I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from?My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121
I have recently found myself thinking a lot about self-sufficiency vs dependence on God. I have always found the concept of relying on God to be a difficult one. I have little patience in life for those who complain about their situation but make no effort to change it and while I am not particularly ambitious or driven I have always attempted to ‘sort stuff out’ as best I can.
I have often wondered if my ‘fix it’ attitude has served to limit the provision of God in my life. In this prayer, the second in the Songs of Ascent, (Psalms 120 – 134) the psalmist contrasts our natural source of protection and strength with help from God.
It’s likely the mountains represented a variety of things to the writer, and to those praying and singing these words en route to Jerusalem. Pagan temples and places of worship sat astride mountains, fortifications and strongholds also. Bandits hid there. Lets face it, on their own with no help from anyone mountains are awe-inspiring, terrifying places.
This Psalm is primarily a song of encouragement and faith that God does indeed help, that we can be certain of his provision and protection, that the one mistake we can make is to believe otherwise. (Eugene Peterson makes this point well in the brilliant A Long Obedience in the Same Direction) I however find the application of this in life (while breathing) quite difficult. I ask myself questions such as, should I not act to sort things out? Should I be waiting for Gods ‘other and better’ solution to problems rather than moving swiftly to resolve?
Does God only appear when we are at the end of our rope, at the end of our natural ability to look after ourselves? If so, am I blessed to be incompetent or is my attitude the deciding factor?
Two thoughts come to mind.
- God is acting on our behalf whether we know it or not. Our very breath is from him. All is gift, nothing is ultimately created by me. Perhaps we are to recognise the help (action) of God rather than to receive it. Maybe Gods action is not dependent on either our attitude or need but rather our reception of His help is dependent on having ears to hear and eyes to see what it is that He is doing.
- We are taught by Jesus to petition God for our daily needs, not just those that we cannot (in practical terms) sort out for ourselves. There is a dailiness to our need of God. If we find ourselves separate from God waiting for His help there is something wrong with the situation. Understanding that God is often hidden He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Our waiting for help from God must somehow also be a waiting for God in the presence of God
If you want to approach these thoughts from a different angle have a look at this short post about work.
For completion here’s the rest of Psalm 121 don’t forget to remember God will help.
He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you, the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore.
Image by Mike Baird used under license