The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
I heard your discouragement and in a moment of shared brokenness, we had nothing to offer each other. We discovered something—discouragement grows in isolation.
But God has something for else for us.
Psalm 34:17-18 says, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them.” This phrase is plural, not singular. “The righteous cry out,” is translated from a single word: tsa`aq. It means to shriek; (by implication) to proclaim (an assembly). It can also be a Hebrew idiom that means to call together, cry (out), or gather (selves) (together).
It’s interesting to note that he says this during a lesson on how to deal with sin within the church.
WE ARE NOT ALONE
Dealing with sin, both ours and the sin of others, can be discouraging. And isolation nurtures discouragement and confusion. But there is good news.
God is not a God of confusion. “…for God is not a God of confusion but of peace…” 1 Corinthians 14:33
And he has not abandoned us to struggle in the dark alone. He has directed us to confess our own sins to other Christians.
He cautions and directs us. Are we listening?
“Indeed God speaks once, or twice, yet no one notices it. In a dream, a vision of the night, when sound sleep falls on men, while they slumber in their beds.” Job 33:14-15
He speaks into our spirit that very moment is a Jesus moment. Every struggle is an opportunity to live as Jesus lived. Every confrontation is a chance to fulfill Luke 6:31. “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”
THE GOLDEN RULE
Let us not apply a superficial understanding to Jesus’ words. Can we truly examine the thought? How do we want others to treat us?
Do we desire to be treated with honor and dignity? “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” 1 Peter 2:17
Do we want to be treated with truth or flattery? “He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue.” Proverbs 28:23
Do we want to be treated with kindness or harshness? “A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
Do we want to be treated as responsible adults or as infants who are only capable of sitting in their mess until someone else cleans it up? “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14
As we look inward, consider Paul’s words to Timothy. He told Timothy to be diligent and to present himself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Are we looking at every problem as an opportunity to employ diligence? To show by the beautiful blending of effort and faith that we have nothing to be ashamed of?
Can we move from confusion to an accurate handling of the word of truth?
Is diligence, maturity, and preparation can we move from being confused in situations to accurately handling the word of truth, regardless of emotion or surroundings or circumstances?
Yes, sometimes we’ve lost this battle. The enemy’s attacks were strategic and powerful. We took our eyes off the prize and succumbed to the fight. We fell into confusion.
But God was there.
“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” Psalm 34:6-7
The Lord picks us back up, saying, “Be strong in MY might.”
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6
He is next to us, our most trustworthy armor bearer. He places the sword back in our hand and readjusts our breastplate. He makes our feet to stand firm again. He whispers in our ear to set our eyes back on the prize and reminds us who our fight is really against.
FIGHT THE FIGHT, WIN THE RACE
What is the prize we are fighting for? It isn’t health. It isn’t prosperity. It isn’t happiness. It isn’t restored relationships. Those things will fall into place if the Lord wills when we put him first.
The prize is holiness. The prize is Jesus’ face. The prize is eternal glory.
The prize is finishing this race that has been set before us. It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Maybe right now it feels like trudging through mud. And in the middle of the muck we can forget who our struggle is really against.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12
Jesus didn’t forgot. When Peter’s words threatened confusion and tried to derail his race, our Lord had clear eyes on the problem’s source.
But He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Matthew 16:23
Let us see with Jesus’ eyes, the real enemy, so that we can stay the course and set our mind on God’s interests. Let us become more like Christ. Let us love one another as Christ loved us, laying down our life.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Colossians 3:12-13
WHEN DISCOURAGEMENT SETS IN
What encouragement can we give one another when we are tempted to lose hope?
In Ephesians 3 Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, telling them not to lose heart as they see his tribulations on their behalf. Then he prays the most beautiful prayer for them.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:13-19
Paul’s tribulation was for their glory. Perhaps our struggle, if surrendered to God, will be worked out for someone else’s glory. And we, in our moment of discouragement can pray with Paul that our brothers and/or sisters will be strengthened with power, that Christ will dwell in their hearts, that they will be rooted and grounded in love.
What an amazing hope. Our holiness works for their glory.
Paul ends his prayer with this:
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Don’t lose heart. Stand firm. God is able to do far above all we can imagine—according to the power that works within us. Are we submitted to him?
“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity…Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:25-32
As we walk as Children of the Light together, we walk out of isolation and into hope and glory.