Be strong and let your heart take courage…

Some days are just harder than others!

I think you understand what I’m saying here. We can be generally joyful. We can love our life, love our children and our wife, and get up every morning eager to work. But—even so—some days are just harder than others.

And then, you have extended moments like we’ve been dealing with over the last two years around the pandemic.

There’s just so much anger right now on Social Media and in conversation. And, I understand! Especially after the latest mandates, I’m angry about it as well…

I’ve been anxious about the loss of liberty during the pandemic. And, I’ve been anxious about the level of anger and complaining evident right now on news feeds. What I see a lot on social media is anger like the lashing out of a caged or cornered animal. I wonder if we are headed to civil war, and even sometimes, I think the entire goal is civil war so they can justify ushering in a complete power grab.

Personally, I’m feeling hemmed in.

Then I wondered, what should our response be to what’s happening right now? Should we create a parallel society as the CEO of Gab News is claiming? Should we resist with everything we have? Or, should we just submit as Christians? And, beyond all of this, what do we teach and model for our children?

In the mornings, I’ve been studying through Paul’s letters and have progressed to the point of the first letter to the church in Thessalonica. In verse 6 of chapter 1 it says:

“…for you received the word with much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.”

About the time I got to this verse early Friday morning, Leslie—not knowing what I was studying—sent me this text with a screen shot from the other room,

“Very interesting. Was reading this morning in Revelation. Wondered what “tribulation” meant in context of 7:14. The Strongs’ definition has a whole different feel now.”

What she was referring to was the Ancient Greek for tribulation, which is the word “thlibo”, and it means persecution, affliction, distress, tribulation, pressure. It gives the sense of a narrow place that “hems someone in.”

The same Greek word for tribulation in Rev. 7:14 is the used for “affliction” or “suffering” in 1 Thess. 1: 6.

Then I did some additional study…

This Greek word “thlibo” was used outside Scripture to denote severe pressure used in pressing the grapes in wine.

The grapes were pressured until they burst.

The idea here of trouble in this Ancient Greek word is not just pressure or hardship but a narrowing of options and choices—pushing down and stressing a grape until it bursts, releasing juice.

Understanding the Greek opens up a new layer around what the Bible is describing when it references affliction or stress or suffering or tribulation. This is not just describing horrible things happening to you, but also, a reduction in options or freedom. In tribulation, you are hemmed in.

When I realized this deeper meaning for tribulation, I thought of David…

Few people in history knew of tribulation and being hemmed in better than David. David describes the pursuit of Saul and his henchmen for at least 7 years as tribulation, affliction, and being hemmed in. As in, existing in a place so narrow that you can’t get your footing or balance.

David writes Psalm 31 around the time he was helping the city of Keileh during a raid by the Philistines in 1 Sam. 23.

David turns back the Philistines in Keileh and then hears that Saul is on his way. By saving the city, David revealed his location to the spies of Saul. And, within the walls of the city of Keileh, David was hemmed in.

Shortly after David realizes Saul is on his way, he also finds out that the leaders of Keileh will turn him over to Saul, and he runs while Saul is in pursuit.

This is the setting of Psalm 31 and David writes,
“I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
     because you have seen my affliction;

     you have known the distress of my soul,
And you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;

     You have set my feet in a broad place;” (v. 7-8)

Broad place…as in breaking free of the narrowing stress pressing in on him. He was in a walled city where Saul was coming to surround him with no option of escape. So, he ran into the open to flee from Saul and barely escaped with his life.

David lived like this for years.

Eventually, this experience prepared David to be the greatest king of Israel and the writer of verse that touches our hearts today—several millennia in the future. His bloodline led to Christ and his verse foretold of Christ, the great king of God’s people.

David was who David was because of how he responded to the tribulation.

So, how do we face pressure and being hemmed in like David?? How do we get to the broad place David describes?

How do we get to the point that our response ripples into eternity, and we feel we are living in abundance and not scarcity?

Our children are watching us.

David lived under these circumstances for 7 years. He clearly felt liberty, freedom, and abundance even when he lived in circumstances in which he was chased and had to scrape for food and even while he lived among enemies.

David gave four things in Psalm 31 that represent his mindset during his time of pressure. These four things made David who he was. And, I believe they represent what our response should be to pressure and tribulation.

Anything short of these four things will lead to further anxiety. You won’t get the relief you seek. There will be a continuation of pressure and feeling of being hemmed in. Anger won’t help. Thirsting for revenge will lead to further diminish-ment. And, lashing out only destroys what you don’t want to destroy.

Here was David’s mindset and response:
1) Reliance on God (v. 15)2) God’s interest (v. 16)
3) Confidence in God (v. 174) Calling on God (v. 17)

I hope you’ll take some time to read Psalm 31. Over the next few Sunday nights, I’m going to write about these four points, and I’ll do it in a way that you’ve likely not heard before.

“Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful.
     But abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
     All you who wait for the LORD!” (Ps. 31: 23-24)

Click here to read the second installment of this series.

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