Thursday, October 02, 2008

Cast Your Burdens

The way that the message paraphrases Bible passages can be really stirring. We used this section of Psalm 89 in our worship meeting on Sunday.

With your well-muscled arm and your grip of steel—
nobody trifles with you!
The Right and Justice are the roots of your rule;
Love and Truth are its fruits.
Blessed are the people who know the passwords of praise,
who shout on parade in the bright presence of GOD.
Delighted, they dance all day long; they know
who you are, what you do—they can't keep it quiet!
Your vibrant beauty has gotten inside us—
you've been so good to us! We're walking on air!
All we are and have we owe to GOD,
Holy God of Israel, our King!

It was only this morning that I read on to the end of the Psalm. I was in need of a bit of stirring. Reading on was not so encouraging, however:-

But GOD, you did walk off and leave us,
you lost your temper with the one you anointed.
You tore up the promise you made to your servant,
you stomped his crown in the mud.
You blasted his home to kingdom come,
reduced his city to a pile of rubble
Picked clean by wayfaring strangers,
a joke to all the neighbors.
You declared a holiday for all his enemies,
and they're celebrating for all they're worth.
Angry, you opposed him in battle,
refused to fight on his side;

What is this? This is not the God that I love and know…is it? What happened to all the stirring encouragement?

I was talking earlier on in the week about insights into Genesis 3, the bit where the curses start. It is the serpent, the devil, who is cursed to crawl on his belly and eat dust all the days of his life. That is not the fate reserved for Adam and Eve. Their may be pain in childbirth for Eve, and hard labour for a reluctant harvest for Adam, but are not cursed to crawl on their bellies and eat dust. And yet, it seems there are times when we feel like we are crawling on our bellies and eating dust!

Reading that second part of the Psalm this morning brought to mind the difficulties a couple of my friends are going through. They feel on the receiving end of God walking off, tearing up his promise, blasting their faith to kingdom come and reducing their lives to a pile of rubble. Obviously they know that God has, in reality, done nothing of those things. Knowing this in your heart is one thing, but sometimes your experience doesn’t match up.

I was surfing last night to see if anyone had come up with an enlightening truth I could pass on. I googled “When the going gets tough” and came up with the lyrics to the song which wasn’t helpful!

A few pages along I came across a psychological study into whether there was a time when it was better for you to give up than to keep on pressing on with something. When the going gets tough, they concluded, sometimes the right thing to do is to give up, but, not give up forever. What they discovered was the best way to persevere in difficult times was to let go for a while, give yourself a break, and then pick up the burden afresh. Giving up altogether on something was not conducive to good mental and physical health, but laying down the burden for a short while, and then picking it up again later was much better.

I don’t know if that applies, or how that applies to issues of faith. Laying down burdens seems to be a spiritual principle. I guess it matters exactly where you lay them down. And which burdens exactly you can lay down. Perhaps the burden that you lay down is not necessarily the same burden you pick up again. The process of laying the burden down before God gives Him a chance to transform it. Or perhaps it is not the nature of the burden that changes at all. The person that laid the burden down is not the same person that picks it up because God has transformed them.

I feel like I have been carrying the burden of my friend’s situations around with me today. My mind has been humming to itself the golden oldie “Cast your burdens on to Jesus for he cares for you.” And I have.

But I wish there were some answers I could give them to break through the darkness that seem to be walking through right now.


Mark H said...

I realise this may sound simplistic, but I've found it to be true many times ...

Those who are clinically depressed are ill and need healing. If the healing isn't instant then we must lovingly and patiently persevere, i.e. never give up.

Those who have lost their focus need to choose to refocus. (e.g. look at the Psalms where David initially laments his circumstances but then chooses to move his focus back onto God.) We can help by keeping in touch and by providing a worshipful atmosphere (I don't mean singing!) and, again, by being patient and persevering - it's not our choice we're waiting for but theirs.

So the first question you need answered for each friend is ... which is it ... illness or lack of focus?

Then, second ... there are no "magic words". Just faithful action, expressing love and "the kingdom of God at hand".

You obviously care a lot for your friends and you have a big heart.

meljkerr said...

It is illness in both cases.

I have been praying for them, which is as close as you get to "magic words" I suppose.

Mark H said...

Thought you might like this ...