Week of March 29

“Personal Repentance During a Global Crisis”

Read: Judges 4-5; Psalm 39, 41; 1 Corinthians 13

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you."
Psalm 39:7, ESV


“God cannot fix who is first not broken” (Jack Wellman). Perhaps it is my recent accident or the global crisis, or both, but the word “broken” touches me to the depths of my soul today. Many of us have been racing to accomplish our self-made agendas, and we realize now that God has said, “Enough.” Friends, if He is talking to you in this way, as painful as it may be, please listen and respond. The psalmist knew this feeling, and he turned to God in his need (Psalm 39). Let’s look today for ways to respond to a personal crisis in our lives.

A Biblical Lens

What goes through you mind when you grow silent? The psalmist began to meditate upon the transitory nature of his life and its distress. He had come to recognize—pay close attention here—God’s signal that he was out of touch with the Father. The result was a decision no longer to live trusting in his health and his possessions. Wow! We all may become especially aware of God’s whisper during this time of “sheltering in place” and the ensuing silence. There are steps to restoration that will help us when God speaks to us about our waywardness.

First, we need to relinquish the iron grip we have on our lives and cry out to God (39:1-6). The psalmist was miserable because he had resolved not to say anything to God about his suffering; especially in front of those who were wicked! (39:1-3). He said nothing to anyone—not even good things. He had effectively muzzled his lips because he was afraid that he might say the wrong thing! So, for God’s sake, he vowed to remain silent, which only poured hot coals onto the fire that raged within his being (39:3). There came a point where he was unable to contain himself any longer, and he made the most important decision that he could make. He cried out to God (39:3, “I spoke”)!

Secondly, we need to confess openly our frailty and finitude (39:4-5), and we also need to admit that we trust too much in earthly riches (39:6). One commentator writes, “The purpose of knowing life’s end is not that he may plan for every day of his life” (EBC). Oh. My. Goodness. We all may be saying, “That’s me!” In nautical language, he changes tack and seeks for the fresh wind of the Father to guide his life journey! We may find ourselves seeking a fresh wind from heaven in these days. So, here is what we may do.

Thirdly, we need to repent and return to God (39:7-11). There may well come that “moment of meaning” where we realize that we are estranged from the very One who needs to rescue us. The psalmist determines that nothing in this earthly life will bring security, so he reaches out for eternal security in God (39:7). So, he cries out, “save me!” His hope is revived immediately! He has been comparing himself to his own moral image in the mirror, which led to all his troubles. Now, he seeks to understand himself by looking to the way God sees him. We may do the same thing!

Finally, we need to wait for God to heal and deliver us (39:12-13). He cries out to God, His Father (“Yahweh,” cf. N.T. “Abba”). There is that moment of pause before God answers. We are presently on pause, aren’t we? We have been locked out of our houses of worship for other reasons, but the point is the same. Gladly, he knows that he is God’s child, and he will be allowed eventually to return (cf. 23:6). So, he prays for God to remove the judgment that hangs over his life in full expectation of God’s coming deliverance. Friends, we are not there yet, but we are on the way home! Stand firm in your hope.

A Moral Pathway

The U.K.’s Prince Charles has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The illness knows no boundaries and infects both paupers and princes. Sin knows no boundaries either. Like this current virus, there are no natural defenses against its spread. Following the fall into sin all of humankind has been infected (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23). A man died tragically of COVID-19 because he had tried a home cure! Believe God when He says that there is no effective “home remedy” for sin except the one that He has provided in His Son (Ephesians 2:8-9). Global and national economies also are in shambles. People have flooded to overflowing the access points for unemployment in our state. Jesus taught his disciples centuries ago not to trust in possessions or riches (Matthew 6:19-24). So, what do we make of the current moral madness that is COVID-19? I write on such topics elsewhere (Pathway Ethics). Today, however, I believe that the more pressing question to examine in light of Psalm 39 is: “What am I to do with my personal willfulness and spiritual obstinacy that has surfaced as I 'shelter in place?'”

I recall many times as a child finding an old stick on the ground that I would pick up and carry with me on a walk. I would drag it across the ground to hear the sound it made, poke things with it, and even strike it against a tree or the concrete sidewalk as I walked. Concrete! I likened to a friend my recent trip and tumble as a 64-year-old old stick that God picked up and used to strike the concrete! My physical fall and injury has reminded me of my spiritual “fall into sin,” and the measures that God took in my 7-year-old life to call me to Christ. It also reminds me of the measures that he takes presently in my life to discipline me and cause me to consider my daily response to His will (Hebrews 13:1-12; Romans 12:1-2).

I am certainly not a stick to God, nor are you, but I definitely do not want my attitudes and actions to be a “stick” in God’s "eye.” So, I choose to use this time to shelter under the wing of the Almighty and allow Him to provide me with soul care. How about you? George Mueller once said, “There was a day when I died; died to self, my opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren or friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.” Paul knew the same! (Galatians 2:20). Let’s use this silence around us to hear the whisper of God given to us. He is ready to heal us and our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

For Your Journaling

1. This “shelter-at-home” time during COVID-19 will allow you much more “God time.” Decide to listen. Use this psalm as a guide.

2. Pen down the ways that you have tried to remove the “transitory” label from your existence. It will show up in the myriad ways that you have taken control of your life (cf. Mueller above). Voice your repentance to God.

3. Step 1 is to stand still! Wait for His presence to flood your life.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock