In Pursuit of Why – Psalm 44:17-26

When parents bury a child, a spouse gets betrayed, or a devastating diagnosis is revealed, we all feel disoriented. Calamities like these arriving from unknown zip codes make the pain unbearable. The immediate human response is to ask why.

Why did this happen?

Why did this happen now?

Why me or someone I love?

In tackling these questions, am I trying to lasso some logical explanation for something that can’t be explained on this side of heaven? Or ever. Am I looking to try to control things by regaining my understanding?

When I try to bring a logical explanation to a tragedy, it can be easy to get stuck in an endless loop. There are no logical explanations for a devastating loss.

In the second half of Psalm 44, God’s people cry out with one voice and seek to understand why they are suffering.

17 All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant.(Psalm 44:17 ESV)

They try to line out evidence to prove their innocence and reasons why they should not suffer.

Valleys and Shadows

As they cry to God, they remind Him of their faithfulness and point out their desperate location. They walk through the Valley of Death and feel surrounded by jackals, who may cheat, steal or take advantage.

18 Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death.
(Psalm 44:18-19 ESV)

Crying to God, they remind Him of their faithfulness and point out their desperate location. They walk through the Valley of Death and feel surrounded by jackals, who may cheat, steal or take advantage.

20 If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.
(Psalm 44:20-21 ESV)

They remind God that He would know if they had been unfaithful to Him. In doing so, perhaps they remind themselves of how much God knows about our hearts.

Like Sheep

22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
(Psalm 44:20-22 ESV)

Being regarded as sheep to the slaughter is a particular identity of wretchedness. Sheep are not known for their self-defense skills or ability to avoid slaughter. Jesus, who willingly laid His life down for each of us, was described like this on His way to the cross.

23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
(Psalm 44:23-24 ESV)

I feel discouraged when my prayers are not answered when or how I expected. It can be easier to assume God was distracted and lost sight of my plight. But God calls me to hold onto hope. Believing God is napping instead of not doing what I asked might make sense. However, scripture is clear, God does not slumber or sleep but pays attention in all seasons. (See Psalm 121:3 for more on this.)

Crying out from the Dust

 25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. 26 Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love! (Psalm 44:25-26 ESV) 

God’s people honestly express their desperation and describe the toll suffering has taken on their hearts, minds, and spirits. Grief has them crawling in the dust.

When God created his people in the garden, they were designed for eternity. We become physically weighed down when we face death, dying, and suffering because it is not what we were initially designed for.  We feel it in our bodies—the crushing effect of sin and suffering. I might end up face-down in the dust.

Desperate, we cry to God for redemption in all hopeless and dead situations.

God is motivated by his steadfast love –not by what I have done or left undone. His steadfast love is faithful and true and can bring redemption even when all hope seems lost.


Knowing you hear, I cry to you, Lord, from my lowest point. Hope is ignited in me because of your steadfast love for me and all your children. Please help me hold fast as I wait for your redemptive solutions and perfect timing. Sustain me in the valley and shepherd me to safety. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Soul Tending Suggestion

Consider God’s steadfast love by praying and coloring this page.

Does Everything Happen for a Reason? Psalm 44:1-16

Years ago, my husband and I worked for a company that filled our lives with many amazing opportunities. While we both were able to use our degrees and training, this kingdom-minded company built up our community. Financially we were well-compensated, and this season was a time of abundance and fruitfulness for our family. It might have been described much like the first eight verses of Psalm 44.

1 O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old:
2 you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free;
3 for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.
4 You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob!
5 Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
6 For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. 
7 But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us.
8 In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah
(Psalm 44:1-8 ESV)

Blessings and Victories

These first eight verses of Psalm 44 report what some believers expect our lives to look like. Popular Christian culture would describe this as a blessed life of victory. Many of us have experienced seasons like this.

Is life as a follower of Jesus supposed to be easy and fruitful? Can I expect to live my best and most fulfilling life if I am obediently following Jesus?

A Change in Season

The next section of Psalm 44 expresses the reality of our human experience in a broken world on this side of Heaven.

9 But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe, and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples.
(Psalm 44:9-14 ESV)

Did God fail me?

This question weighs heavily on our hearts and minds. Do you ever feel rejected and disgraced by God? Have you ever felt that others must wonder how you can believe in a loving God when experiencing terrible things?


Loss and Disappointment

The very same believers who experienced all the victory in the first eight verses are now witnessing loss and disappointment. Has God abandoned them? Has He targeted them for vengeance? Their identity has changed from mighty warriors to sheep to the slaughter in a few verses. They have moved from victors to victims.

15 All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
(Psalm 44:15-16 ESV)

In these moments of great anguish, when we might feel near our breaking point, the enemy of our soul seizes the opportunity to layer on taunts and accusations.

