Today’s verse from the Psalms.
Lord God, during these months of world-wide pandemic and hardship, I thank you for preserving my life and the lives of those dear to me. You have been my provider. You are worthy of praise. Amen.
Reading: Psalm 44
All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant.
Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
you covered us over with deep darkness.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?
Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
Awake, LORD! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?
We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love (NIV).*
As previously noted, Psalm 44 begins in a very positive fashion as the psalmist recalls the goodness of the LORD and the great victories Israel has won because of the LORD’s help. But that is not the present reality. The present reality is filled with defeat, death and destruction. The psalmist moves from rejoicing over past victories to lamenting over present-day tribulations. Hear his words of anguish: Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
What do you do in the midst of defeat? Do you put on a brave face and pretend all is going well? There may be occasions when putting on a brave face is warranted, even necessary—but inside, when we are alone with our thoughts we question why God would allow such things. Why would God allow a child to die? Why would He allow a global pandemic or a natural disaster like an earthquake to claim countless innocent lives? Normally, these life-shattering matters don’t come with pat answers in tow. We are left in a state of grief and bewilderment.
Often believers see such events as retribution for sins committed against a holy God. But note the psalmist’s complaint: All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant. Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path.
The brutal truth is bad things happen to good people. Sometimes Christians are martyred on a beach in Libya. Sometimes a cruel disease hems us in on every side and there is no escape, aside from death and heaven’s door. Sometimes all we can do is pour out our complaint before a God of unfailing love.
Response: LORD God, when life is hard, help me to remember to bring my complaints and travails to you. You are bigger than any agony or grief I may face. I call out to you, my Savior and my God. Amen.
Your Turn: In your opinion has God been unfair to you? How do you respond?
Because of open heart surgery, publication of 365 Days through the Psalms by award-winning author David Kitz has been delayed until later this year or 2021. In due course, 365 Days through the Psalms will be published by Elk Lake Publishing. In the interim, please pray for my return to good health.
Sometimes I feel invincible. In the current Covid pandemic environment, feeling invincible can lead to risky social interactions that endanger our own health and the health of others. Young people in particular are falling ill and becoming vectors of disease because their sense of invincibility leads them to disregard sound advice from health professionals.
An air of youthful invincibility isn’t always a bad thing. The teenaged David had the raw courage to take on Goliath when more mature men–men with common sense–backed away.
But are we invincible? Our physical bodies certainly aren’t invincible. We are all subject to the vagaries of injury, disease and aging. Though I am 68, until recently, I seemed quite immune to these realities. After all I was feeling fine, energetic and physically active, walking on average over 10,000 steps a day.
Imagine my surprise then when my cardiologist informed me that I needed open heart triple valve repair surgery. In that moment my invincibility took a hit. So, I am mortal after all!
Of course, we all know we are going to die. But we like to put off thoughts of that eventuality as long as possible.
Now here I sit writing this, 24 hours away from the surgeon’s blade. How invincible do I feel? Well, in my spirit I still feel invincible, though I know this body will suffer, and at some point die and decay. My confidence does not lie in my flesh, my abilities or the medical professionals. My confidence is in God.
He who raised Christ from the dead will also raise me to a new life.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, NIV)
“Do you believe this?” That’s a question we all need to answer. I sincerely hope you can answer, “Yes!”
If through faith you answer in the affirmative, welcome aboard. You too are invincible!
Reading: Psalm 30
When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
LORD, when you favored me,
you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.
To you, LORD, I called;
to the LORD I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me;
LORD, be my help.”
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever (NIV).*
Every psalm in the Book of Psalms reveals to us an aspect or characteristic of God. Here in Psalm 30, we see the LORD God of mercy, redemption and sudden turn-a-rounds.
We all go through times of triumph as well as times of deep discouragement. My emotional life often swings between these two extremes. Some days my glass is half full; on other days it is half empty. My faith level soars and plummets, often quite abruptly depending on circumstances. David also experienced these swings between optimism and pessimism. They are a trademark of his psalms. Perhaps that’s why I love them. They reflect my own life experience.
In the opening lines of today’s reading, David swings between a position of utter confidence and security to a position of shaken dismay. When trouble or disaster strikes we may well ask, “Where is God in all this?” Like David we may call out, “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.”
