She had seemed so nice. She was always so warm and friendly and she asked such great questions, drawing out unguarded thoughts. But as I watched her turn on her mother and then family and then husband, I knew it was only a matter of time before she turned on me, her pastor.
And then it happened. Secret conversations. Accusations. She gathered allies against me, just as she had against each of her previous targets.
It didn’t last terribly long — people always caught on to her manipulations eventually — but it was painful while it lasted, just as it had been to each person before me (and presumably for each person targeted after me). And prayer became the doorway into the refuge that is our God.
There always have been and always will be people who define their lives by their tragedies or their enemies. They exteriorize the turmoil inside themselves, preferring to place the blame for what’s wrong with their lives on exterior causes instead of their rotten hearts.
They’re living Taylor Swift songs. “Look what you made me do.” All finger-pointing and no self-reflective responsibility.
David and other psalmists deal with their ilk throughout the Psalter. Their weapon of choice is generally word-based, masked by smiles and twisted by lies.
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse (Ps. 62:4).
They are relentless, attacking their targets with verbal battering rams until they teeter, totter, and topple.
How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down —
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place (Ps. 62:3-4).
Self-defense is our basic response to such attacks. If they’ve rallied allies against us, we’ll rally our own. If they’ve attacked with words, we’ll defend and counter-attack with words of our own. Eye for eye. Tooth for tooth. Slander for slander. Manipulation for manipulation. It’s typical. But it doesn’t work. It merely escalates.
Psalm 62 is David’s prayed response, a response that turns his words toward God instead of toward his poison-tongued attackers.
David begins the psalm with a chorus which he repeats in verses 5-6 with minor variation:
Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken (Ps. 62:1-2).
Those beautiful first words alone — “Truly my soul finds rest in God” — help me slow my breath down and unclench my teeth. My shoulders loosen and I sigh. God is here. I can rest.
There is no rest in strategizing my response to attackers. In God, though, there is real rest, true rest.
Unlike my leaning wall, tottering fence self, God is a mighty rock. Where I break and give way under enemy battering rams, the ram itself is broken when banging against God’s solid granite refuge.
Self-protection is no protection. God’s protection is rest-inducing in its true security.
David looks around him and he sees that everyone else is in the same boat as he is. Those who are poor and powerless know that there’s not much to them. And those who posture and preen pretend there’s something to them, but it’s just a fancy lie. Working the system to gain wealth or power or celebrity ends up just as empty as anything else. We humans simply have no substance when stood next to God.
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them (Ps. 62:9-10).
This is significant for me. Because I keep letting myself be bullied by posers. I keep thinking they’re something when they’re not. They’re campfire smoke that makes me choke and cough for a moment but is blown away on the breeze soon after.
That was the case of my tormentor. She banged a lot of pots together, making a lot of noise. But I haven’t heard that din for years now.
So, David hones in on two lasting things we know about God which determine everything.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, LORD, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done” (Ps. 62:11-12).
This first has to do with God saving us. God (elohim, the generic word for God, generally associated with his power as the Creator) is powerful. The LORD (Yahweh, the covenant name for the God of Israel, generally associated with his love and loyalty toward his people) is unfailing in his love. The powerful God “up there” in the heavens is the same loving God “down here” in our situations on earth. He isn’t powerful while not being tied to us in love, which would make him a divine tyrant. And he isn’t nice and loving but powerless to do anything like a divine teddy bear. His power is controlled by his love and therefore set to help us, not harm us. And his love is fortified by his power, actually able to do the loving things he longs to do for us. All that to say, he’s trustworthy. That is why, earlier in the psalm, David makes this general call:
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge (Ps. 62:8).
We can pour out our hearts to him, because he loves us. We can find refuge in him, because he’s powerful. We can trust him at all times, because his love makes him willing and his power makes him able to help us.
The second thing David has heard from God doesn’t have to do with us so much as it has to do with those who do evil in the world, those who batter against us tottering fences: God will deal with them justly.
The power and love of God for us gets the first word. The justice of God gets the last word.
Those who do evil will be stopped in their tracks and will be prevented from ever doing it again. This promise of God is repeated throughout the Scriptures, from beginning to end. How will he do it? That’s almost never the point. The point is this: By giving evildoers what they’ve got coming, God is creating space for the abused to live whole and happy lives, free from abuse.
This is how the soul finds rest: By trusting in God — not in self or in those posing as powerful — to act lovingly and powerfully on our behalf while dealing definitively with those who deal abuse on us.
God is on our side. Rescue is on its way. The villains will be dealt with. That promised better day is almost here. Wait and trust a bit longer. Slow your breath down. Rest.