My most used Bible. For most of December 2020, my 1964 Amplified Bible, which my beloved earthly father carried to church each Sunday, sat on the little table next to the rocker by the window, left open each day to the two pages displaying Psalm 32:4 through Psalm 35:3. Cracked edges around the cordovan faux leather cover, loosening binding, and spotty yellow glimmers on page edges that once were gilded tell its age. This is my most used Bible, the one I read morning, night and in between, the one that has the markings most meaningful to me, markings made in the first hours of my day when seeking God for strength to do what I could not do, and markings made in the last waking hours of my day when thanking God for His faithfulness and, by faith, finding His peace for a troubled heart. For most of December, I read these two pages several times each day, gleaning fresh strength and comfort every single time. Why?
How has your life been lately, dear friend? December 2020, and much of 2020 itself, has included vexing trials for many, many people, for many valid reasons, including me. In addition to the holiday blues, effects of the covid-19 panic, and the APPARENT AND TEMPORARY victory of evil in our nation and our world, I had a new personal challenge. And the new personal challenge, on top of the other accumulated stress, overwhelmed me. But through it all, through this whole month and a half of dark valleys, I have found fresh solace in the truths of God’s Word, especially truths I learned from Psalm 33:18-22 – that trust leads to joy, and joy leads to peace, the deep peace that comes from conscious awareness of His presence, that peace we cannot explain (Philippians 4:7).
Cause and effect . . . obedience and blessing. During this past month or so, in the midst of cheery Christmas songs and happily decorated houses, in the midst of suggestions for New Year’s resolutions, I have fought hard not to worry and to have faith. And I have been pondering what it means to really trust God.
One truth about trusting God became clear as I studied verses 1 through 7 of Psalm 21–God keeps us in peace because we keep our thoughts on Him and because we trust Him. In verse 1 David finds joy in God’s strength because God has blessed him and given David His presence. And that happened because David had trusted, relied on, and been confident in the Lord. In cause-and-effect order, this chain of truth might be stated:
- (verse 7) David trusted, relied on and was confident in the Lord. So,
BECAUSE OF THAT
- he was blessing others and he was exceedingly glad with the joy of God’s presence (verse 6), and
BECAUSE OF THAT
- David was rejoicing and feeling strong in God (verse 1),
The fruit of trust. This chain of thought reinforces the truth of another verse that I repeat many times each day, the blessed promise in Isaiah 26:3–God keeps us in peace because we keep our thoughts on Him and because we trust Him.
I know what it means to keep my thoughts focused on someone or something, but what does God mean by trust? The Bible shows that trust means “to commit, lean, and hope confidently.” The clarifying phrases in the Amplified Bible (those words set off with parentheses, brackets, and dashes+) show what people speaking Hebrew or Greek would have understood was meant in the original writing. Thus when Isaiah 26:4 says “So trust in the Lord— commit yourself to Him, lean on him, hope confidently in Him. . . “, that is where I see that trusting in God means to: commit myself to Him, to lean on Him, and to hope confidently in Him.
The words “commit, lean, and hope confidently” clarify that trust requires action. It requires commitment, and it requires leaning on and hoping confidently in God. I may have faith that a chair will support my weight, but I trust that chair when I actually sit in it.
Trust, joy, and the peace of His Presence. During these difficult last few weeks, I have tried hard to trust God, “. . . with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NIV). Why? To stay out of the pit of depression! I am working on a book about it and I wanted to be able to say that I stayed in victory after God had shown me what to do. And that was so for about a year and a half, by His grace! However, this past few weeks I kept stepping into the snare of worry and the symptoms of depression began popping up. What kept me moving forward, though I was slogging through muddy emotions, was the truths of God’s Word, and one passage in particular.
One morning in early December, sitting in the rocker by the window, chilled hands cuddling a cup of half-caf, I discovered Psalm 33:18-22, another passage about trust. Since that morning, my favorite Bible has been open to that passage. The truths it contains have been my anchor through many desperate moments lately. What do these verses mean to me, and to you?
