My Times Are in Your Hand, Psalm 31:9-16
The psalmist is crying his eyes out. His soul and body are exhausted, and his whole life seems to be a dark cloud. His enemies, friends, and neighbors seem to have bonded in their opposition to him. Distress and depression this deep has a color to it-a deep blue gray that envelopes his entire life.
Yet this description of his current state of mind and heart is being poured out to God. The psalmist has just enough emotional energy left to ask God for a bit of grace. In fact, there is grace in the verbal regurgitation. The thought that the words have somewhere to go is a bit of grace. The hope that the words might be received at that place is a moment of relief, but the heavy darkness of mind and soul remains.
This state of being is not unknown in our time. This state of being is not unknown in the Church, and can be found in both pew and pulpit. Lent is supposed to be a season in the life of the Church that gives voice to such emotions. But, it can also be a time that seems to mock the distress, as those who do not suffer from it try to imagine it as the last days in the life of Christ are remembered and honored.
Another small burst of energy has the psalmist whisper, “But I trust in you, O Lord.” (v 14) Then comes verse 15 with its poetic turn on the word “hand.” “My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.”
Specific suggestions to God, in prayer, about how you or your loved one might be delivered, have emptied you of words. There are no more. There is some faith left, but little emotional strength and no words. At that point, we put our plight in God’s hands. “God, you love my loved one more than I do. I turn him/her over to you. God, you love me beyond description and reason. I turn what’s left of me over to you. I’ve told you how I want this problem to be solved. Now I simply give it to you.” You know this prayer. It’s often prayed in the depth of the night when you can’t sleep. The psalmist prayed a version of it in verse 15. We are not alone in this.
The One to whom we pray never sleeps. The Lord’s face will shine when nothing else will. “Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” These words of verse 16 constitute a prayer that will put you to sleep.
The night starts to break out in stars. The clouds move out under cover of darkness, and God’s steadfast love brings calm and peace. The problems still exist, but they are confined to the day and grasp of God’s hand. You still care and you still pray, but now under blue skies and renewed sunshine. This is deliverance and peace. This is real faith at work in real life. This is real light shining in real darkness. Enemies and persecutors, adversaries and acquaintances have to take their case to God.
“My times are in your hand” is a wonderful prayer, especially when you’ve had some hard times. See how the blue lightens in to clear skies and hope that stretches from horizon to horizon. That almost makes the darkness worth it.
I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
A word about the series
The Lenten season has always inspired many people to create everything from poems, art and music to a completely new direction in their lives. This Lenten season Tabernacle will be exploring many of those creations in the hope of inspiring you to compose in a medium that is natural for you. The paintings in the Sanctuary are of the Biblical Stations of the Cross. The artist, Grieg Leach, completed them in 2010. They will help us to visualize the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. In addition to the paintings there is a Lenten devotional booklet, Return to Me, which is available in print or online. The Stations of the Cross also inspired these devotions, written by Terry York of Baylor University. Living with these two bodies of artistic expression based on the Biblical Stations of the Cross throughout the season of Lent should help us as we seek to return our lives to God by walking with Jesus though his final days.
Pray, read, think and return to God.
All scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible.
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