Memo 1099: Termites
Let's continue our look into the psalms to see what they can teach us about David that will help us live the abundant life Jesus promised. This week, we move on to Psalm 58 and look at a word that we seldom hear much about, but it's something David deployed all the time:
Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge people with equity? No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth. Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies. Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skillful the enchanter may be. Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions! Let them vanish like water that flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short. May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along, like a stillborn child that never sees the sun" (Psalm 58:1-8).
In this study, we want to look at the practice of lamenting as a spiritual exercise steeped in faith.
Sadness and grief are parts of our human experience. When we're faced with deep sadness, and everyone is at one time or another, we respond in different ways. Some allow their sadness to morph into depression, others to anger. Some deny there's anything wrong and soldier on, while others blame God or other people. Some attribute their grief to bad luck and wallow in self pity. If you're going to live an abundant life, you must learn how to handle your setbacks and disappointments. You have to learn how to deal with the world and life as they are and not as you want them to be.
When David was sad, bewildered, angry, or frustrated, he went to the Lord. That may sound super spiritual and it probably was, but what he said was brutally honest, shocking even to the informed, spiritual reader. In Psalm 58, David writes how he feels God should deal with the wicked in no uncertain terms. He asks God to "tear out their fangs," "let them vanish like water," and "may they be like a slug that melts away." Pretty strong stuff.
David was in the throes of unspeakable sorrow but he spoke it. He laid it out before the Lord, holding nothing back. In essence, he was entrusting his anger, sorrow, and confusion to the Lord. He didn't act out what he was saying. He didn't deny the reality of what was in his heart. Instead, he took it to the Lord in graphic terms and was honest with God. This process that includes raw emotion, intense words, and bitter cries are all components of what we call lamenting, and David lamented on more than one occasion.
HONEST TO GOD
In my early days of ministry, our finances were pretty lean. Then one day we discovered that termites were doing a lot of damage to our home and our insurance policy didn't cover the damage as we thought it would. Thus, we were stuck with a large bill we couldn't pay. At first, I shrugged it off and made faith confessions that God would provide. But the longer we went without the provision, the angrier I became. Then one day, I was preparing for a sermon but couldn't focus. The Lord and I "had it out" over the termites. I won't go into all the details, but at one point after two hours of wrestling with God, I picked up a book, threw it against the wall, and said, "God, You're not helping me and it's not fair!" I was lamenting although at the time, I didn't know what that was from a biblical point of view.
It was then I felt the Lord speak to me: "You think those termites are bigger than I am!" I stopped what I was doing and broke out in deep laughter, for in one simple phrase, God had addressed the source of my anger. I had been honest with God and He in turn had gotten honest with me. I'm convinced that if I hadn't done what I did, He wouldn't have revealed what He did.
If you study the laments in the psalms, they all ended the same way my termite story did: The psalmist poured out his complaint but at some point, God broke through and the writer's tone turned from anger and despair to worship and hope. Are you being honest with God? Are you afraid of the messiness of pouring out your heart to Him and waiting for His response? This week's PowerPoint for Living can be summarized as follows:
When you're honest with God, then, and only then, will He be honest with you, and you need His perspective if you want to have joy and peace in the abundant life.
After the Lord spoke to me, He provided a workman who did our repairs for free! I still chuckle when I see a small termite and think of how I had fashioned my God to be even smaller, but my honesty before Him allowed me to see the folly of my ways. God's waiting to adjust your attitude and perspective but will only do so when you admit to where you are, not where you want to be or think you should be. Have a blessed week.