Psalm 33:18. Behold, the Lord’s eye is upon those who fear Him [who revere and worship Him with awe], who wait for Him and hope in His mercy and loving-kindness. When the despicable, toothless lion of fear roars, just reading the words that “God is watching me” calms the fear and stops the worry. It gets my thoughts off of whatever caused the worry and turns my attention to the fact that God–is–here. As I keep my mind fixed on that truth by continuing to think about it, by meditating on it, I start feeling God’s peace. Then, like an undercurrent, comes the thought “Surely God IS with me right now, right here, because I do treat Him with reverence and respect, I do love and adore Him, and I do hold Him in awe. So this verse applies to me, little old weak me, right here and right now!”
How many times in the Word does God begin His messages to His loved ones by reassuring them that He is right there with them? Everything is harder to deal with when we feel alone. The Word tells us in many places that we are never alone, that God is always with us and will always, always, always be with us, no matter what. And what is one reason why is He watching over us?
Verse 19: “To deliver them from death and to keep them alive in famine.” This “death” God is watching over us to save us from is not just physical death but also “the effect of wickedness and sinfulness upon the natural human heart and soul in the sight of God.” (p. 134, Wilson’s Dictionary of Bible Types, 1957, Eerdmans Printing, Grand Rapids.) God watches over us so that He can set us free and deliver us from the effects of sin. That means He watches over me so that He can set me from the consequences of my wrong thinkings as well as my wrong doings.
That reassures me that even when I get bogged down in stinking thinking, even when I lose my self-control, even when my outer life looks like a neglected mess, that He is going to set me free from the effects of living in this fallen world, those things of the flesh that I cannot control no matter how hard I try because I am not perfect. And as far as my physical needs, God promises I will have more than enough. That promise is true even though the world might be in a time of lack or famine.
Verse 20. Our inner selves wait [earnestly] for the Lord; He is our Help and our Shield. To me, this says that I can wait intensely, with all my heart, for the Lord. Picture a five-year-old, waiting at the door for Papa to return because Papa promised a trip for ice-cream when he came home. Like that little child waiting for a delightful promise that he knows will be fulfilled, when I am troubled or in trouble, I can stand by, I can wait. And while I wait there, like a child by the front door at 5:15, I can intentionally focus my thoughts and my feelings on the Lord. I can wait earnestly, knowing that my Father is coming and will do what He has promised me.
“He is our help and shield.” I can wait patiently, like that little child, because I know God will help me, and I know He will shield me. God helps me, which means He makes my life easier. God is also my shield. A shield is something that protects you from harm, which includes danger and unpleasant experiences. God knows the enemy’s plans, and He reassures me in John 16:33 that He will protect me from harm.
A shield protects a person by absorbing the impact of a weapon and preventing the weapon from penetrating to reach the one who is being shielded. Lately, Holy Spirit has been highlighting verses for me on how impenetrable God is. With God as my shield, my protection is absolute, complete, total, utter and not diminished in any way. And I find great comfort in Psalm 29:11 “The Lord will give [unyielding and impenetrable] strength to his people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” (AMPC)
God Himself, Who IS our impenetrable shield, will give us that same impenetrable strength, which includes strength that is impenetrable to temptation, like my tendency to worry and slide toward discouragement and depression. Impervious is similar to impenetrable, so visualize water running off a duck’s back or water running down a concrete driveway. The strength God gives us is unaffected by temptation, untouched by circumstance and situation, deaf to the enemy’s lies and roars, closed to evil, and unmoved by trials, hardships, distress, and sufferings! If we are a child of the King of the world, we have His royal blood flowing in our veins and we have His strength—that mighty, invincible, all-powerful strength of God Himself–working in us.
