Sometimes, trying to quiet our fears is like trying to tuck an octopus into bed. How many nights have you tried to sleep all tangled in your worries about the church, your family, your finances, or your own well-being? We need to know how to pray in those times because they won’t let go of us unless we do. We won’t be able to sing, “It is well with my soul,” without prayer. It’s always true, but you can’t always sing it.
In Psalm 61 David prayed, “I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” In Psalm 16 he began, “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” Then he prays the topography of that high rock on which we stand when we take refuge in and on God. To begin with, we do not stand alone. We are part of a holy people, “splendid friends.” Plus, the Lord is our “portion and cup”—our inheritance and destiny, and he has endowed us with a bountiful and beautiful estate. What’s more, the Lord himself counsels us and stands close beside us always.
Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices.
Though our circumstances haven’t changed, we have found our high rock and our song. I sign all my letters, “Be ye glad!” It’s the title of a favorite song by Michael Kelly Blanchard. I chose it because I’ve been prone to negativity and depression so singing it is a constant reminder of just how good I have it. “Every debt that you ever had has been paid up in full by the grace of the Lord. Be ye glad!”
In David’s prayer, he realized that not only was his heart glad but even …
… my body will also rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful see decay. (Psalm 16:9-10)
Both Peter and Paul preached from this text, showing that Scripture insists on the Messiah’s resurrection. For us, David’s prayer comes loaded with the Easter assurance not only for after death but before. Through Christ, we have already joined a new race, the Immortals.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians that things had gotten so bad for him he had despaired even of life. I’m sure you remember the catalog of his suffering. You have your own catalog, maybe not so severe as his, but bad enough to leave you despairing of ministry sometimes. Who of us hasn’t thought about selling shoes? It doesn’t always help to look for the silver lining around some ministry struggles. What we rely upon is that the perfection of God’s power really does shine brightest through our weakness. The daily dying of ministry is not our liability. Rather, as Mandy Smith says, “Weakness is a ministry resource.” So add this to your praying of Psalm 16, right after vv. 9-10. (Don’t skim it. Read it.)
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).
Our confidence in the resurrection is not stored away for our dying day, but also for the dying required of us this day. You are not abandoned to your dying. You’re not going to rot away. You are among the Immortals.
Be ye glad!
Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He is the author of Feels Like Home: Reflections on the Care of Souls and Pastoral Graces: Reflections on the Care of Souls (Moody Publishers), as well as being a frequent contributor to Preaching Today and CT Pastors. To learn more about his Pastors' Gatherings visit www.leeeclov.com.