Psalm 3 (NLT)
This is, by the way, a Psalm David wrote when he was fleeing from his son, Absalom — which adds a layer of painfulness to this I would think. The enemies he describes are acting on behalf of his son.
O Lord, I have so many enemies;
so many are against me.
So many are saying,
“God will never rescue him!”
But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy mountain.
I lay down and slept,
yet I woke up in safety,
for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
who surround me on every side.
Arise, O Lord!
Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Victory comes from you, O Lord.
May you bless your people.
I’ve done it.
I hear (and read) others do it frequently. It goes something like this:
STEP ONE: Describe the terrible context of your recent reality. David does it in verses 1 and 2 of this Psalm.
STEP TWO: Describe the satisfactory resolution to the challenge or difficulty. David does this in verses 3 and 4.
And while David does not have the use of the now-well-worn phrase so many have come to use, I could almost hear him declare “God is good” and then the echo from the crowds around him “all the time.”
So, to repeat: “Bad stuff” + “Happy resolution to bad stuff” = “God is good” (with an implied, if not stated, “all the time”).
Nothing wrong with this! We should tell the stories of what God does and declare his goodness regularly. No criticism here.
But, it we only tell of the things that go “our way” and declare God good in that context, we are missing out on the greater reality–that God is good when our experience is not so good.
“Bad stuff” + “Difficult/costly/painful resolution or no resolution at all” = “God is good.”
But David, he does it. The model exists for us in Psalm 3.
Look at verses 5 and 6:
It appears that David is still wallowing happy in the resolution to his challenging context — and he is — but it’s not what most of us would consider resolution. His declaration of “I slept great last night!” didn’t come because the bad guys who wanted to destroy him were vanquished and dispersed. He slept because God was present in the mist of the mess. “I am not afraid of the ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side” is absolutely a testimony to God’s goodness, it’s just not the kind we are as prone to declare. Surrounded by thousands of murderous enemies, God is good.
We are even less prone to declare things when we don’t sleep so well, but know God’s goodness in our insomnia.
I can point to people in my life who do declare God good ALL the time. Faced with a diagnosis of cancer: “blessed be the Name of the Lord.” Overwhelmed by the wild destruction of a tsunami or tornado or other natural disaster: “God is good. His mercies never fail!” These are my heroes.
I want to be more like David in his declaration of God’s goodness while the ten thousand are still surrounding me. I want to learn to declare my gratitude for God’s presence in the midst of the mess and not only after the mess is cleaned up. Sometimes the mess just is. Sometimes the pain lingers long. None of those things negate God’s goodness. And, as much as I struggle with understanding it, I am growing to believe that God’s goodness sometimes requires the mess, the pain, and challenge.
My theology is sure on that, but my practice is a bit weak.