God is always on His throne. He is not caught by surprise when you lose your job, a relationship breaks down, a pandemic hits, or you suffer a great loss. He remains secure, but more than that He is a God of great mercy and sudden turn-a-rounds. He is the LORD God of resurrection. He turned the disciples mourning into dancing when He raised Jesus from the dead. Always, always, always remember He can do the same for you. In the course of this psalm He turned David around. Jesus is the resurrection artist. And furthermore remember this: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Response: You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever. Amen.
Your Turn: Has God turned around a seemingly impossible situation for you? Take a moment to remind yourself of those God sent turn-a-rounds.
These are stressful times. Whether you have been largely confined to home during this pandemic, or have been busy at your workplace, we are all facing additional causes for fear, worry, and anxiety.
Here are some practical strategies to help you navigate these difficult times.
A positive mood is not only a kind of physiological filter that helps us to see the good parts of things, but also a physical adjustment of our brain and body to be healthy. A thankful heart is the bedrock of a positive attitude.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Social distancing is not social isolation. Stay connected with people. Call them, Zoom them, say hi to your neighbour, wave to people passing by with their cars. Keep yourself busy on social media too, of course, with specific time limits.
“Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family…” (Proverbs 27:10a).
Hey, you are smart and fun. Come up with original ideas to entertain yourself. Try some new things. You will be surprised to figure out how interesting it can it be to stay at home. After all, your God is creative.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).
Keep yourself busy with anything. Staying home is like cycling. If you slow down or stop balancing, your bicycling will become more difficult. So it is with life. People who are active with things they enjoy, usually experience fewer mental health problems.
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (Proverbs 6:6).
Our world is changing in a better way. Now, people have time to care more about each other. We have to be adaptive to embrace the change. Change is useful not only for organizations but also for individuals who stay at home.
“My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused” (Hosea 11:8b).
Staying home should not make us lazy and disorganized. We have a life to manage. Have a daily schedule. Don’t waste your time in front of screens. Show your life that you are the boss.
“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28).
Staying at home and practicing voluntary quarantine does not mean that you need to stop helping others. Nothing can stop you from doing good deeds. Start with your friends, relatives and neighbours. Find ways to make them happy. Making others happy will make you happy too. Happiness is the most reliable medicine against mental problems.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
Don’t pretend to be someone else. Be yourself. Each person will face different experiences, and a solution that works for someone else may not work for you. As human beings, we are amazing. You are terrific when you are yourself and not somebody else.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Omer Livvarcin is the co-author of the book “Risk Management for Non-Profits,” published by Business Experts Press. Omer is also the founder of Charify.ca and Vectors Group.
*Original material by Omer Livvarcin, modified by permission for a Christian audience by David Kitz
Reading: Psalm 13
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me (NIV).*
Have you hit a low point in your life? Are you facing a personal downturn when nothing seems to go right? Problems may arise whether it’s in your career, your finances, your family, or your relations with others. Often difficulty in one area leads to difficulty in other aspects of life. It may seem that circumstances are conspiring to bring you down. Are you caught in a downward spiral?
David begins this psalm in such a state. His life and career appear to be in a death spiral. He pleads with God, “Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”
We can learn a lot from David’s response to hard times. First he brought his problems before God. He poured out his frustration, and in desperation he called out to the LORD for help. He didn’t pretend everything was fine, when clearly they were not. Call out to God in times of trouble.
Secondly, David asked for the light of God to shine into his situation. “Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death…” When we are going through a dark time often we can’t see our way out. Many times the solution is right in front of our eyes, but we can’t see it. We need God to illumine our path. There is a way forward. We need Him to show us. Open your eyes to God’s solution.
Finally, David trusted in the unfailing love of God. He rejoiced in God’s salvation. God is in the rescue business. The solution had yet to arrive, but in advance David sang his praise to God. David reflected on the goodness of God. The LORD had been good and faithful in the past. David knew that God would show him His goodness once again. Trust and praise God in advance.
Response: LORD God, thank you that I can call out to you in times of trouble. Show me the way forward. Open my eyes to the help you are providing and will provide. I trust and thank and praise you in advance. Amen.
Your Turn: Has God rescued you in difficult times in the past? Trust Him to do the same now and in the future.