Saturday, March 12, 2011

Devotional for the Fourth Day of Lent

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name. 
For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 
By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed. (Psalm 30:4-7)

In the Bible, faith and trust are not different things. For example, the word commonly used in the Greek New Testament that is usually translated as faith can just as appropriately be translated as trust. It’s easy to see them as related but different concepts; faith may be viewed as a way of thinking, something abstract and conceptual, while trust usually implies relationship.

I might say that I have faith and mean that I have a belief system established in my mind. It can be come a place of certainty, a place from which I cannot be moved. I can operate my life independently and self-assuredly with that kind of certainty. Trust, however, is a bit messier. In a relationship of trust I can’t call the shots—I have to rest in the integrity of the one I have trusted and prepare myself for an outcome that I can’t control.

In my Bible, Psalm 30 is described as a song or reading for the dedication of the Temple. In one sense it celebrates Israel’s protection from international enemies. In another, there is the recognition that an overblown sense of security is unstable and risky, because when circumstances suggest that God’s face is hidden, dismay is the result.

When I am feeling prosperous, I find it easy to forget about God. When I have enough money to buy my weekly groceries, I feel no need to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). God’s face becomes hidden, but not because he is hiding from me. It’s because I’m busy looking at myself.

In my experience, I have been amazed at God’s trustworthiness, even when I have been absent and self-possessed. It is never sufficient for me to ramp up my belief system to somehow please God; my response to God comes in the confession that I have trusted in my prosperity rather than in God. I need to release my self-trust in order to trust in the faithfulness of God.
The psalmist describes what happens in that turning to the trustworthiness of God:

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
 you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy, 
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever. (Psalm 30:11-12)

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