I have such an American spirit. I love adventure, dream of travel, and am deeply intrigued by the next thing. Yet, the Lord has been pressing into me the power of staying for the past two decades.
The turning of the new year is always a bit of a challenge for me and my wanderlusting, ambitious self. It’s not the goals or the desires that are dangerous, it it is the fuel by which I seek to achieve those goals and desires that trips me up. Since coming to faith, the Lord has been dismantling performance, self-will, and self-sufficiency in me. He has been slowly teaching my fast-paced, next-thing-please soul to wait and to stay.
When I begin to dream of bigger things, better things the Lord continually draws me back to Psalm 37. For the past two weeks, I have found my hands opening back up to those well-worn pages during my times alone with God, lingering over each word. Four words, in particular, have been arresting my overly-ambitious self of late: stay, cultivate, delight, and commit.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices. Psalm 37: 3-7.
The word translated dwell above is the Hebrew word shakan which carries the same range of meaning as the Greek word meno, translated as abide in the New Testament. They mean to settle into, to reside, to take up residency, to establish oneself, to settle down, to station oneself. In one word, stay.
In a world that seeks to bring about change by moving, buying, trading externals and circumstances, the Lord often bids us stay and be transformed internally so that we can approach the same people, places, and things from a different perspective or with new eyes of faith, more specifically His eyes.
Befriend faithfulness: what an interesting, deeply phrased command. The Hebrew word raah, translated befriend above, can also mean to make one’s companion, to cultivate, to keep company with.
Our culture rewards and celebrates flashiness, but the kingdom of God celebrates faithfulness as seen in steady, trusting obedience that does not wax or wane based on circumstances. David, the God-ordained-king-in-waiting, had much reason to be vexed, alarmed, and self-motivated to grab the throne from Saul; yet, he fought to remind himself to trust the Lord and His timing, to be more concerned with the kind of man God was making him than the externals of his life.
God would deliver on His promises in His time: that was God’s job. David’s job was to remain in Him, to hide in Him, to wait upon Him, all the while making faithfulness and godliness his companions.
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart (verse 4). Entirely too often, I have heard this verse used as a lucky rabbit’s foot to be rubbed or a mantra to be repeated to get what one wants. However, I think David was saying something far more profound and difficult than that. David was reminding his soul to take its deepest delight in God Himself and to let that directing and correcting desire shape his other, very real desires.
The Hebrew word anog, translated delight above, comes from a root word which means to be soft or pliable, to live or spend in enjoyment. The picture is that of a lover’s heart becoming putty in the presence of the beloved. The Spirit who inspired this psalm of David for our good and God’s glory, invites us to be so enamored with the presence of God, our soul’s lover, that our hearts and their attached desires become soft and pliable to His wishes, intention, and direction.
Note that David did not take a Buddhist approach to his desired path (ways) and dreams, seeking to nullify them. He had real desires, real plans, but he continually entrusted them, committed them, to the One who loved Him.
The Hebrew word, galal, translated as commit above, literally means to roll away. This same word is also used in the Proverbs regarding committing our plans and steps to the Lord (see Proverbs 16:3).
God does nor forbid our dreaming, desiring, and planning; rather, He asks for a significant, shaping place in the processing of those ways. He asks that the plans that we would most naturally want to cling to tightly and establish by our own devices be rolled to His loving possession for safe-keeping and strategic implementation. To be certain, we will have parts to play in those ways, but we are walk as those prodded by His initiation. holding His proven hands, and trusting His deeper ways.
May we follow our Christ who perfectly abided in the Father even in His exile on earth, who cultivated faithfulness even to the point of death on the cross, who constantly delighted Himself in the Father, and who committed His ways to the Father even when that way included a cross.
As we approach the ball dropping, may we be those who similarly roll our plans for the new year (and new decade) to the Lord.