Up and Over the Rugged Terrain

14 10 2016

pathHello Blog. It has been a while. I am writing because my son Josh said, “Hey, remember that blog you used to write? You should do that again.” I don’t even know why he said I should, it’s not like he reads it. So that’s interesting.  The nudge nudged, and so I am stepping in the ring without further explanation.

Psalm 37 has grabbed my shoulders with insistence. It has interrupted me and will not go away. It has moved in and it is instructing me. I bring this to you, for your consideration. I don’t know how to set this up other than to say, if you are needing clarity, if you are needing the stairs to be swept so you can see where you are walking, Psalm 37 is that broom. If you are longing to move forward with confidence to find the next stepping stone and the next in the fog, or the next rung on the ladder and the next one after that, Psalm 37 will show you the way.

As I am writing this, a deer is walking towards me, down a steep embankment without a moments hesitation; without any hint of caution. It is the perfect illustration of what I am talking about. God can give us that kind of agility, like that of a deer; He can enable us to negotiate the rugged terrain” (Psalm 18:33 NET). Any rugged terrain.

Psalm 37 has some advice about what you should not do. It isn’t that we don’t need to know the “do nots” but if you already have a “cannonball wound” in your life (as the comedian Brian Regan refers to), or think one is about to hit you, you probably know how it got there or how it happened to you. You probably know, as Regan says,  to not “stand directly in front of a cannon” again, but what do you do now that you have that gaping wound?  How do you move forward? Psalm 37 has a list of  13 things “to do.” *(If you want to watch the Brian Regan piece, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-vKVVcw274). 

How can a person even keep track of 13 things?  That seems like a lot. That sounds like a heavy load on top of your burden. Trust me when I say, these 13 things are like adrenaline for the weary. They are the good words from a friend. They are filled with encouragement if you will grab on to them they will get you to the other side, upright. They are the lifeline out of the darkness and into the light. That’s a big claim; but these are not my words…they are the words of our good God who says that inexplicable good can come out of suffering, including joy and peace and hope and a future. So I am not going to package them, I am just going to present them as they stood up in front of me:

