How To Handle Trouble (Psalm 94)

Lord, you are a God who punishes;
    reveal your anger!
You are the judge of us all;
    rise and give the proud what they deserve!
How much longer will the wicked be glad?
    How much longer, Lord?
How much longer will criminals be proud
    and boast about their crimes?

They crush your people, Lord;
    they oppress those who belong to you.
They kill widows and orphans,
    and murder the strangers who live in our land.
They say, “The Lord does not see us;
    the God of Israel does not notice.”

My people, how can you be such stupid fools?
    When will you ever learn?
God made our ears—can’t he hear?
    He made our eyes—can’t he see?
He scolds the nations—won’t he punish them?
    He is the teacher of us all—hasn’t he any knowledge?
The Lord knows what we think;
    he knows how senseless our reasoning is.

Lord, how happy are those you instruct,
    the ones to whom you teach your law!
You give them rest from days of trouble
    until a pit is dug to trap the wicked.
The Lord will not abandon his people;
    he will not desert those who belong to him.
Justice will again be found in the courts,
    and all righteous people will support it.

Who stood up for me against the wicked?
    Who took my side against the evildoers?
If the Lord had not helped me,
    I would have gone quickly to the land of silence.
I said, “I am falling”;
    but your constant love, O Lord, held me up.
Whenever I am anxious and worried,
    you comfort me and make me glad.

You have nothing to do with corrupt judges,
    who make injustice legal,
    who plot against good people
    and sentence the innocent to death.
But the Lord defends me;
    my God protects me.
He will punish them for their wickedness
    and destroy them for their sins;
    the Lord our God will destroy them. (Good News Translation)

Courageous, brave, bold, and strong – it seems most people do not characterize themselves this way, especially when they are in the throes of overwhelming circumstances.

Whenever one feels crushed under the weight of adverse situations caused by evil, it can be hard for them to see their resilience and strength.

I suppose it makes sense as to why we lose sight of this, because we can all readily recall times and events in which we wilted with fear; did not speak up; or were not assertive.

The many conversations we have in our heads for which will never take place, are testament to our supposed withdrawal in the face of adversity. We have far too many discussions with ourselves of how something should have gone; and too many brave retorts for someone whom we really have no intention of saying those words toward.

If this all sounds like the convoluted musings of a wimpy kid, that’s not far off the mark. When we get bullied, even as adults, it can be easy to wilt, or to take it, or to simply find a way to avoid the bully. With some folks, we even create elaborate internal reasons why it’s our fault someone is upset with us. In such times, bravery and courage seem a long way from our true selves.

Faced with a daunting task or an ornery person at work, home, or school, we may wonder if we really have the internal stuff to deal with it. We feel that maybe someone else would be better suited to handle the trouble. 

Yet, what if I told you that you are, indeed, brave, strong, and confident?

What if I insisted that courage resides within you, even if you yourself cannot see it right now?

And, what if I told you that bravery isn’t something you must go on a quest to find, but that it’s been in you all along? 

If you are already enough, then you only need to be aware of it, acknowledge it, and let it out.

You intuitively know I’m on to something here. After all, the most common exhortation and assurance in the entirety of Holy Scripture is to not be afraid because God is with us:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So, we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NIV)

In the great litany of fear, we face every day, spiritual confidence and personal bravery is not so much commanded by God, as it is a calling forth of something which is already within you.

Now, before you go thinking I’m some looney-tune, hear me out. From the beginning of the world, in God’s creative activity, the Lord did it all by calling forth creation from within himself. What I mean is this: God did not simply command everything into being; instead, he said, “Let there be…”  God let out what was already there in God’s very Being. It was almost as if God belched-out from the great depth of his Being and let out all this wondrous creation.

Concerning our fear and bravery, God does not so much command us to be courageous but wants us to draw from the great reservoir within. The Lord has already created us strong, as creatures in the divine image. We just need to get in touch with what is already there. 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” said Jesus to his disciples, because he knew his followers had it in them to walk in his way without fear. (John 14:6, NRSV)

“Let not your heart faint, and be not fearful,” said God to the prophet Jeremiah, in the face of a terrible destruction that was about to unfold against Jerusalem, because the Lord knew that Jeremiah could face what was going to happen. (Jeremiah 51:46, ESV)

Christians can act with boldness because Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation. He is the One which enables us to draw from the deep well of courage:

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testing we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT)

I insist that you are brave, you are strong, and you are good. Those are not words meant to make you believe something which may or may not be true, as if I were trying to convince you to take some panacea to feel better.  No, I say it because it is true. 

You really can face the immense mountain in front of you and climb it. You can surmount the adversity you are in the middle of – not because of some words I say, but because you were created for courage.

So, how do you let out the bravery and let the boldness shine? 

You already know the answers to your own questions. You have all the knowledge you need to face your problems. So, the real question is:

Will you let your bravery come out to play, or will you keep it hidden beneath layers of insecurity?

It’s a whole lot easier to let me tell you what to do than to draw from what you already know, deep down, how to handle that troublesome something. 

I’m not going to give you a simple three-step process out of fear and into courage. That’s because you already have been endowed with the process. 

This certainly isn’t a sexy way to end a blog post, but it just might be the most effective and lasting.

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