When the weight of shame crushes our souls, a nagging question follows. Why did this happen to me or my loved one? Shame threatens to suffocate our souls because we begin believing we did something to deserve this. There is something flawed deep down inside us. This a lie from the pit.

While the consequences of our actions take their toll on our lives, our world is full of painful things that happen for no apparent reason that we can discern. We may never know why a loved one died, a child experienced abuse, or someone we love suffers. Everything does not happen for a reason. For years, I held tight to that lie. Believing that I could make sense of suffering, and sometimes you just can’t.


A Season of Loss

In 2010, just as our oldest daughter graduated from high school, my husband and I lost our dream jobs. In a painful process of betrayal and separation, we also lost many relationships. Sometimes breaking up a business partnership can look like an ugly divorce, with rumors and false accusations. When assets get divided, no one particularly wins. So much time and energy got wasted in battles over fairness and justice. My husband even had to give up working in his field of expertise for five years to fulfill specific legal requirements.

At a time when we might have been focused on celebrating our daughter’s accomplishments, we counted our losses and reeled from betrayal.

Years later, I can see how the Lord used this season to re-align our priorities.  You have much space left in your life and schedule when you lose so much. We needed time to grieve and heal, and we did. We would, however, never get back exactly what we lost or anything close to it. We lost a great deal, but we both gained resilience and deep knowledge of the ongoing process of forgiveness. I used to think that forgiveness was a “one-and-done operation.” However, a deep and layered betrayal will require an ongoing effort to forgive and forget.

Did we do something to cause our season of loss and pain? No

Did God teach, guide, and provide for us in this season? Yes

Are we sometimes still blindsided by reminders of this loss? Yes


Lord, we pray that we will be known as people who boast continually in God, and we give thanks to His name forever, in the seasons of blessings and in the seasons of loss. Help us to seek You first for our healing and restoration. Give us grace for the ongoing journey of forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For a deeper dive into this topic, check out this book:

“Everything Happens for a Reason: and Other Lies I’ve Loved” by Kate Bowler.


Are you weary?

Do you long to find soul sustaining rest? Maybe you need a session of soul tending in your day? Check out my blog post for some soul tending guidance.

My name is Anthea Kotlan, and I have a passion to equip and empower women to build God’s kingdom. Join me on this journey as we share resources and words about discipleship and intentional soul tending.

Restoration- Psalm 43

The rule of waiting time is stated as follows.

If you have time to wait, the wait time will be relatively short.

However, if you are pressed for time and have other demands on your schedule, then the wait time expands exponentially.

If you are hungry or thirsty, the wait time intensity increases.

If you, as the waiter, notice others come and go, time spent waiting seems even more unreasonable.

If you complain about the wait time, feeling sure that will help, it does not.

In our fast-paced, instant-solution culture, we don’t know much about waiting, pausing, or spiritual restoration.

Overall, Psalm 43 calls for restoration.

1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!
(Psalm 43:1 ESV)

The psalmist begs God to defend him and then go a step further and vindicate him. He wants his reputation restored, and his name cleared.

Refuge and Rejection

2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

(Psalm 43:2 ESV)

Every human craves love and acceptance. I feel weighed down and oppressed when rejection overwhelms me.  

How do I counter feelings of rejection?

Truth and Light

3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
(Psalm 43:3 ESV)

The world’s version of truth and light is available 24/7. It is easy to reach for a kind of truth and light offered by the hand-held electronic devices we all hold in our hands or pockets most of the time. In times when I am tired or overwhelmed, it is all too easy to settle for a counterfeit truth and light.

However, God’s truth and light provide powerful guidance, clarification, and authentic restoration. Ultimately, the psalmist points out, this truth and light will direct believers to God’s holy hill and dwelling place.


4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
(Psalm 43:4 ESV)

In verse 4, joy finally breaks through, and heart restoration takes hold. When believers go to the altar at the church and encounter God, praise pours forth. Believers are designed for in-person corporate worship and must attend church to experience that.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
(Psalm 43:5 ESV) 

At first, Verse 5 appears to be out of order here. Praising and worshipping one moment and the next, cast down and back in turmoil. However, this so accurately reflects the human condition. Our daily lives take a toll. Friends and family disappoint us, accusations come our way, and we fail far too often. At any moment, something can throw me back into turmoil. So how will I respond? How do I access restoration?

In the second half of verse 5, believers are challenged to activate hope in God.


How do we activate hope?

  • Praise Him, even when it is the last thing you feel like doing.
  • Ask a friend to pray for you. Cultivate a prayer partnership where you pray for one another regularly.
  • Read God’s word and ask Him to reveal Himself to you.
  • Give thanks for salvation. This is a gift each of us received, and it should never be taken for granted.  