Spend some time feasting on verses about the impenetrable strength of God. Look up these verses in the Amplified Bible: Psalm 19:14; Psalm 28:7; Psalm 29:11; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 62:7; and Psalm 68:28. Selah, selah, selah!
Verse 21: For in Him does our heart rejoice, because we have trusted (relied on and been confident) in His holy name. Notice that the “for” connects verse 21 with verse 20. We are empowered to wait earnestly and confidently for Him, knowing He will help us and shield us, because of verse 21. And verse 21 explains another power-packed promise, another blessed chain of cause and effect. I can wait confidently for God BECAUSE my heart finds joy in Him and I have joy in Him BECAUSE I have relied on and been confident of His name, Notice the same pattern that is in Psalm 21:1-7? When we trust, rely on and are confident in the Lord, God gives us His presence, we bless others, we are glad and we feel strong in the Lord.
Notice also that we trust in His holy name, which means His nature or His attributes. No one can adequately describe what God is like but He clearly tells us some of His qualities in the Word. God is all-knowing, all powerful, everywhere present, unchangeable, holy, and merciful, just to name a few of the facets of this Divine Being Who adores us and lavishes all good things on us when we walk uprightly with Him. (Psalm 84:11)
No wonder I am happy when I am depending on this Wonderful One! No wonder that I feel strong when I think about His strength! No wonder I feel loved when I think about His love!
Verse 22: Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You. I interpret this verse as an extremely loving nudge from God, to motivate me to do what is right and what will protect my heart. I interpret it as saying that God’s mercy and loving-kindness will be poured out on me in proportion to how much I wait for and hope in God. That makes me want to wait and hope in Him, with every fiber of my being, even if it seems impossibly hard.
And as I search the Scriptures, I see this cause and effect in other places, such as Psalm 37:39-40. Verse 39 says to me that God rescues us and sets us free from harm when we are consistently righteous, when we do our best to stay in right standing with Him, and that He shelters us and keeps us safe during the difficulties we experience. Verse 40 explains why–“And the Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked, and saves them because (emphasis added) they trust and take refuge in Him.” You can see the active aspect of trust here because “taking refuge” means to go to a place of shelter.
Trusting is hard but. . . Trusting is indeed hard. Fortunately, the more I know about God, the stronger my trust will be. Knowing that God is strong enough to take care of me helps me to actually lean my feelings, my heart, on Him, just like knowing about a chair helps me actually sit in it and let the chair, not my own legs, support my weight.
And how do I learn more about God, enough to truly trust Him? By studying and meditating on His Word. Romans 10:17 says, “So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (KJV) We can increase our faith when we accurately perceive the nature of God as we listen to teaching about the Messiah and the freedom from sin that His blood makes available to us.
If I truly trust. . . If I truly trust that He will deliver me from all my troubles (Psalm 54:7), I can pray and ponder on the Word as I do the tasks of daily life, this one day, knowing that He is watching me, that He is right here with me, and He will deliver me from death, which includes all negative feelings. And I can wait, with confidence, helped and shielded by “The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship of the Lord. . . “ (Psalm 25:14), while He does the things I cannot do.
Safely nestled in the Rock of His presence, I can tell my soul that:
- We are blessed when He trains us to keep ourselves calm. (Psalm 94:12)
- Everything will turn out for our good (Romans 8:28)
- God IS in control. Period. Absolutely. Completely. (Psalm 115:3; Colossians 1:16; Matthew 19:26 and many, many more)
- Nothing surprises Him. Nothing.
- He has ordained each one of our days (Psalm 139:16-17) and
- God IS “. . . the Alpha and the Omega,
- the First and the Last
- (the Before all and the End of all). (Revelations 22:13, AMPC)
- the First and the Last
- He is looking, right now, over the entire earth to strengthen His believing children.
“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen the hearts of those who are fully committed to Him. . . “ (2 Chronicles 16:9, AMPC)
Selah! Selah! Selah!!!