# 122 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 31. Emotions are complex!

Wheel of emotion # 2

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

( http://www.6seconds.org/2017/04/27/plutchiks-model-of-emotions/ )

Emotions! Love them or hate them, we have no choice but to learn to appreciate them (i.e. those of ourselves and others), then live with them, dealing with them intelligently and effectively or alternatively be overwhelmed and controlled by them and then flounder in life.

One definition is:

“Emotion is any conscious experience characterized by intense mental activity and a certain degree of pleasure or displeasure. Scientific discourse has drifted to other meanings and there is no consensus on a definition. Emotion is often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation. In some theories, cognition is an important aspect of emotion. Those acting primarily on the emotions they are feeling may seem as if they are not thinking, but mental processes are still essential, particularly in the interpretation of events… Other theories, however, claim that emotion is separate from and can precede cognition.                                                                        Emotions are complex.”

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion )

This last short sentence seems to sum it all up very nicely!

Well, long before the researchers began to study emotions, they were present and being expressed by people all over the world, including in Israel by their favourite singer song writer, David.  Psalm 31 is a perfect example, full of emotion which David expresses to God without holding back. A lesson we all need to learn well!

This psalm moves from anguish to assurance, from “the heart-cry of pain and need to the quietness and confidence in answered prayer” (Blaiklock), but interestingly it seems to do this a couple of times as follows:

Verses 1-8 David initially affirms God as his place of refuge in his troubles:

I trust you, Lord, to be my hiding place.
Don’t let me down.
Don’t let my enemies bring me to shame.
Come and rescue me, for you are the only God
who always does what is right.
Rescue me quickly when I cry out to you.
At the sound of my prayer may your ear be turned to me.
Be my strong shelter and hiding place on high.
Pull me into victory and breakthrough.
3–4 For you are my high fortress, where I’m kept safe.
You are to me a stronghold of salvation.
    When you deliver me out of this peril,
it will bring glory to your name.
As you guide me forth I’ll be kept safe
from the hidden snares of the enemy—
the secret traps that lie before me—
for you have become my rock of strength.
Into your hands I now entrust my spirit.
O Lord, the God of faithfulness,
you have rescued and redeemed me.
I despise these deceptive illusions,
all this pretence and nonsense,
for I worship only you.
In mercy you have seen my troubles and you have cared for me;
even during this crisis in my soul I will be radiant with joy,
filled with praise for your love and mercy.
You have kept me from being conquered by my enemy;
you broke open the way to bring me to freedom,
into a beautiful, broad place.

Verses 9-18 David expresses his emotions and again cries out to God to keep doing what He does well.


O Lord, help me again! Keep showing me such mercy.
For I am in anguish, always in tears,
and I’m worn-out with weeping.
I’m becoming old because of grief; my health is broken.
10 I’m exhausted! My life is spent with sorrow,
my years with sighing and sadness.
Because of all these troubles, I have no more strength.
My inner being is so weak and frail.
11 My enemies say, “You are nothing!”
Even my friends and neighbours hold me in contempt!
They dread seeing me
and they look the other way when I pass by.
12 I am totally forgotten, buried away like a dead man,
    discarded like a broken dish thrown in the trash.
13 I overheard their whispered threats, the slander of my enemies.
I’m terrified as they plot and scheme to take my life.
14 I’m desperate, Lord! I throw myself upon you,
for you alone are my God!
15 My life, my every moment, my destiny—it’s all in your hands.
So I know you can deliver me
from those who persecute me relentlessly.
16 Let your shining face shine on me.
Let your undying love and glorious grace
save me from all this gloom.
17 As I call upon you, let my shame and disgrace
be replaced by your favour once again.
But let shame and disgrace fall instead upon the wicked—
those going to their own doom,
drifting down in silence to the dust of death.
18 At last their lying lips will be muted in their graves.
For they are arrogant, filled with contempt and conceit
as they speak against the godly.

Verses 19-22 David is full of praise for God who delivers him from the evil that surrounds him.


19 Lord, how wonderful you are!
You have stored up so many good things for us,
like a treasure chest heaped up and spilling over with blessings—
all for those who honour and worship you!
Everybody knows what you can do
for those who turn and hide themselves in you.
20 So hide all your beloved ones
in the sheltered, secret place before your face.
Overshadow them by your glory-presence.
Keep them from these accusations, the brutal insults of evil men.
Tuck them safely away in the tabernacle where you dwell.
21 The name of the Lord is blessed and lifted high!
For his marvellous miracle of mercy protected me
when I was overwhelmed by my enemies.
22 I spoke hastily when I said, “The Lord has deserted me.”
For in truth, you did hear my prayer and came to rescue me.

