“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth … The Lord is your keeper.”
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” Psalm 61
There’s something about seeing the beauty of a majestic mountain range that calms our souls — just the image somehow brings our spirits closer to God. At least it does for me. I remember seeing the mountain range of the Rockies and being right by the Continental Divide — it’s an incomparable overwhelming experience. Last week we looked at Psalm 3, where David was lamenting over his son Absalom’s rebellion against him. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if this had been the extent of David’s troubles and persecutions? However, when we look at David’s life over time, we know that he experienced ongoing persecutions, betrayal, captivity, and deep despair. In Psalm 61, when he penned the verse, “lead me to the Rock that is higher than I“, he demonstrates once again that God was His safe place. He says, “… for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against my enemy.” The Bible tells us that David often hid in caves in the mountains, so he had a literal place to go. And he had learned through experience the one place – the first place – the spiritual place he needed to go for help. He continually voices this description of God as being his refuge, his place of asylum, giving protection and security. He knew where to run. And he ran there over and over, time after time.
Later, in the 2nd psalm of ascent, Psalm 121, the writer voices a similar reference to God being his source of help when he says, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord.” These particular songs were sung by exiles returning to Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity. These are pilgrim songs … and aren’t we all pilgrims on this journey? It’s not surprising that the first of these songs begins with a distress call — I would imagine these people were feeling pretty distressed and discouraged. But God lovingly led them along, gathered them back to Him, moving them up, as they lifted their eyes to Him. Beth Moore says in her study of the Ascent psalms entitled Stepping Up, “… imagine the pilgrim — he looks at the hills in the distance, wondering and probably even fearing what might be on the other side. He anticipates the long, arduous journey ahead and like all of us, wishes he could arrive the blink of an eye rather than feel the effects of life on the road.” He was having a “woe to me moment”. She goes on to say, “Sometimes we need a “woe to me” moment with God concerning some difficult environments we’re enduring. Addressing those circumstances and personalities that surround us as we’re trying to keep our spiritual act together. Bringing our complaint before God is more effective than dumping it on other people.”
So what can we learn from David’s life and the pilgrim psalmist about how to handle our troubles, especially the ones that seem to last a lot longer than we anticipated? As humans, it’s hard to keep our troubles to ourselves – to deal with them ourselves. Because we’re just so … human! Especially if it involves what we think is an unfair or unjust situation, or a wounding of some sort. We want people to help us, to feel sorry for us, to know what we’re going through, to know what so-and-so did to us, said to us, or about us. And there are times that it is appropriate for us to go to our friends and leaders, but not before going first to our God. And pardon my boldness, but my boys have often heard me say this, “sometimes we just have to suck it up” and be strong on our own, in the Lord:) You see, we were never meant to be emotionally deficient, but from day one in Eden, the enemy found a way to drive a wedge between us and the One who can meet all our needs. Just as he deluded Eve, he still uses delusion as a means of creating a false sense of “crisis” of sorts. And if we miss this step of going to God first, a cycle of becoming dependent on others for emotional security can begin, and as other well-meaning friends enable this process along the way, all the while trying to be a help, they become instead a hindrance — keeping the person from really dealing with the deep emotional need that only God can fix. I’m no psychologist, but I’ve seen the difference of outcomes when I go first to other people for help, and when I go first to God for help. I know He sees, He knows, He cares, and He will act, because I trust He has my best interests in mind. As the psalmist says so simply, yet beautifully, I have truly learned that “… the Lord is my keeper.” When trouble comes, we lift our eyes to the mountains, and we run to the Rock that is higher than I!” And we keep moving on up the mountain:)