“Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty,
and the hungry he fills with good things. ” Psalm 107:4-9
The next step in Psalm 107 expands on the final thought in verse 3, which is to say that our praise is empowered by our firsthand knowledge of what God does. The “redeemed of the Lord” can “say so” because, in all directions and in every land, people have tasted God’s very present goodness. That’s the image Scripture gives us, but just like yesterday, if you’re not feeling this one then it’s hard to handle. If you don’t presently feel blessed, or have never, or have cried out for God’s help and heard nothing, then how do these verses sound? If the Psalm is far-fetched to you right now, yesterday’s challenge stands: rather than getting frustrated and/or throwing this word away for false, can you go in search of how it might be true? Can you see God’s deliverance for anyone else connected to you? Has God’s help been evident in your own life in the past? Is there anything you’ve taken for granted or overlooked? How about God’s call/accountability/challenge? Have you heard that voice lately?
In my experience sometimes calling out to God, being open to what God will do to help us, actually becomes an occasion for God to invite us into something we can do on God’s behalf, sometimes something very unexpected and even difficult. Truly, some of us need desperately to feel the fullness of life that comes from fulfilling God’s call; it’s exactly what we’re waiting for and will satisfy our needs, but it’s also not what we’re always ready to run after, or listen to, or try.
I had a reminder of God’s help this morning, and a fairly strange one. My daughter is not quite a year old, and has had a fever for 3-4 days. She’s definitely just fine, but has been good and pitiful and everybody’s ready for her to be better. My wife made the comment, “You know if it was the 1800s or something, she would probably not survive this.” My wife’s not a morbid person, but that’s something we’ve talked about before — how hard it must’ve been in the olden days with a baby. When strep throat was known as “scarlet fever” and killed infants left and right, amongst so much more.
When Karen said that today, I got to thinking how very miraculous it truly is that we have infant Advil/Tylenol. Truly. I had to go to CVS at 5:45am to get to pay $10 for a two-pack of bottle + dropper. I mean, here we have this basically infinite supply of awesome medicine in arm’s reach, so that we don’t have to fret at all that a simple fever might do baby Kaela serious harm. That is nuts. Good nuts. Because think about the multitude of mothers, parents, just a century or two ago. There were tons of them who cried out fervently to God to deliver their babies and heal them of their croup or whooping cough or polio or common cold; and there were tons of them who lost those babies. Plenty of them who probably decided to hate God. Plenty more whose faith stood strong even in that tough world. Amazing.
And that’s only our most recent human history. They at least had 1800s medicine, but consider the thousands of years of humanity before that, and the millions who have been praying the same prayers. Until very recently, babies had a terribly hard run of it. And in many places on earth today, it’s still that difficult.
All of that was for me to realize that I am enjoying a gift, a grace, a miracle, that some of those parents would’ve fought and died for — living in a time/place where my sweet baby is in far less danger than she could be. Lots of us chalk that up to human ingenuity, science, etc. I’ll say, sure, sure, but thank God that in our God-given reason we’ve discovered materials/processes on earth that enable us to make these chemical compounds to care for one another. Thank God for human compassion that motivates those discoveries and should still motivate us to carry basic medicine to the ends of the earth. These are deep signs of grace. In a world that is fallen and where evil is firmly planted, it is by the grace of God that we can have relief, even just a little, from the devastation of death and sickness. It is God’s even deeper grace that is present when medicine falls short, or when our health is pristine but our hearts are sick in need of forgiveness and Life. It was God’s grace that the people of past generations could cling to in their struggle and grief.
Looking for God’s help, even in things like medicine, is a tricky thing. We have been given much, and richly blessed, in the simplest infant-Advil-kind of ways. We are bold to hope for more, and rightly so. We pray through chemo and surgery and birth defects, and want God to deliver. We know it is not always so. That’s complicated. That’s where Psalm 107 is complicated. But I think the writer spoke to what was his own reality — the knowledge that those lost in the desert, those hungry and thirsty, did at least once find deliverance in the Lord. The castaways found civilization, and home, again. Is it true for you? Today, figure out how. Go in search of how Psalm 107 could be true.