Verse 23-24 David exhorts God’s people everywhere to love and trust God, whatever our feelings.


23 Listen to me, all you godly ones: Love the Lord with passion!
    The Lord protects and preserves all those who are loyal to him.
But he pays back in full all those who reject him in their pride.
24 So cheer up! Take courage all you who love him.
Wait for him
to break through for you, all who trust in him!    (TPT)

Great advice!  Thanks David.

So, whatever your feelings are today, express them to God, who not only understands, but is waiting for you to talk to him with the desire that you will discover that trusting him is the best thing you can do for yourself (and others!).

Let me finish with the story of a friend who has battled cancer for a number of years and in the latest update concerning his health, the news is that it is deteriorating. There is now talk of him requiring palliative care. One can only imagine the sort of emotions present in him and his family, but I was very inspired by these words:

In spite of all that [referring to his symptoms including pain, etc] he does not give up, well anchored in faith and hope in God … We are putting …[everything] in the hands of the Lord. Our days are in ​​His hands [Psalm 31:15], ​in God’s hands…”

 

Father, we admit that at times we are overwhelmed by the events in our life and then by our own emotional responses to these things. Thank you for this psalm, a great example of what we can do and to whom we can go at such times – placing ourselves safely in to your hands! You, our God, are good. Amen.

 

# 121 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 31 Safe in God’s hands!

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Similar to most languages, in English we have lots of idioms. One we say is that “he/she is in good hands”, for example, when referring to a patient being cared for or being operated upon by a particular physician or surgeon. There is something very reassuring in this phrase, but even more if the “good hands” referred to are those of God!

The word “hands” is actually used four times in Psalm 31 as follows:

Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God
.

And

14 But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me
.

And

I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.

Verse 5a, Into your hands I commit my spirit, is a well-known verse, having been later  quoted by Jesus as he hung on a cruel Roman cross (Luke 23:46).

Here the psalmist acknowledges God as his “rock and his fortress”, as his “refuge” in the times of trouble that surround him due to his “enemies”. He can think of no better way to deal with this situation than to be completely surrendered to God in faith that He will act on his behalf. And so he prays, “into your [good] hands I commit my spirit.”

Spurgeon says, “These living words of David were our Lord’s dying words, and have been frequently used by holy men in their hour of departure.” (see references # 28)

Longman suggests, the psalmist “realizes that he lacks the necessary resources to save himself, so he puts himself totally into God’s hands.”

He continues, “Jesus found encouragement in this psalm as he was dying on the cross. At the climactic moment, he uttered the words of verse 5 to express his absolute confidence in God’s ability to rescue him. Of course, God did not rescue him from the cross, and he died, but God’s rescue came in the form of the resurrection. Peter encourages believers to have the same attitude towards God: ‘So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.’ (1 Peter 4:19)” (see references # 30)

Verse 15a, My times are in your hands; is also well known, probably having been prayed by many believers over the years since David wrote them. Recently I went to a 70th birthday party and when I looked around, the majority there were over 70, and thankful to God for the time that God has given them to live for him and serve him. Amongst these great people there were a good number who had served God in Australia as well as in places like Africa, Asia and South America. Whether we believe it or not, “our times are in God’s hands” and he gives us the years of our lives to live well and to glorify him.

Spurgeon (writing in the 1860’s), says concerning this truth, “The sovereign arbiter of destiny holds in his own power all the issues of life; we are not waifs and strays upon the ocean of life, but are steered by infinite wisdom towards our desired haven.”

W.G. Scroggie tells the story of “Dan Crawford, the African missionary” who translated these words as follows: “All my life’s why’s and when’s and where’s and wherefore’s are in God’s hands.” (see reference # 41)

Verses 15b and 8a are different. You have not given me into the hands of the enemy… deliver me from the hands of my enemies. Not only is the psalmist grateful for being in God’s good hands, he is also grateful that so far in his life he has been delivered from falling into the hands of his enemies and prays that this will continue.

Sometimes, of course, we are our own worst “enemy”, and when tempted, give in to temptation and find ourselves, temporarily, “in the hands of the enemy”, or so it seems. Jesus, when talking with some who opposed him (who were held captive “in the hands of the enemy”) said to them:

42  “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  (John 8)

Spurgeon comments:

“To be shut up in one’s hand is to be delivered over absolutely to his power; now, the believer is not in the hand of death or the devil, much less is he in the power of man. The enemy may get a temporary advantage over us, but we are like men in prison with the door open; God will not let us be shut up, he always provides a way of escape.”

