I mentioned last week that I recently taught at a women’s Bible study on Psalm 121. I sign up for such things because deadlines motivate me. Without the pressure of preparing a talk, I would not study in the same way, and yet I am jazzed by the process of preparing. I love going to my church library and pouring over commentary, of unearthing ideas I’ve never heard before. I especially love finding centuries-old quotes that capture a nuance in a way we just wouldn’t see today. Language evolves and the manner of speaking evolves, but the truth does not.
My favorite quote from my Psalm 121 research is from Thomas Fuller: “In thy agony of troubled conscience always look upwards unto a gracious God to keep thy soul steady; for looking downward on thyself thou shalt find nothing but what will increase thy fear, infinite sins, good deeds few, and imperfect: it is not thy faith, but God’s faithfulness thou must rely upon.” Fuller lived in the early 1600’s, more than a century before the founding of the United States. It amazes me that Fuller was counseling against self-absorbtion in the most perfectly succinct way four hundred years ago.
You want to live a steady life? Always look up to a gracious God. What’s navel gazing going to do for you? Increase your fear, remind you of your infinite sins and your pitifully few good deeds, which are imperfect. You can’t rely on your faith. You must rely on God’s faithfulness. My paraphrase just doesn’t compare, but who doesn’t want to keep their soul steady?
The COVID restrictions of the last year have been particularly unsteadying. Many, in all demographics, have been harmed emotionally. The light appears to be at the end of the tunnel, normalcy is returning. But the impact will be felt for a long, long time. Even a definitive “all clear” won’t heal many of our wounds. Perhaps, more than ever, we can commit to helping each other by not letting those we love isolate and navel gaze. Can you have lunch with someone, or go for a walk, and encourage them to “always look upward unto a gracious God”?
May we spur one another on this week by reminding each other where to fix our gaze.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV)
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
P.S. I had a sweet interaction this week with someone I used to see pretty often, but haven’t seen in a while. She told me about how her cat has gotten super fat. Her words were hilarious, her expressions adorable. When is the last time you’ve had a few good laughs with your favorite five-year-old? Let’s not fail to recognize the cost of isolation. Life is richer for the organic social interactions that happen when we do not treat each other like vectors of death.