This psalm pictures God robing God’s self with the powerful forces of nature – earthquake, smoke and fire of volcanic eruption, cloud and thunder of storm – to ride out as a warrior to fight our battles for us. God rescues us from the pit of death, cutting with God’s mighty sword the cords that entrap us.
I cannot but help think of the many people I care for as chaplain and have as a pastor who face situations beyond their control. The forces of disease, of loss, of grief, are greater than our human ability to stand against, control, or understand on our own. The strain of loss, of illness, and at times of just moving one foot in front of another is often too much to bear.
Yet so often people find strength. At times this deliverance comes through healing from the illness, deliverance from the disease, yet so many times it comes in discovering life in the midst of pain & the forces of decay or death. It comes in discovering joy in the midst of shadow. Through getting in touch with the One who is the life in, with, and through all things these once hurting people discover strength, resiliency, and life.
Often I throw up my hands when I face less in life. And I know that when I feel helpless to change a situation, such as when someone I love is struggling with debilitating and chronic illness, I too feel bound up in cords. Psalm 18 reminds me that it is not my power alone that will get me through. I need to stop trying to determine outcomes, and put aside my need to fix or resolve. I need to reach out outside myself. This means to God, through my practice of silence, meditation, Scripture reading, prayer, and hymns. It also means to the community of faith God has placed me. It means too opening up to others. I for one struggle here – having been taught a picture of manhood that is independent, pulling itself up from the boot-straps. I struggle with the idea that saying I am having a hard time will mean being weak or lead others to look at me as weak. Yet this Psalm reminds me God does not intend me to suffer on in silence.
Where have you faced the limits of your power, and needed to reach out and reach up? How did you do that? What barriers stood in the way?
Let us remember to see from where our help comes from.
And I ain’t whistling Dixie here,
Your progressive redneck preacher,