What’s Next for You
From Psalm 143
What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
Eli tried doing nothing. He watched his sons, who served alongside him in the Lord’s house at Shiloh, eat things they shouldn't have, tell people things they shouldn't have, and treat people, particularly women, in ways they shouldn't have. Eli offered a mild rebuke in 1 Samuel 2 (vv. 23-25), but at this point, his sons’ ways were set. Their behavior had gone on, unrebuked, for too long, and the opportunity to redirect it had passed.
Sarai tried doing too much. It had been decades since the Lord promised her husband, Abram, that he would have a son (Genesis 12:1-7). Sarai was old, she was barren, she was well past the age of being able to carry a child. So she devised a plan of her own, convincing her husband to sleep with her handmaiden. Abram finally had what God had promised—a son was born, all right, but not without severe, long-lasting consequences.
What do you do when you don’t know what to do—when you’re in distress, when a problem arises, when you’re worried or waiting for a promise? When you’re scared, when you’re troubled, when you feel pursued or crushed or in the dark? When your spirit feels faint and your heart is panicked?
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” (Psalm 143:5-6)
This is what David did. Not nothing. Not too much.
There’s a phrase: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” I think we could say too, “Busy hands are the devil’s workshop.” Both capture what we tend to do in distress. We either sit still, wringing our hands in fear and worry. Or we busy ourselves, distracting our minds from the confusion and our hearts from the pain. Neither solves our problem.
Here’s what David did: “I stretch out my hands to You.” He stretched out his hands, going before the Lord with his fears and worries, with his confusion and plans. “Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul,” he wrote (Psalm 143:8).
That phrase—“to you I lift up my soul”—is one of utter dependence, according to my study Bible’s notes. Maybe we’ll understand it better in another context. Deuteronomy 24:14-15 says, “You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy … you shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it).” The phrase “counts on it” is the same Hebrew expression translated “lift up my soul.”
When you’re in distress, count on the Lord to help you. Don’t let your hands be idle—the devil will walk all over you. Neither let your hands be arbitrarily busy—the devil loves to distract you and watch you drift. Stretch out your hands in utter dependence to the Lord.
Does that sound like you’ll be on your knees, with outstretched hands, in distress forever? Don’t worry. He will direct your steps. He’ll show you what’s next for you to do.
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; He also hears their cry and saves them.” (Psalm 145:18-19)
These are the final words of David in our psalter. He lived these words, experienced these words, walked them out and learned, firsthand, they are true. He wrote them down, ages ago, and the Holy Spirit preserved them so that you, in your distress—right here, right now, today—might know they are true too.
Next weeks' reading: Psalm 147–Proverbs 13–14*
* What's next for me is to take a trip out of the country with my brother (adventure no. 2!), so this reflects the readings for the next two weeks. Looking forward to sharing new pictures with you soon—and maybe a story or two :) In the meantime, happy Bible reading!