My life has been chaotic lately. I have too much on my plate. I struggle to juggle the various responsibilities of life and ministry. I’m just one guy trying to work, maintain a home, and spend time with family and friends, all the while writing, booking flights, answering email, preparing messages, and guiding a changing, growing ministry. It can feel a bit schizophrenic at times! Sometimes in the midst, my relationship with God gets pushed to the perimeter. I am, after all, only human. I begin to wonder if I am really where God wants me to be, or if I have somehow missed the path along the way. Is there something I should be doing differently? Perhaps you can relate.
This morning I read Psalm 121. It has been on my mind for several days now. As a child, I memorized verse one and two in the King James Version. It says this: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2, KJV). As I have been going about my work, those verses kept coming back to me. So this morning, I looked up the Psalm to see what the rest of the passage said. Likely a lesson would be waiting there for me.
Interestingly, the first two verses are the only verses in the Psalm that focus on my needs. The remainder of the Psalm focuses on who God is relative to my needs. Let me share the entire Psalm with you.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalm 121, ESV)
Did you see the shift? The focus turns to who God is. And the main thought the writer gives to us is that God is our keeper. If I were asked to list the main characteristics of God, I’m not sure if I would include “keeper” in the list. I would say he is all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present. But “keeper” probably would not make my list. Yet this word is used six times in this short Psalm. That made me take notice, and I decided to dig a little deeper into the meaning.
The word for “keeper” in the Hebrew has the idea of protection, of guarding, or watching over something. It is used in other passages in regard to a shepherd as a keeper of the sheep. In this way, God is our keeper. He is our shepherd. He watches over us. He guards us. He protects us. He is a keeper of sheep. He is the one who protects the sheep from attack. He guides them to green pastures. He watches over them at night while they are sleeping. He makes sure they have all that they need.
Once I thought about God as a keeper of sheep, my mind went to Psalm 23, a psalm of David. This is what it says:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23, ESV)
We know many things about God. We are taught about him from our youngest days in Sunday School. But often we are disconnected between what we say we know about God, and applying that knowledge to our daily lives.
In North America, we strive for our goals and dreams. We are taught to work hard to achieve success. We may even have noble goals of serving God. It is good to work, but in our working let us remember that ultimately we are where we are because God purposes for us to be there. In those moments when you feel overwhelmed, God is still keeping you. This season of your life is merely a tick of the clock in the grand scale of eternity. It is a single stitch in the fabric of your entire life. Even when you do not realize it, God is always at work around you, keeping you exactly where you need to be. He guards you. He watches over you. He protects you. He guides you. He keeps you.
He keeps me, and that is enough. I can rest in his embrace. Take a deep breath. Let that thought saturate your day. Let his presence cover every moment of your chaotic world. He knows where you are going, and he is guarding you every step of the way. He understands your humanity. He embraces it. He embraces you.
In the midst of our busy lives, often it is difficult to look up from our needs to see our Keeper. The tendency is to focus on our needs instead of focusing on who God is. Wherever this finds you today, rest in the assurance that God is keeping you. He is guarding your way. He is watching over you. He sits by your bed at night, and watches you as you sleep. He is protecting you. He knows exactly where you are and where you are going.
My days are still full to the brim. I still feel pulled in ten different directions at the same time! But in the midst of the chaos, I am reminded that God is the God who keeps us. Rest in that comfort today.
This article was originally published in the April 2016 Newsletter.