“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10Those who know Your name trust in You,
for You, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek You.
12For He who avenges blood remembers;
He does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.”
—Psalm 9:9-10, 12
This is a powerful and comforting Psalm of David. Many of us have taken solace in words such as these, only to wince when our particular crisis makes it look like we’re excluded from the same help. Would God really pick and choose?
David was a man of extraordinary trust in the Lord. He purposed to make the fact that God was good the starting line for that relationship. As in an athletic race, a starting line defines the race itself, setting perimeters of time and distance. David’s eyes, like a Marathon runner, were focused on the distance to the finish line, anticipating there could be extreme challenges along the way. But those challenges did not define the race. It was David’s proclamation of God as his refuge, stronghold, and avenger that set those particular perimeters. The truth of God’s nature was the solid Rock he stood upon, and he therefore saw God’s intervention on his behalf. If instead, David had doubted God’s goodness and set his starting line on his own capabilities, the outcome of his personal limitations combined with the trials of the race could have been devastating – nothing praiseworthy – and certainly no testimony for the next race.
What we believe of God is the starting line that defines the way our challenges and hardships will go (it is worth noting we choose that, not God). If we believe that God is good and works all things together for our good, even in the direst situation, we will see Him gloriously at work. The converse is also unfortunately true – not that God abandons us — but that we feel alone through not having invited His presence. Therefore, we don’t recognize His faithfulness when He saves and delivers. Given no spiritual awareness, it’s all just happenstance. And if it’s happenstance, then we have no personal testimony of God’s goodness, and no faith for receiving His help in future situations.
Scripture is our greatest resource for learning the truth of God’s character. It is a rich and deep well, fed by the renewing spring waters of Holy Spirit. If we make the truth of the Word of God our starting line, then our life-race is defined by the fear of the Lord which encompasses God’s holiness, His resurrection power, and His tender love and mercy that offers forgiveness permitting relationship. Each of these areas is so expansive that we will never thoroughly explore their vastness in our lifetimes. But that pursuit enables us to approach the position of “no fear” displayed by Paul in his life and ministry. Regardless of the many hardships he endured, Paul operated in the truth David lived and described in the above Psalm.
So may we be like Paul in setting our starting line: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:10-11, 13-14)