As Paul says:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.      (1 Corinthians 10:13)

So, let me finish with a promise to believers made by Jesus, the Good Shepherd:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”   (John 10)

Thank you Father that you are good and we can commit our whole being into your safe and good hands knowing that you will work out your good purposes in and through us. Our minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years are in your hands and that is a great comfort. “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” (Psalm 90:12 Living Bible) And, “Our Father…Don’t bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One. “ (Matthew 6:13 Living Bible). Amen.

 

 

 

# 120 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 31 Entitled?

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We live in “interesting” days! My wife and I love and appreciate the gift of having a big family – 4 married offspring (+ their spouses) and 11 beautiful grandchildren. It is both enjoyable and slightly concerning to watch these latest generations grow up in the midst of our techno culture with all that this involves. We recognize our new responsibility (and privilege) to pray daily for each one of them.

I recently read an article found at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4232696/Millenials-generation-huge-sense-entitlement.html which is about the “Millennials” (those born between 1982 -2000) and some of the challenges for employers when these young people join their companies. The phrase used here to describe the culture of some of this age group is “having a sense of entitlement”.

This is defined as follows: “If someone has a sense of entitlement, that means the person believes he deserves certain privileges — and he’s arrogant about it. The term “culture of entitlement” suggests that many people now have highly unreasonable expectations about what they are entitled to.”  https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/entitlement   In other places it is called an “entitlement complex”!

The article mentioned above does say that “Of course…not every young person born in these years is … foolishly self-regarding [thankfully!] … but many view [this] generation as the most entitled and egotistical to date.” It continues, this is “a generation who ‘want to know what’s in it for them’.”

I also heard recently a short message on our local Christian radio station when the speaker spoke of “mini-outrages”, often posted on social media platforms. He wasn’t suggesting that these came only from “millennials” (and they don’t), but talking of how people vent about the smallest (what most would call relatively insignificant) things, again suggesting this false sense of entitlement.

In our psalm for today (Psalm 31) maybe some might consider that David might be one of these people who has a sense of entitlement as he complains to God about the events of his life. Although one has to admit, the events in his life that he mentions could hardly be defined as “mini-outrages”! Listen to what he says:

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbours
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering,
Terror on every side!”                                                                                                                They conspire against me
and plot to take my life.

So, considering all those words in bold font above, even the most self-serving person (which generally David was not) would have to admit that David did actually have grounds for justifiable complaint. In fact, maybe he could also justifiably have had a sense of “entitlement” – he was the King of Israel after all!

But, somehow, all this does not come across in this psalm. These are not the words of some self-centred despotic king wanting his own way and “spitting the dummy”, so to speak! In fact, these are the words of David, the one described as a “man after God’s own heart”. Listen to that heart speak to the God he reverently trusted, adored and worshipped, even in the midst of trouble:

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Note those words in bold font in verse 3:

Here lies the motivation for David’s complaint to God, for his prayer for help – “…for the sake of your name…” Sure, David was human like us and so wasn’t exactly enjoying the suffering that he was going through, but there was so much more at stake than just relief from his suffering. There was God’s name, God’s reputation, God’s honour and glory! David’s desire, along with his own deliverance, was that through all his troubles, it would become obvious that God, and God alone, was the One who was worthy of praise and glory.

And so he says:

19 How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love

 

And so exhorts all of us to:

23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.

In one sense, we are “entitled”, not because of anything we have done, or deserve, but only because of the wonderful truth (in Genesis 1) that is described when God created us:

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Sadly, sin has marred that image in us and that is why Jesus came. To restore what was at creation, through his life, death and resurrection. To restore us to a place of “entitlement” only available through a right relationship with Him.

And so Paul was able to pray for fellow believers in Jesus:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

All the privileges (“entitlements”) of knowing God are ours in Christ, but like David and Paul, we should consider that the most important thing in life is “the glory and praise of God.”  Hopefully this will be the truth that transforms the present culture of “entitlement” not only amongst some millennials but also amongst many others of us.

Father, thank you for our families and other young friends growing up in what has been called a culture of entitlement. Help us all to understand that if we have any rights at all, it is only by the grace of God. May we all, as Paul puts it, have the same mindset as Christ and Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above ourselves, not looking to our own interests but each of us to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)  Amen.