I cannot believe we are nearly done with our sermon series in Psalms of Ascent. It has gone by too fast. However, it has been such a rich journey. These psalms have spoken to me in very deep and personal ways and I trust they have for you as well. I would like to share some thoughts I’ve had along the way. Let me begin with an analogy.
Next week I will compete in my first Half Ironman Triathlon along with another friend and Kossuth church member. I’ve been training for several months and have learned a lot along the way. In fact, it is a whole new kind of competition for me. I’ve done several shorter distances where the name of the game is to go hard and fast until you reach the finish line. However, a race this distance will take somewhere around six hours. There is no hard and fast about it. You have to race smart. You have to keep up on fluids and nutrition all along the way. Otherwise, you won’t finish.
The term is called bonking, when the body gives out and you have no more to give. I’ve had it happen twice, once on a fifty-mile bike ride and another time, unfortunately in a triathlon race. It happens when your body is putting out more than it is taking in. It finally says, “Enough,” and leaves you to pick up the scraps for however long of a distance you have left. It is a miserable condition.
This relates to our worship on the journey throughout our lives. Each psalm we’ve studied along the waypoints me to the long game, the ever-steady effort to finish strong. It is a reminder that we need more coming into our souls than is going out. Yes, it requires a nutrition plan. But I’m not talking about electrolytes, sodium pills, sugared gels, and protein bars. I’m talking about God himself and the nourishment of his Word by his Spirit.
In each psalm, from number 120 through 134, we meet God in a unique way. These psalms point us to the multi-surfaced journey in life, from valleys to plains, through mountains and deserts. There is no predictor to know what is coming our way. But these psalms help us understand that there is, in fact, a time for everything. We have read about God’s protection for his people while also recognizing current relational distress. We have read about God’s history of rescue after rescue while also reading about a pleading for a present help in trouble. Life is a roller coaster and these psalms help the people of God express the variety of emotions, thoughts, and words that are required on the uphills and the downhills.
I sense a tension in my own heart each week. As I read about the enormity of God in each psalm there is a part of me that says, “God, you could make everything perfect for me.” And isn’t that what I want? I wrestle every day against a sense of entitlement to a comfortable and carefree life. Yet, in each psalm I see the people of God walking by faith through tremor after tremor, ground shaking underneath their feet. It reminds me of a snowball fight. Just as you dodge one snowball that almost hit you in the chest, you turn back only to get sloshed in the face. No, we are not entitled to the comfortable life. These psalms do not offer us a roadmap to avoid snowballs in the face. They help us finish the long race, to put one foot in front of the other and to keep from bonking.
I find it most comforting that, while life isn’t full of comforts, we do find eternal comfort in Yahweh our Keeper, our Helper, our Protector. He may not prevent the hardship but he does keep us safe in him. He does it by nourishing our souls with himself, by his Spirit, through his Word, in the midst of his sanctified community.