The Second Sunday of Lent
by Marjorie George
This past week, we have seen that psalms of lament begin with a cry of despair and move to an expression of trust in an ever-faithful God who will rescue the psalmist from his predicament.
The theme of trust runs throughout the psalms as the Hebrews leverage their position as God’s Chosen People and call on God to stand by his character of mercy. But in even more psalms, trust is the central topic, and these are the psalms we love to recite.
“I lift my eyes to the hills;
from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.” (121:1-2)
“Those who know your Name will put their trust in you,
For you never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.” (9:10)
“I put my trust in your mercy,
my heart is joyful because of your saving help.” (13:5)
The well-loved 23rd Psalm exudes trust in God as the devoted shepherd, in whose house the faithful will dwell safely forever.
While the Hebrews held fast to the belief that for the righteous “no harm shall come to you,” Christians are more attuned to the trusting presence of God even when harm does claim a place in our lives. Bad things do happen to good people; even so, we hold to the promise that God will never forsake us.
The Apostle Paul puts it exquisitely in his Letter to the Romans:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:35, 38-39).
“I am with you always,” said Christ (Matt 28:20). And we can trust that.
Below, the Rev. Paul Frey, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Laredo TX, offers a reflection on his experience of trusting God.
Trials, Tests, and Trust
by the Rev. Paul Frey
Psalm 56:1, 3: “Have mercy on me, O God, for my enemies are hounding me; all day long they assault and oppress me. Whenever I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.”
I can still remember taking the SAT test back in the dark ages of high school. It was 1971, and I was a junior at the Colegio Americano de Guatemala. On the morning of the test, I was so anxious that I was close to throwing up.
By then I knew that tests were an inevitable part of school life. But I didn’t yet realize that life itself is often a test. Not a test with a grade, but a type of spiritual resistance training.
Teachers test us to see how much we’ve learned. But God is all knowing. God already knows how much I have learned. So I realize that the tests of life are not for God to find out something about me he doesn’t know, but for me to discover something that I have either learned or still need to learn.
There have been tests in my life that have shown me things about myself that I did not know. Sometimes I have discovered hidden strengths and virtues. Sometimes I have discovered hidden flaws and sin.
As Christians, we face times of uncertainty. We face family illness, conflict, and death. We face sometimes impossible and intractable difficulties.
God is teaching us to trust. There is an old saying from some of the recovery groups: “Let go and let God.” There are many things beyond my control no matter how much I worry, no matter how much I fear. To trust is to place those situations in God’s hands by offering them to God in prayer.
As I write, a friend is dying of inoperable cancer. He is not old, and it seems terribly unfair. He and all who love him can do nothing but pray and put their trust in God.
In Ireland in about 1850, Joseph Scriven’s fiancé drowned the night before their marriage. Heartbroken, he moved to Canada. A few years later he was engaged again, and the young woman caught pneumonia and passed away. He wrote a poem, Pray Without Ceasing that eventually came to be known as the hymn What a friend we have in Jesus.
I did not like the hymn when I was younger, but I have come to appreciate it as I get older. “Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.”
May it be so.
1. Remember a time when you trusted in God and he proved faithful. Tell that story to a friend this week.
2.What is one thing with which you are having difficulty trusting God? Write it on a scrap of paper and put the paper in a drawer for one day. For that day, every time the problem situation comes to mind, remind yourself you have put it in a drawer and God is attending to it. See how you feel at the end of the day. Do it again the next day.
Notes on the Psalms
Within the psalms of trust is a sub-category of “wisdom psalms.” Israel’s sages taught that wisdom does not come just from observing human conduct or through rational reflection on the teachings handed down from others. Rather, the Hebrews taught that the foundation for wisdom is faith in God. Beginning at the point of faith, stories were passed down through the generations so that the people would learn from the past, know how to live in the present, and prepare for the future. Thus “The fear of (faith in) the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).