The last post I wrote came from a deeply disturbed heart. As I look around our world, I am discouraged. Many people are discouraged. I fear for the future of my country. I am distrustful that an election will bring much resolve. I told Sharon I think that post was the gloomiest thing I have ever written. I am sorry. That’s not usually the way I sort through things.

Not much has changed out there this morning, but I feel rescued somehow. Earlier this morning I read Psalm 144. It hit me like a bolt of lightning. I sense the Psalmist is working through some very discouraging times as well. That is often the case in the Psalms. That’s why they are so helpful. They are honest, realistic. And often they turn on a dime toward renewal and hope.

In this Psalm the poet begins with this sort of reflection:  

LORD, what are human beings that you should care for them?

What are frail mortals that you should take thought for them?

They are no more than a puff of wind,

their days like a fleeting shadow.

Don’t we often feel this way, maybe now more than ever? Where is God in all this turbulence of our world? Does he care for us anymore? Does he care whether America survives or not? Maybe we are just a “puff of wind.” Perhaps he will just move his attention somewhere else, perhaps where he is honored more than here.  

But then, suddenly, the poet calls on his God:  

Lord, part the heavens and come down;

touch the mountains so that they pour forth smoke.

Discharge your lightning-flashes far and wide,

and send your arrows humming.

Reach out your hands from on high;

rescue me and snatch me from mighty waters,

from the power of aliens

whose every word is worthless,

whose every oath is false.

In The Message, Eugene Peterson translates those last lines in ways I can relate: “Pull me from the ocean of hate.” Release me “out of the grip of those,” Peterson continues, “who lie through their teeth, / who shake your hand / then knife you in the back.”

But it’s the smoke and the lightning-flashes and the arrows humming all over the place that are so startling. This is a big God who might stoop down with his enormous power to rescue us. Are we worth that kind of attention? The Psalmist is counting on it.

Even in these dire circumstances, he pledges, “I shall sing a new song to you, my God.” And if I turn my attention back to my God, an extravagant promise may be ours:

Our sons in their youth will be like thriving plants,

our daughters like sculptured corner pillars of a palace.

Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision;

our sheep will bear lambs in thousands upon thousands;

the cattle in our fields will be fat and sleek.

There will be no miscarriage or untimely birth,

no cries of distress in our public places.

Happy the people who are so blessed!

Happy the people whose God is the LORD!

Distressed, discouraged, anxious? “Sing a new song” to our God. That can be a courageous act in times like these. But as well plant this extravagant promise in your heart. If we can become again a people, both individuals and a nation, “whose God is the Lord,” we just might find ourselves entering such a life of extraordinary wonder. We might be “happy” again. We might become a “people who are so blessed!”

Something happened inside me this morning. Nothing seemed to change out there, but I’ve regrouped for the moment. The Psalms gave me a new framework, or a renewed framework, through which to watch and pray for our troubled times. That’s a new starting point, isn’t it?