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Humbling and Exalting (Psalm 25)

The troubles of my heart have enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses!

-Psalm 25:17

Soon after we have been born again by the regenerating love of the Holy Spirit, we find that we have an enemy. Suddenly, we are in the midst of intentional, deliberate, unseen attacks, demonic tactics aimed at undermining our faith. 

The reality of spiritual warfare can be enough to bring us to our wits’ end. You may have found yourself crying out like David, “The troubles of my heart have enlarged; bring me out of my distresses!” At times, we face trials that last longer than expected. Meanwhile, the enemy whispers lies against the love of God and against our fellowship with others. He wants to keep our eyes on our circumstances, so that we lose hope, lose heart, and shrink back from God altogether. 

Joseph was sold by his brothers, a trial that is hard enough in itself. But next he finds himself sold again as a slave, harassed by repeated sexual temptation, slandered by a false accusation, framed for a sin he never committed, and thrown into a prison with no trial, no court date, and no idea of when his sentence might be up, all within one chapter of scripture! You can imagine his agony. “When, Lord, will you bring me out of my distresses?”

But God was doing an incredible humbling work in Joseph’s heart. His destiny, foreordained by the Lord, was to be a vessel of rescue to many nations and peoples in a desperate time. But Joseph had at first been proud of his visions. He had enjoyed his father’s favoritism which held him above his brothers. He had used the promise, even the one God had given, to puff himself up rather than to humbly serve. Joseph’s idea had been that everyone would bow to him. God’s idea was that others would eventually give great honor to Joseph, but only because God had made him into a servant. God does this by bringing us low and building us back up.

Most certainly, Joseph faced enemies who wanted to destroy his calling. But at the same time, and in the very same circumstances, God was actively at work to refine him for his calling. 

When we cry, “Bring me out of my distresses!” God may not give us immediate answers or relief. That is when we must begin “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus’ cross was made of wood. It wasn’t evil or good. The devil wanted to use it to destroy Him. God the Father had predestined to use that same wooden cross to make a way of salvation for all mankind. After Jesus remained faithful and obedient to the Father on the cross, He was raised up to the very right hand of the Almighty Father.

Psalm 25 models this discipline of looking: “My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net” (25:15). You may find yourself in distresses, but God Himself will take you out as soon as He is done doing what He is doing. When cooking food, for example, one has to put the food under heat for the correct amount of time. If you take it out too early, it will either taste horrible or even be harmful to eat. But when the dish is adequately cooked, the chef removes it from the heat and it becomes delicious nourishment that can feed other people. When God has done His appointed work in us, He will remove us from the fiery trial and bless others through us.

The best thing we can train our hearts to do is to look to the Lord in the heat of trial. Sure, cry out to be brought out of distress. But also praise Him. There is a special sweetness in praise that issues from suffering. We can also ask Him, “What are you teaching me?” Trials might end more quickly at times, if we make a habit of sincerely asking God this question. Look to Jesus and to no other savior, because He shall pluck your feet out of the net of the enemy. And like Joseph, He will make you a better person in the process.

-Pastor Alex

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