We are living in the midst of uncertain times, and for a lot of us it’s probably easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things that are rapidly developing every day — in the news, on the Internet, and even in our homes and workplaces.
To help us navigate these tumultuous circumstances, I want to share with you some reflections from one of my favorite psalms. It’s one that helps me whenever I’m really feeling the burden of just how much I don’t know.
It’s Psalm 25, and it’s a prayer for God’s guidance, written by King David as he was living in the midst of uncertain times:
“Lord, I appeal to you.
My God, I trust in you.
Do not let me be disgraced;
do not let my enemies gloat over me.
No one who waits for you
will be disgraced;
those who act treacherously without cause
will be disgraced.
Make your ways known to me, Lord;
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
I wait for you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your compassion
and your faithful love,
for they have existed from antiquity.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
or my acts of rebellion;
in keeping with your faithful love, remember me
because of your goodness, Lord.
The Lord is good and upright;
therefore he shows sinners the way.
He leads the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
All the Lord’s ways show faithful love and truth
to those who keep his covenant and decrees.
Lord, for the sake of your name,
forgive my iniquity, for it is immense.
Who is this person who fears the Lord?
He will show him the way he should choose.
He will live a good life,
and his descendants will inherit the land.
The secret counsel of the Lord
is for those who fear him,
and he reveals his covenant to them.”
— Psalm 25:1-14 (CSB)
A couple of reasons why I love this psalm. One is that I can relate to it. Much like David, I often find myself in a state of confusion or uncertainty, in circumstances that show me that I need guidance, discernment, and direction. Because I don’t have it all figured out!
Like David when he was writing this prayer, many of us look around and see all that is going wrong in the world and are wondering what we can possibly do to find solutions or make a constructive difference. We wrestle with who to believe and who to trust to even begin finding some answers.
That’s why David cries out to God, “Lord, lead me in your truth and teach me.” He’s asking God to instruct him on how to live, admitting that he doesn’t know. For many of us today, what we need to be doing most is praying, like David, for God to teach us. Praying that God would lead us in his truth and help us be discerning. What’s even harder for some of us is that we also need to follow David’s lead in humbly admitting it when we don’t have all the answers! We need to be aware of just how much more we have to learn!
Back when I was in Bible college and seminary, I prayed Psalm 25:5 often. I was being exposed to a lot of new information and different perspectives on God and on the Bible, and it was difficult learning what to trust and what to set aside. It caused me to really seek the Lord and ask him regularly to lead me in his truth and keep me on the right path. It’s a prayer I’d encourage you to take up often, too.
Charles Spurgeon is famously quoted as having said that “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong; discernment is knowing the difference between right and almost right!” There’s a powerful truth to this statement. A lot of us know right from wrong; but we are often in need of some special help from God to tell what’s right from what’s almost right. There are many folks out there espousing views that might have a grain of truth to them, but we need to be extra careful to listen closely and examine what we are taking in, parsing out truth from exaggeration.
And notice that as David is praying in Psalm 25 for God to give him discernment, he becomes aware of how much he has fallen short. He asks God to overlook his sins and transgressions — the ways in which he’s messed up, as a naive youth who doesn’t yet know any better. He owns up to his missteps and requests God’s forgiveness. And because he knows that God is merciful and patient, he knows that he can count on receiving it. We all have been naive and said things we later regretted, but God’s compassion toward us is not fragile.
David’s confidence moves him to affirm the good news that God will indeed instruct the humble in the way they should live. God looks on our hearts — he looks for those who are humble and teachable and trying. Even where we fall short, God is patient with us. He wants to teach you, if you will be receptive. If you will listen to him, and heed his word, and seek the wisdom of those who’ve gone before.
And verse 14 of Psalm 25 promises us something very special: it says that “the secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear him.” Those who respect and honor God, who depend on him above all others — they will enjoy his personal counsel. Some translations render it as “the friendship of the Lord” — in other words, it’s saying that he will become your intimate acquaintance, giving you advice to meet your personal needs, and sharing his heart with you. A great illustration of this is Abraham in Genesis 18:16-33, when God comes to him and speaks openly with him about his plans.
For those who will pursue this intimacy with the Lord — who will confess their sins to him, admit their total dependence on him, and ask him to teach them — he will answer. He will honor that prayer and give us guidance, whether through his Word, or through a sense of personal direction, or even through the advice of others. He’ll confirm where you should go. But be listening, and be asking. He is the God of our salvation, and we should rely on him all day, every day.
May we all be teachable, and may we all learn to depend more and more on the Lord, our great Teacher, so that we may experience the wonders of close friendship with him through our Lord Jesus Christ and by his Spirit.
See you down the path.