When You Stumble (My journey through Psalm 120-121)
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?
What a stupid question, one may respond. Of course, it makes a sound! Just because no one is there to witness it, doesn’t negate the laws of nature–if you go 90 miles an hour on the freeway and there are no cops, you were still breaking the law. You deserve a ticket.
We don’t get what we deserve, thank you, Jesus. Which is why we can call on the Lord and he will answer us. By rights, much of the distress we experience is the result of sin–ours or another’s–which is a result of stepping outside of God’s good and perfect will. Just because your sin is hidden, it doesn’t make you perfectly deserving of all good things. We get good things because of God’s blessings and forgiveness, but the tree still fell. It still made a noise. It reverberated throughout history.
Thankfully though we can lift our eyes to the hills the only place our help can come from, the Lord (121:1-2, paraphrased). And because of his graciousness, he can turn that fallen tree into something really beautiful.
I had an interesting conversation with my sister last night about the paradox of God’s protection and pre-ordained will. One conclusion that we both drew was that God does not allow evil in the world. We allowed evil in the world when we made our choice to be like God and eat the forbidden fruit–and we have all made this choice at one point or another in our lives. Quit blaming Eve. Despite the fact that God does not pre-ordain this evil, he still manages to use it for his greater good. We talked about a number of different historical examples of God working out the good through the horrific evils of the world, but I have also seen this work out in my own life. As much as I would like to be, I am not perfect and I will beat myself up when I make a mistake. For days, weeks sometimes. Especially if that mistake affects others. But even so, I look back and realize that the mistakes humanized me and as a result, I was able to have an influence in a place I normally wouldn’t have.
That’s what I think these psalms are getting at. 121:3 states that He will not let our foot slip.
Well, that feels untrue sometimes because I know I slip up. But what I get out of this (whether it is what we are supposed to or not, I am unsure, but I hold onto the holy spirit speaking into my soul when I am writing and studying scripture), what I feel in my heart is that God doesn’t keep us from the consequences of our sin–our slip ups–but he can work it to our own good. A promise from Romans 8:28.
Therefore even as our foot slips, God is there, watching, catching, redirecting and loving us even in the hot messes.
If we will let him.