I’m up again—rested, tall and steady,
Fearless before the enemy mobs
Coming at me from all sides.
7 Up, God! My God, help me!
Slap their faces,
First this cheek, then the other,
Your fist hard in their teeth!
8 Real help comes from God.
Your blessing clothes your people!
My Bible tells me this is a Psalm David wrote when he narrowly escaped death by his own son, Absalom. I am struck by the peace David expresses in the midst of the situation, peace enough to sleep. He trusted in God’s protection enough to rest, which then gave him strength to face the enemy “from all sides.”
The second thing I’m struck by is his willingness to let God be his avenger. He cries out for God to slap their faces, for God’s fist to hit their teeth. He doesn’t ask for an opportunity to kick some ass, but stands behind the power of God’s sovereignty.
And then he declares, “real help comes from God.”
My enemy comes from within – my selfishness, my need to be in control, my unrighteous anger. The battle against this enemy within is not for me to fight, and it is not for me to win. My battle cry should be to God, for him to put his fist through the teeth of my anger, to slap down my need for control.
Real help comes from God. When I try to help myself, I feel no peace and I get no rest. I only have stress and anxiety and tension.
Just this morning I was on a walk with my kids, and I caught myself obsessing over being in control. They were running, and falling, and getting wet and dirty, and I picked at them about staying on the path, about staying on their feet, about not touching this or that.
Until it occurred to me, “It’s drizzling out. It’s muddy. It’s wet. If I wanted them to stay clean and dry I should have stayed home.”
I’d read this passage less than an hour before our walk, and I sighed at how quickly I forget. And then I changed course. I prayed for God to ‘kick in the teeth’ of my need to be in control, I took several deep breaths, and I didn’t freak out when Thomas rolled around in wet sand.
I am so different than I was a year ago, two years ago. In times past I would ‘white knuckle it’ through stressful situations that triggered my unhealthy behavior – trying to will myself into doing the right thing, trying to fight my own battles.
I still do, at times, but much less often. And when I do give in to my anger, I’m much quicker to repent, and less likely to feel condemned. Psalm 3 comes to my attention like that really great song that shuffles onto the iPod just as you’re getting weary, the song that inspires you and gives you the motivation to pick up the pace again.
After a week of challenges and set backs, just when I started wondering if I’d changed at all, Psalm 3 kicked me into gear again.