When October rolls around my mind goes to Halloween and all that entails, so I usually write something about fear in this space. But this year, fear means more than just goblins and witches ringing our doorbells. The world has handed us more grief than we might think we can handle. One storm after another. Earthquakes in Mexico. A nuclear minded head of North Korea who would just as soon wipe out the rest of the world. Fear may not be the word I’m looking for. What about OVERWHELMED?
If you were to look at my sermon files, you would notice that I probably preach more from the Psalms than most preachers. I think that the musician in me relates to the Psalm writer David, and I can find more wisdom and more assurance from the Psalms than any other place in the Bible. Did DAVID ever feel overwhelmed?
Psalm 61:2 – “From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is OVERWHELMED : lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”
Was the mighty warrior David always calm, always in control? Psalm 55:5 – “Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.” (There’s that word again.)
Was the “man after God’s own heart” always singing and joyful? Psalm 77: 2,3 – “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran into the night, :and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.”
David didn’t have North Korea to worry about but he did have lots of enemies intent on his destruction. In Psalm 124 he acknowledges that, if not for God’s help, there were times when they enemy would have destroyed him – (vs. 2-4) – “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us; then they would have swallowed us up when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul.”
We ourselves may not be fighting military battles, but we still know the feeling of enemies that want to do us in. That person who disagrees with us on pretty much EVERYTHING. That person to whom everything is a power struggle, they HAVE to be right. David knew the discouragement of dealing with spiritual enemies. Psalm 142:3 – “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then Thou knowest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.”
In the midst of all of his overwhelming circumstances, David realized that REMEMBERING was a powerful tool of healing. Are you old enough to remember Wednesday night prayer meetings that would evolve into praise and testimony meetings. In the midst of the pouring out of grief and sadness someone would remember another time, another circumstance, and somehow, God showed up and saved the day. Little by little we would all remember those times of God’s providence, and the “woe is me’ of that prayer meeting would turn into a session of “great is Thy faithfulness.” Psalm 143: 4,5 – “Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate. I remember the days of old, I meditate on all of Thy works; I muse on the work of Thy hands.”
Can’t you imagine David, in the midst of one of his pity parties, going to a Wednesday night prayer meeting intending to mix his grief and sorrow with the rest of those who needed to hear from God? But the Holy Spirit reminds him of the times when God showed up. So when it’s his time to testify, he says, “Let me tell you about a young boy who ended up facing a huge giant”, and the people remember and say AMEN.
Aren’t you glad that we have a choir who loves the old hymns, and a director who leads us back into the treasure troves of past inspiration. We’ll come to worship and hear, “I go to the rock” and we’ll all say AMEN. Aren’t you glad that, even as they have taken some of the “golden oldies” out of our hymnal, we can still turn to page 361 and sing “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee”?
And since David was married, don’t you think that his wife, on one of those sleepless nights when he wouldn’t let either of them get to sleep, would have told him to practice what he preached. She pulls out the pitch pipe, reminds him f the hymn number, and together, they go to sleep singing, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
Jeremiah said it first, so I’ll just steal his sermon – “Great is Thy faithfulness”.
So let’s turn out the lights and get some sleep.