  1. Psalm 37 says twice to do this: trust in the Lord.  It doesn’t even matter if you understand this all right now. It doesn’t even matter if you are frustrated or confused about His ways. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what will come of all of what you are walking through. Repeat, and repeat again, “I will trust You, God.”  When you are crying. When you are tired. When you are afraid. When you are maligned or bullied. When you are embarrassed. When you are riddled with anxiety. Choose to turn your focus to trust. It might not feel authentic at first, but you are stating over and over again that you will not allow yourself to be dragged into the pit of despair. If everything seems to be in the hands of other people and their choices, if you feel helpless and lack leverage in any area of your life, you still have this choice to make of your own free will: trust. Say it out loud, say it in the presence of your “enemies,” say it and say it and say it. And somewhere along the way you will feel hints of trust, see where trust has brought you, and find more and more the results of it.
  2. Psalm 37 says to do this: do good. When you are in a place of weariness, don’t stop doing good. The enemy wins when those who follow Christ, withdraw. Are we running on our own limited energy anyway? Is the breath of God not in us? Does His Spirit become as tired as ours? When we stop doing good, we have resigned from The Mission, the Kingdom Building Mission He has called us to. We are snuffing out our own light. You don’t know what you are capable of. If you say “I can’t” do good, then you have defeated yourself. No matter how shaky that good feels right now, prove your faith in God’s abundant strength, the strength He will give you and continue to do good.
  3. Psalm 37 says to do this: dwell in the land. You may be walking through a difficult time but don’t shut down. The principal of the Sabbath is to find joy in the middle of pain at least once a week. The principal is to step out and “acknowledge” God, the one who makes your paths straight. Even when Israel was in exile, the Lord said to build houses, get married, sow seed. Live. Clean your house. Open your drapes. Make a good meal. Read a good book. Laugh. Have people in. Take a walk. Nap. Collect flowers. Build something you had plans to build. Wash and wax your car. Smile. Don’t let your adversary steal your life, God never gave it to him, but our Lord will continue to give you a surprising abundance of life in the middle of hard times.
  4. Psalm 37 says to do this: enjoy safe pasture. Don’t walk like there is something about to fall on your head. Don’t become skittish and worried, locking and double locking your life. The Lord is your Shepherd, His rod and staff are still able to guide you and comfort you. You don’t even know the number of times He has protected you so far, provided for you, and carried you. Here’s a news flash: you can’t protect yourself enough. Do you not know that He sets a table for you in the very presence of your enemies, and there in that place you will fear no evil? Don’t lock yourself away…enjoy safe pasture.
  5. Psalm 37 says to do this: delight yourself in the Lord. Worship. When you don’t feel like it, worship. When you are on the floor with sadness, worship. When you are shocked and stunned and speechless, worship. Choose it. Put the music on and lift up your hands — defy the liar, the enemy, the thief and lock eyes with Jesus and say and sing what is TRUE. Say and sing what is TRUE.
  6. Psalm 37 says to do this: commit your way to the Lord. That is, renew your oath. You are going to question and you are going to moan and you are going to be angry and you are going to ask “why” and you are going to feel guilty that you aren’t more of a saint. At the end of the day, commit your way to the Lord again. Remind yourself that you are His, and He is yours. Don’t give God the silent treatment. He knows everything about you, but will you say again, “As for me” I choose the Lord?  Do it, it is healthy for you to state your place again and again and again. Don’t give up. Later in the Psalm it says to “keep His ways” — that is what you are committed to. That will be your sure footing.
  7. Psalm 37 says to do this: be still. When you are in a storm, a tornado, and things are flying you are going to say things and do things out of pure fight and flight reaction. You are going to get caught up in the drama and before you know it you aren’t even thinking straight anymore. Stop. Stop. Stop. I don’t care if it is inconvenient or if it feels like you have the time. You have the time. Stop. Be still before God. Just be still and listen. Tune your ear to His Spirit in the middle of the disaster so that He can speak sensibly to you, so that you do not sin, so that your soul is being tended by the Master.
  8. Psalm 37 says to do this: wait patiently. Who says what you MUST DO and how you MUST DO IT? We get caught up in this urgency when we are in a place of pressure or suffering. Even when decisions are pending, knocking at your door. Wait on the Lord. He knows whether you need an answer RIGHT NOW or not, and He will supply you with what you need when you wait on Him. Consult Him. Go to Him. Ask Him. Seek Him. Don’t get all panicky.
    Be in God’s Word, every single day. This isn’t a legalistic or formulaic thing, this is entering the office of our Lord and hearing from Him directly. Do not take to heart the words of every single person around you who has something to say…go to Jesus, open His Word and listen. It is for you, He has something for you every day. Don’t wimp out and say “I just don’t get the Bible.” If you feel urgency about anything, feel urgent about this and find help — get online and study, invite a mentor into your life, and for heaven’s sake, be in fellowship in a local church and get connected to community. Why in the world would you do this alone? If you are disappointed in the church, get over it. People try and fail and stumble at everything, including the church. Jesus died for the church (its in the Word) and loves her. Wait on the Lord with other people who are waiting on the Lord.
  9. Psalm 37 says to do this: refrain from anger. Anger is a cover up for a pile of other things. You are going to feel angry, but then put the brakes on right then and there. Get before God and let Him help you examine it. “Refrain” implies being able to stop something. Practice emotional intelligence and let God examine your heart to see what is there. Don’t live in anger and kill your health (mental, emotional, physical) by swimming in it or hurt your relationships further. That doesn’t mean you are naive and unaffected. It just means you are choosing to not view your life through that lens or make decisions in that mental state. Again, be still and wait on God and let Him give you a new frame of mind each and every day and more than once a day as needed.
  10. Psalm 37 says to do this: turn away from wrath. Wrath is the outcome of anger, the action, the outrage. I could have made this a part of point 9 but no…you can seethe with anger which isn’t great, but anger happens and with God’s help you can work it out in a good way.  Wrath (human wrath) is when it flies. Remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord. You will ultimately not win, not have satisfaction, not have peace if you act out of wrath. Don’t add destruction to destruction. Choose to walk wisely, steadfastly, honestly before God. Wrath is explosive but in the flame-out there are only charred remains. God’s ways lead to life (*I should add, our wrath is very different from God’s wrath. God’s wrath is holy and is delivered righteously and justly and without sin. Let Him carry the responsibility of wrath).
  11. Psalm 37 says to do this: do not fret. Fretting leads to evil (37:8) which is our next point. How so? Fretting means you think you are the master, self-sufficient on what appears to be the positive end and on the negative end. Self-sufficient to make life good by yourself and for yourself, or to blame yourself and others when life isn’t good. Fretting is selfish because the focus is all on you and how you feel and how your world is impacted by circumstances. Fretting is trying to be a fortune teller, which God despises, because it means you are deciding the future based on the present…who are you to know anything about the future? Fretting diminishes the God of our universe to boundaries you set and believe in. Shall I go on? We are all prone to fret because we are all sinners. We all lower God and raise ourselves more often than we should. So develop a habit of stopping yourself in your tracks when you fret. Capture your thoughts. Don’t let them take root. It is a practice you will do over and over again.
  12. Psalm 37 says to do this: turn from evil. Tempted to self-medicate? Tempted to resort to revenge? Tempted to lie? Tempted to self-pity? Tempted to dabble in escapism? Tempted to compromise? Tempted to blur the lines? Tempted to just grumble and complain? When we are trying to find our way there are lots of things to divert our attention or make us temporarily feel better. Keep this “do this” in front of you and don’t let the enemy lie to you about what is going to feel good. Eventually it is not going to feel good and you will regret these actions. Be accountable during this time to a few good people who will see you through and to whom you are willing to receive words from.
  13. Psalm 37 says to do this: consider the blameless and observe the upright. This is about finding people you admire and imitating them. When the way is unclear, look for people who are walking upright and do what they are doing. You might not be able to trust yourself right now because you are tired and weary or confused and unsure…so be careful now who you are looking to. Be intentional to find godly people to watch and learn from. You will find them in your church, you will find them in other churches, you will find them around the world, you will find them in the Bible, you will find them in history, you will find them in books, you may even find them in your ancestors. Pay attention, and get in line behind them.

The wisdom of Psalm 37 is a light to our paths. It lifts 13 things we can concentrate on when we can’t see much else and are trying to navigate the staircase of our circumstances. It is what we can DO while we are longing for resolution in our situations or looking for the open door or wanting to know the way…

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to God. I pray that you would be strong in the Lord and not bow down to the temporary things of this life but would fix your eyes on Jesus who will bring you through to the end…safe pasture.

  • Teresa Klassen
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2 responses

14 10 2016
mike klassen

Thank you Teresa.. these are great words to reflect on! Thinking though you could have come up with 14 points 🙂

24 10 2016
Shauna Thornton

Thank you for this, at a time when I really needed to read this, at a time when I most needed to be reminded. God bless you.

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