Asaph was a music minister, musician and composer in the Tabernacle of King David. Among the numerous Psalms attributed to him is Psalm 77. In the third verse of the Psalm he wrote
“…I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed.”
Sometimes what we may call prayer is little more than a spiritual gripe session, a pouring out of our complaints before the Lord. What Asaph is recording is a pity party, disappointment masked as prayer. “Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” So many questions, so little faith.
But beginning with verse 10 everything changes. “But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High." I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary… You are the God who does wonders; You have with Your arm redeemed Your people.”
When he complained, he was filled with pity and disappointment, but when he remembered all of God’s glorious attributes and wondrous works, his heart was filled with victorious faith and powerful praise! When we are tempted to complain, instead let us remember our God’s love and mercy and glory and grace!
“I don’t dwell on it.”
I often find myself thinking about my grandmother’s signature phrase. Grandma went through a lot in life – the Great Depression, WWII, and all the armed conflicts in between. She outlived seven of her fifteen children. When we asked how she coped, she simply said:
“I don’t dwell on it.”
Her words became my primary coping mechanism. When pain whispered, I refused to dwell on it, ignoring my tears and the feelings that went with them. I thought I knew her secret to strength: shove things aside and keep moving. Race ahead and pretend it didn’t happen. Refuse to dwell on it.
But then life caught up with me. Traumatic memories played on an endless loop in my mind, storming my mind and heart like a mighty army.
I realized that I had not only started to dwell on them, but to dwell in them.
I finally had to deal with my pain. Healing made its way through my carefully curated collection of secret wounds, and strength surged through me.
I realized Grandma had refused to dwell on things;
I had refused to deal with them.
I am learning to allow myself to feel the hurt when it hits because I know strength does not come from arbitrary barricades but from enforcing guardianship of my heart and mind. I now see that, while pain has been trying to invade, my God, my loved ones and my own strength have stood outside too, ready to help me fight if I would only let them in.
I am now striving to be the kind of person who deals with pain but who abides under the shadow of the Almighty, and who dwells among those who are amazing enough to love me through it.
A story is not a story without a plot and a plot is not a plot without conflict. Because of a central conflict, we cheer for the hero and boo the villain. A story’s conflict gives the plot its structure.
The conflict that governs so many of our stories predates us by many, many years – one that played out on a balcony of heaven where Satan rebelled against God. This same conflict, in different manifestations, continues to play out in the lives of humanity.
Our own personal plots play out as we encounter conflicts with nature and mortality. When illness strikes, this conflict often takes center stage. The difficulties we encounter in relationships with others elaborate on our personal conflict plots.
Still, perhaps the darkest battles we fight are the ones located deep within us – as we find ourselves at war within ourselves. These are the conflicts that are hard to explain because they are so intensely personal.
Our conflicts are what make up our stories.
The basic structure of beginning, middle, and end are set up around the conflict that we hope will be resolved. The beauty of our stories is that God always has a plan for resolution and restoration.
No matter how conflicts have defined us or continue to govern our stories, there is always hope when we stop trying to solve and explain every conflict on our own and invite Him into the process of writing our stories.