When life gets hostile

There’s something delicious in mocking or frustrating authority. Most of our sit-coms are based on it. Dre in Black-ish is constantly being foiled by his family and by his circumstances. Michael Scott in The Office is continually lampooning himself by his thoughtless comments and decisions.

When my family plays games together, I’m generally the agreed upon opponent. “Don’t let Papa win” is the family’s rallying cry. And when a game draws near the end and I’m not winning, the gloating begins.

Personally, I enjoy the challenge. But that’s because the stakes are low: just a little pride. But there are times when people gang up and taunt and it feels like the end of the world. Middle school is probably the worst place on the planet for this, but it happens elsewhere as well. In families, in workplaces, in churches, in politics, on sports teams, and a thousand other places, we can find ourselves allied against in small and large ways.

We don’t like the idea of having enemies, but hostility abounds.

Psalm 70 is one of a bunch of David psalms that pray out of being ganged up on. Like many other psalms, the beginning and end are intentionally similar, bookending the psalm with an intro and a conclusion that echo each other.

Make haste, O God, to deliver me!
    O LORD, make haste to help me! (Ps. 70:1)

But I am poor and needy;
    hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
    O LORD, do not delay! (Ps. 70:5)

Make haste, O God/hasten to me, O God; deliver me/my deliverer; help me/you are my help; O LORD/O LORD. Much of what is in v. 1 is repeated in v. 5. The one exception is the psalmist’s quick glance in the mirror in v. 5: “But I am poor and needy.” What he needs from God is the same at the end of the prayer as when he began to pray: He needs God’s deliverance and he needs it now.

Other than praying for himself in the first and final verses, David prays for two sets of people in the psalm.

The first group are those who seek his life. The second group are those who seek the Lord.

The first group desires his ruin. The second group desires God’s saving help.

The first group will be turned back in disgrace, shame, and confusion. The second group will rejoice and be glad in God.

The first group says mockingly, “Aha! Aha!” The second group says worshipfully, “God is great!”

Let them be put to shame and confusion
    who seek my life!
Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
Let them turn back because of their shame
    who say, “Aha, Aha!”

May all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you!
May those who love your salvation
    say evermore, “God is great!” (Ps. 70:2-4)

Let. Let. Let. May. May. Five rapid-fire requests. Three against the mocking adversaries; two in support of the worshiping allies.

We don’t do this alone. Not only is God with us as our helper, so too are the people of God. We suffer among a community of faithful sufferers.

In a culture where depression and suicide are on the rise as a result of our obsession with social media and our loss of a sense of humor over social and political issues, we need to know we’re not alone. We’re not isolated viewers and readers of what other people post. We’re a part of a sprawling web of people connected to one another by being connected to our Lord.

In my suffering, I reach out and pray for my brothers and sisters in their suffering, hoping and knowing they are doing the same for me. If they can find joy in our Lord, proclaiming his greatness, it’s because he’s saved them. And if he’s answered my prayers for their rescue, he just might answer their prayers for mine.

These shared prayers are one of the greatest losses with my mother’s death. As long as she lived, I knew I was being prayed for not just once a day, but many times. They covered me like the flakes of snow that accumulate and cover my home in the winter.

These prayers and testimonies of God’s greatness in saving are much quieter than the mocking voices and posts of those who accost us. But they are more persistent and, yes, more powerful. And though I look at myself and see only my poverty and need, these prayers and testimonies tell a different story.

God is in fact my help and my deliverer. He will not delay.