God and David's Distress

It’s recorded in the 25th Psalm, that King David sent heavenward this heart-felt entreaty:

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
    and free me from my anguish.

Psalm 25: 16-17

We often see the things we read in the Bible through the lens of the times in which they were written.

We might think, for example, that David had troubles of the heart served up with a side dish of anguish, and–if we take the time to carry the scenario out to its end–chalk it all up to some passing problem he was facing at the time.

And we may not think to take a closer look and put his prayer into a contemporary context, including what we know today about Mental Health issues.

If we put this Psalm into that context, I think we’d draw the conclusion that David suffered from depression. And–no doubt–anxiety as well.

Reading further through the Psalms reinforces that conclusion.

I think one of the reasons many Psalms resonate with me is that I have long traversed a lot of the same territory.

I think we’d all agree that keeping one’s emotional equilibrium, staying calm and serene through life’s inevitable ups-and-downs, is a very big deal.

Going through that kind of thing is quite common. You might say that King David has plenty of company among us modern folk.

And among all people of all times, all of us who’ve ever walked around in human skin.

No doubt David and people living at that time could have benefited from the insights and practices of modern medicine.

And having at their disposal modern meds that can help us keep our emotional balance and cope successfully with our “troubles of the heart” and “anguish”.

They didn’t have those helpful tools in their time, of course.

It’s such a good thing that we do.

Prayers like David’s in this passage may help when those dark clouds begin to gather around us.

Compassionate and effective care from professionals in the Mental Health field can certainly help too.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Burn the Shields with Fire

There are wars raging in every corner of our planet at this moment.

War has been a part of human existence from the very beginning. And in places where conflicts are raging now, people know from their own grim experience that war is a very hellish thing that should be avoided at all cost.

Here in the US, we’ve been involved in hundreds of wars but have not had the fighting come to our shores since Pearl Harbor.

And before that, one must go all the way back to the War of 1812 to find a time when a foreign adversary attacked us right here, where we live.

And so the thought of wars may not evoke much of a response from a typical American.

But those who have lived through–or are living through wars right now–know full well what a horrible, suffocating, life-stealing tragedy war is.

From a Faith perspective, Peace and Peace-making must be our goal.

The Psalmist hoped–as have countless men and women of faith–that The Divine One will, one day, put an end to war and the instruments of war.

9 Come now and look upon the works of the Lord, *
what awesome things he has done on earth.

10 It is he who makes war to cease in all the world; *
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,
and burns the shields with fire.

11 “Be still, then, and know that I am God; *
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 47: 9-11

Does this hope in the heart of Humanity that God will one day put an end to war mean that we should simply wait patiently for that coveted day to arrive?

Does it mean that we should not work for Peace nor attempt to be instruments of reconciliation among our fellows and even among Nations?

It cannot mean those things.

Peace must be our goal.

As I write this, the U.S. is closer to an actual shooting war than we have been in a long time.

One of the things that is so frustrating and disquieting is that it’s possible–even likely when one looks at the facts–that our elected leaders are foolishly spoiling for a war.

If that’s the case, those in our country who have the power to set in motion conflicts and wars are certain to get their wish.

If so, it will be yet one more time when those who, like the writer of Psalm 47, will have their desire for Peace thwarted while humanity descends, once more, into the dark and desolate hellscape of war.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Do not fret

In the 37th Psalm, David wrote this:

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:1-4

When we see people doing things which are clearly wrong, even evil, we are inclined to wonder if they’ll ever be called to account for their misdeeds.

They may even be people who hold a lot of power and have a lot of support for their actions. They may hold sway over many followers and hangers-on who share their warped values.

Here the words of the Psalmist remind us that their day of reckoning will come.

This doesn’t mean that we are to be passive in the face of evil.

Quite the contrary.

But in human society–and especially in God’s Kingdom–there is an unfailing principle that when those who inflict misery on others whose well-being has been entrusted to them, the poor and disenfranchised, people on the margins of society, it doesn’t end well for them.

Not only can we trust that leaders and powerful people who inflict misery on those who cannot defend themselves will not carry the day, we know that living well, living by the values we have learned, will–in the end–mean that we will receive “the desires of our heart.”

That’s powerful encouragement when we see others who live selfishly, who live as though their own welfare and happiness matter above all else, seem to be winning at their selfish and cynical game.

Be encouraged today, know that living for others, living as Jesus plainly instructed his followers to live, will be rewarded.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The Widow’s Mite

This passage from Chapter 21 of Luke’s gospel was one of the Lectionary readings for October 1st.

Verse 1: He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’

Luke 21:1-4

In our churches, do we shower the big givers with accolades for their contributions but ignore others who give smaller amounts but give sacrificially?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

This has been an issue for a very, very long time.

Jesus saw how this operates back in his time. It’s still going on today, of course.

Large churches–especially ones that have embraced and are spreading the prosperity gospel nonsense–will never be free of this tendency to put their large givers on a pedestal and slight or ignore members who–like the widow in this passage–give lesser amounts but are giving sacrificially.

Let’s resolve–whether corporately or simply in our individual lives–to focus on each person we know who are putting their hands to the work, and to not simply lavish praise on our fellows who are able to write the big checks.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Hear me, Oh Lord

This passage from Psalm 69, though written about 2,000 years ago, can nevertheless be instructive for us today:

16 Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good;
Turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.

17 And do not hide Your face from Your servant,
For I am in trouble; Hear me speedily.

18 Draw near to my soul, and redeem it;
Deliver me because of my enemies.

I’m certain that this passage strikes a cord with just about everyone. Psalm 69 is a well-known and beloved one.

I certainly can relate.

Having said that, I hasten to add that as we read this passage with our thoroughly-modern eyes, many of us would have some thoughts about how we often set ourselves up for misery and troubles.

We may meditate on the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships and keeping out of situations where our actions have created chaos and difficulties where Divine intervention seems our only way out.

And it’s also true that when we’re in tight spot and our problems seem beyond our abilities to deal with them, we’ll appeal to God to intervene and set our feet back on solid ground, so to speak.

And we’ll do that whether our troubles truly come from circumstances beyond our control or–as is often the case–our own decisions and actions have led to our predicament.

Plead for Divine help when you’re in a tight spot.

And be sure to also examine your choices and your deeds and take life’s inevitable troubles as opportunities to become better at keeping yourself out of misery, despondence and despair.

 

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Seventy Times Seven

Just about everyone on this planet understands how vitally important relationships are.

It’s a universal thing. It spans all cultures and has been understood since the time our species first appeared on the scene.

But it’s also true that understanding this and living it are two different things.

I was listening to two close friends this week talk about how some difficult scenarios have played out in their relationships–their family relationships, in particular–and how it’s affected them. And other family members as well.

It reminded me of some very similar times and similar issues in my own life.

And it reminded me that in our relationships–whether things are going well, or not–forgiveness is always the best way to go.

It’s not always easy; not at all.

It may not always be clear how we can even get to that place of forgiving.

But we must always try.

I am not so naive as to say that forgiveness is always possible.

But we must try. Forgiveness should be our lodestar, our goal.

And then we leave the outcome in God’s hands.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Is Anyone Listening?

Even though 2000 years have passed since the Psalmist wrote these words, their relevance is not lost on us today:

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.

Psalm 88:1-2

In the thoroughly-Evangelical church environment in which I was raised, there was a lot of emphasis put on seeing God, seeing Jesus, especially, as an ever-present friend, one who “sticks closer than a brother” and that feeling is one that stays with me today.

I have never lost that feeling of certainty that one of God’s attributes is that he/she is that loving and abiding presence upon which I can rely.

It’s also true that having friends who are able and willing to be there for us–to truly listen to us in our time of need–can be a great comfort and an immense help in getting through life’s inevitable ups-and-downs.

Are you willing to be God’s ears today to a friend who may need that presence?

Are you willing to be God’s hands and touch someone whose well-being and whose very survival may depend on finding that loving and supportive touch, that Divine Presence?

Listening to one another is a good start.

May you–may we all–be God’s ears and hands today.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.