“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1 NIV)
I have been battling some stress lately, feeling deluged with last minute details for an upcoming event in which I have some major responsibilities. It dawned on me this morning that the stress was having a cumulative effect upon me. I had to acknowledge that I had been trying to carry things in my own strength rather looking with eyes of faith to God who is the burden bearer. Consequently fear and anxiety were robbing me of my peace during the day and my sleep at night. Perhaps you can identify with me.
Basically what I realized was that I had been looking in the wrong places for answers and help. It reminded me of the man in Psalm 121 who had a similar revelation in his journey through a trying time. As I read this psalm it helped me get back into a place of faith as I focused on where real help comes from.
Psalm 121 is the second one in a series of 15 psalms called the Psalms of Ascent or the Pilgrim Psalms. These psalms, from 120 through 134, were written describing the pilgrimage each Israelite was required to make annually to Jerusalem to worship at the great feasts. They were songs the pilgrims sung, journeying from their respective towns and villages, climbing steadily through the Judean hills and valleys, battling adversity both from within and from without, ever looking for a glimpse of Mount Zion where they would eventually enter God’s presence in the temple courts.
These psalms are also descriptive of the spiritual journey that each of us must make in order to grow in our faith relationship with God. Spiritual growth can only begin when we acknowledge the mess our souls are in, our need for change and the necessity of looking to God as the change agent.
It is significant to note that in the first psalm of the Psalms of Ascent we find a person who is distressed and calling out to God for a change in his life. “I call on the Lord in my distress . . . too long have I lived among those who hate peace.” (Psalm 120:1 & 6)
Can you identify with the cry of this man’s heart? As I read it this morning I certainly could. Are you dissatisfied with the stress in your life and longing for a spiritual breakthrough? I was. It is clear from these opening verses that the key that opens the door to freedom is calling out to God for help. He has promised that whoever calls on His name will be set free. (Romans 10:13)
And so in the next psalm, 121, we find the newly liberated pilgrim setting out on his journey. He has pressed through in prayer, stepped through the doorway of faith and left the comforts of the familiar and predictable. However, a journey out of the valley into the heights of God’s purposes is not without its battles. Fears are plaguing him with each step. Will he slip on the treacherous path he must walk? Can he survive the scorching heat of the sun by day? Are there wild animals or bandits lurking around the next bend? Will he find a safe shelter at night where he can get some sleep and renew his strength?
Like anyone in such a stressful situation, this man is desperately looking for something or someone to calm his fears and protect him. In times of desperation there is a tendency, even for those who are men and women of faith, to indiscriminately grasp at straws. Even Abraham, the great father of our faith, facing the fear of not having an heir, fell prey to this temptation in fathering Ishmael rather than trust God for the child of promise.
Our pilgrim begins by looking elsewhere for his help as well. “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?” (Psalm 121:1)
Why is it that all too often we look for help in His creation, people and things, rather than first look to the Creator Himself? Perhaps it is because mountains are more obvious to us than God. Or maybe it is because they seem more accessible or doable. Is that why we first look to others or an organization; some “proven formula” or our own self effort to solve our problems and calm our fears? Maybe it is because we need to go through that check list of obvious options and discover their futility in order to bring us to faith in God as the only viable answer. No doubt each of these things are factors in the trial and error process of spiritual growth.
But thankfully this spiritual sojourner refocuses his wandering eyes on the Lord and reminds himself of God’s sure and certain help. “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (v. 1) What I declaration! When I read that again this morning, it set me free from my anxiety. And then the conclusion of the psalm sealed it with “The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:7-8)
Take a moment and do a self-check. Where are you looking for the solutions to your problems?
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