Struggling

Struggling

Text: Psalm 33

We’ve been talking about some of the different emotions and experiences we’ve been having during this season of restrictions and limitations. We’ve talked about grief, impatience, and fear. And we’ve been looking at the Psalms as what I’m calling “Songs for Every Season.” The Psalms aren’t just a bunch of happy clappy prayers or songs; they dig deep into the human experience, the human struggle, and they look for God in the mix.

Today we are looking at struggle. This is timely for me. I don’t know if you feel the same way, but seven weeks in I’m ready for a change. I’m ready to see people, to get out and about, to not feel confined any more. My brain tells me that the precautions are wise and important, but my emotions are bucking about wanting something different. It’s a struggle! I know some folks have much bigger struggles. They aren’t just stuck working at home; they are out of work or the income stream gone dry or they are sick or fearful.

Psalm 33 is like the other Psalms we’ve looked at. There are no quick or easy answers. But there is the honesty, faith, doubt, wrestling, and wrangling of someone who has struggled with life and with God. I find it encouraging to know that not only is this experience not unique to me, but it’s part of the Bible itself as if to say, “This is normal; let’s look together for God’s help.”

So why Psalm 33? Why is this a song for the struggler? It’s there near the end, in this case the struggle is death and famine. And whether you take that figuratively as giving up hope and not having what we need or a literal death and starvation, this Psalm can certainly contain the kinds of struggle we have been facing with a deadly virus, loss of livelihood, stay home restrictions, and more. And in general, if you started bravely, but it’s started to wear on you and you are struggling, I think there is some help to be found here.

The Psalm breaks into four distinct sections, which is how we broke it apart in the service. I want to look at each one briefly and how they build towards a resource for all who struggle.

Sing/Praise (vv.1-3)

Our call to worship today was verses 1-3. That’s fitting because that’s just what they do: they call us to worship. Look at the worship words: sing… praise… thanks… play instruments. Now I get it; I don’t always feel like worshiping. But it’s kind of like love; we don’t always feel loving, but we can choose loving actions. Choosing to engage at all with God is the beginning of worship and while I don’t think we should fake it, I do think we can do and affirm things we believe even if our feelings are all over the place. In fact, our worship services often run this gamut. We come together in praise, but over the course of a service we will be convicted by the Word, confess sin, bring our troubles and thanks to the Lord, and go out with God’s blessing and mission. God wants it all – the highs and lows, the honesty of our feelings, the whole package. But we nonetheless can come expectantly; that’s why I often say at the beginning of a service, “We believe God is here, that God meets us in Spirit and truth.” And God doesn’t meet us to ignore us, but to receive all our struggles and offer help and hope!

Who is God? (vv.4-11)

In the next section the focus is on who God is. If we are going to praise and worship, we should know to whom we offer worship. So the Psalmist goes through a litany of who God is and what God has done. God’s Word is upright, His work faithful. God loves righteousness and justice (that’s enough for a “praise God” right there!). Creation itself bears witness to God: the earth, the heavens, the waters. God’s wisdom stands above the plans of nations and people. And over it all is the lovingkindness of the Lord. (v.5)

If we are going to look for help, is it not good news that THIS is the source of help? That God is good and powerful and wise and just? When we are desperate we might seek help from any direction, but how much more helpful and hopeful to seek it from the Lord!

Whom do we Trust? (vv.12-17)

And that’s where the Psalm turns next: the question of whom we trust and whom we seek when we struggle. “Blessed” are those – nations and people – whose God is the Lord. Our salvation is not in rulers or armies or national resources. And I certainly feel the pull and have seen the pull of those things: to look to political party, to financial bailouts, to theories of quick solutions and easy explanations. We talked about that some last Sunday. But blessed are those who seek wisdom and help and hope in the Lord.

I’ll say again what I said last week: can we read and study and meditate on God’s Word in scripture instead of scouring the news or the Internet? We do need to keep current with what’s going on, but we are looking in the wrong places for help and hope and truth. Whom do we trust? And how does that inform and impact our struggles?

Help for the Struggler (vv.18-22)

Finally, and after having come into the Lord’s presence, recognized who God is, what God has done, and why God is worthy of our trust, the Psalmist describes the help and hope we have in the Lord. God is attentive to those who worship and hope in Him. God will deliver and preserve them. We wait on God while we trust in God, and He is our HELP and our SHIELD. Do you need help? Do you need a shield? I know I do!

As we trust and hope in God we experience His lovingkindness. Do you need to know God’s love and kindness? Here’s the thing… it’s already there! It’s not produced by our trust and hope. We just don’t see it or know it without looking. That’s what the pattern of worship described in this Psalm, that we try to emulate each week, opens up. If we come to God in a posture of worship – whether we feel it or not – we will start to see and experience what God has already shown to be there. We will see who God is and what God has done – the word, the work, the righteousness, the justice, the power, the wisdom, the love. We will seek God for what we really need rather than scour the earth for something or someone lesser, who cannot provide it.

Are you weary? Are you struggling? Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden; and I will give you rest for your souls.” So come, all you who hear: that’s help and hope we need! Amen.

Some Music Used

  • Creation Sings the Father’s Song
  • This is My Father’s World
  • Mercies Anew
  • Even So, Come
  • CHOIR: Our Hope is in Emmanuel
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