The first casualties of upheaval can be love, kindness, and patience. But crisis is also a moment when love for God & one another can spring up. For 150 days, starting on 17th March 2020, I will write 300 words based on one of the 150 psalms in the bible. How can I find and give love in the midst of coronavirus?
I grew up reading stories about WW2. They were often slightly biased in that British soldiers always seemed far cleverer than German or Japanese soldiers. The little German I know comes from these books too: “Achtung! Hande Hoch! Donner und blitzen!” etc. etc.
The type of stories that I really liked, and come back to often, is the prison stories – particularly when someone escapes. I still read them now (I’m currently in “Man’s search for meaning” by Victor Frankl – I recommend it very highly). Perhaps my favourite was “The Wooden Horse” – the true story of 3 British prisoners who tunnelled their way out of a German prison camp and managed to get back to Britain. Wonderful story. But one problem – I hate enclosed spaces. The idea of digging a tunnel for months, knowing that it could collapse at any moment, terrifies me.
And so the words in our psalm today ring especially true for me:
5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. 6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
That moment – I was hard pressed, I cried to God, and he brought me into a spacious place. It feels like the freedom of being trapped underground, crying for help – and suddenly finding the way out.
This experience is one that I recognise from my own life with God. There have been a few moments in the 30 years I have been a Christian when I have felt trapped, truly trapped. Pressed from every side. What to do? Cry out to God! And then, perhaps not immediately, I see some light in the darkness, God has opened up a way, and I have come into a spacious place.
This is our God. And as you read on in Psalm 118 (it is very good) this theme continues – and finds its climax in the final verses. Because this psalm is quoted extensively in the New Testament with reference to Jesus, the Messiah.
Israel was hard-pressed on every side – for centuries – by the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Amalekites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans – and again & again by their own sin and rebellion. But, and it’s a big but. God had promised that through the Messiah, he would deliver them and bring them into a spacious place:
19 Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes. 24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. 25 Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. 27 The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
God comes when we are hard pressed on every side, and brings us into a spacious place. Cry out to him today.