Three young people were playing a game of catch in the center of their town. It was a gathering place for youth. A place where the young people might find some fun and joy in a very scary life. You see, these young people live in Novi Grad, Bosnia. A war-torn, divided country and town. They have seen more death in their short years than most of us will ever see in a life-time.
In their distress, they walked a tightrope of danger that would end in tragedy. These youth weren’t playing catch with a leather ball. They weren’t tossing a rag-ball made of plastic grocery bags. They weren’t playing catch with a grapefruit or cantaloupe. These three young people were tossing a grenade to one another. A left-over reminder of the death and destruction that they had seen and experienced for many years. They were so accustomed to the sight of destructive weapons that maim and kill that it had become a toy. And in the end, the grenade exploded killing all three young people. [Reuters]
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are on a journey this side of heaven into God’s presence. Those steps, however, can be filled with distress as we walk along jagged paths of despair and danger toward the best life in the embrace of Christ. Today, God uses the pen of the psalmist to help us discover the adventure of abundant living in the tight place of distress.
“In my distress I cried to the Lord, And He heard me.” (Psalm 120:1, NKJV)
1. Followers of Christ face distressing times
On our journey to the summit, distress can come in varied forms. Here, the psalmist complains to God that people had rejected him. They were speaking lies and deceit. What a painful situation of distress we find when people speak words of deceit and slander about us.
Why would someone speak lies about us on our journey? Well, for the psalmist, the answer is simple. He was an alien in the land he had made his home. He was in exile from the land of promise. His citizenship was neither Meschech or Kedar. He belonged to the kingdom and family of God. He struggled for he was merely a pilgrim passing through this foreign land.
We are travelers moving through this time and place to eternity in the Kingdom of God. It is painful sometimes to live on this side of eternity. The psalmist said, “Woe is me!” He longed to be home once again. To be in the sanctuary of the Lord. To walk in the presence of his family and kinsmen. To be any other place is painful.
2. Transformed focus
Distress is transformed into delight when our focus is altered. Jesus sets the example for us. He was about to travel through the tightest spot on His pilgrimage to His Father’s glory. The Cross! He spent His time immediately before His arrest in the eternal struggle of prayer. He didn’t focus on the distress. He cried out to the Father.
The psalmist found himself in that tight place while he traveled on his journey to the summit. At each troubling juncture of his journey, he cried out and the Lord answered him.
Our goal is to honor God with our lives and prepare for the glory of His presence as we journey toward our home in heaven. To experience abundant life during the journey, we must set our focus on God. Prayer is one of the key elements to keep our vision straight. We must cry out to God rather than merely cry about our problems. It’s a matter of focus.
3. Transformed troubles
Today, our distress can be transformed to delight when we focus on God. Even though the psalmist had no sword in his hand to defend against the distress, God is His warrior. God stands between the accusing attackers and His people. God is our Warrior who defends us and protects us on our journey to the summit of His presence.
So, we must set our focus on Him, finding the delight of His compassionate care and powerful provision in times of distress. We find delight when we focus on God because He is our Defender, Protector, and Savior. He is the One from whom we find the help that we need today and every day as pilgrims on a journey to His Presence.
Lord Jesus, I cry out to You, asking You to transform my distress into delight. I pray that You would be my Warrior today when I am defenseless. I pray that You would lead me joyfully one step closer to the summit of Your presence on this journey You’ve given me to take.