Thank you, Lord, for the restoration you provide. When I feel rejected, you provide refuge. When I am lost, you provide truth and light to guide me. Help me to hold fast to hope and actively seek You every day. Thank you for the joy of my salvation. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Bearing Light in a Dark World – Psalm 41:1-6

On my best days, I am happy to let others go ahead. When things are going well, being generous and kind can be easy. But on days when I get cut off in traffic, my head pounds with a migraine, my gas tank is drained, I am caring for someone I love who is suffering, I open a letter of complaint from my HOA, and I am running late, considering anyone else’s needs feels like a stretch.

The words of Psalm 41 challenge me.

Jesus Calls me to Consider

1Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;
(Psalm 41:1 ESV)

Even on a bad day, I am still called to consider the poor. I am called to contemplate my role in restoration. So many times, Jesus considered and served people left out and marginalized. He set the example of kindness and generosity even when His enemies surrounded him.

God does not NEED me to serve the poor. However, He calls me to consider those who cross my path in need. He asks me to see their needs. In seeing others’ needs and serving them, I am incrementally being transformed into the likeness of Christ. I become a bearer of Christ’s light in a dark world.

2 the LORD protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. (Psalm 41:2 ESV)

Jesus did not waste His precious time defending Himself or His reputation in the face of false accusations. God reigns despite what the enemy of our soul plots and schemes. His will prevails. I can trust that my enemies are not writing my biography; God is. He determines all outcomes and my legacy.

Jesus Sustains me to Serve

3 The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health. 
4 As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
(Psalm 41:3-4 ESV)

God will sustain me, and in due time He will restore my body on Earth or in Heaven. If I am on Earth, God must still have assignments for me to complete. When my earthly body breaks down, and it will, my sins or mistakes don’t determine if I remain ill or receive healing. The enemy of my soul would like me to dwell on my sins and mistakes and become hopeless, but God provides grace for me to bear the light of His hope.

Jesus Protects me against my Enemies’ Deadly Schemes

5 My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?”
6 And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
(Psalm 41:5-6 ESV)

The enemy of my soul sends his emissaries to:

  • Plant seeds of doubt
  • Ask awkward questions
  • Speak curses
  • Collect evil
  • Spread gossip

But Jesus’ death on the cross protects me from the crushing weight of sin. I am saved from the death sentence but not from suffering. The enemy of my soul knows this. However, he continues to strategize ways to distract me with discouragement.

God has given me the weapon of His word. Declaring the truth of scripture in response to every falsehood the enemy utters defends my heart and mind. Speaking scripture floods my mind and heart with the light of Christ.

  • When I die, my name will be written in the Book of Life for all eternity. (Philippians 4:3)
  • My reputation is fiercely guarded and protected by my heavenly Father. (Psalm 135:13-15)
  • My heart can gather joy whenever I spend time with my heavenly Father. (Philippians 4:4-7)

What schemes is the enemy using against you today? What seeds of doubt does he try to plant? What curses have been spoken over you? What gossip is he trying to spread?


Lord, help me to consider the poor, those You want me to serve. Help me to trust You for all outcomes. Thank you for sustaining me through difficulties and challenges. Please shield my heart and mind from the schemes of the evil one. Please help me to trust you more and more. Please help me to be a bearer of light in a dark world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

**The rest of Psalm 41 focuses on Jesus’ final days of earthly ministry. To read more about that, check out this post:

How are you bearing the light of Christ today in a dark world?

Releasing My Measurements – Psalm 39

“What is the Measure of My Days?”

David begins Psalm 39 with this question.

Sooner or later, every human reaches a point of bewildering uncertainty.

  • Sleepless nights with a newborn –will I ever sleep all night again?
  • A Difficult diagnosis – how can I go on like this?
  • Betrayal – can I ever trust anyone again?
  • Will my wayward family member ever return to God?

The pressure builds inside the heart and mind, and we sit in the darkness of uncertainty, trying to find a sliver of hope.

1 I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.”
2 I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse.
3 My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:
(Psalm 39:1-3 ESV)

David tries keeping his thoughts and words to himself, but his season of silence does nothing to help him regain peace. He comes to a breaking point. Uncertainty overwhelms him.

We are created to live and grow in community. Yes, even as an introvert –I profoundly know this. Many of us are hardwired for verbal processing. Living in silence amid fearful oppression causes my mind to become overwhelmed and my thinking distorted. A trusted listener can be a balm to a troubled soul. Even when I am not ready to talk it out, I need someone who holds space for me and companionship on my journey.


4 “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!
5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
(Psalm 39:4-6 ESV)

I desperately need God’s perspective on my life. Sometimes uncertainty brings me to a surrendered place. Letting go of what I always thought it would be like is very hard.

“Sincere hope that the death of ‘how it was supposed to go’ leads to the resurrection of how things are meant to be.”

Lizzie Hoffman

What if the death of my expectations leads to an entirely new life I could never have imagined?

God knew all along with His 360-degree view.

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.
Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it. My words cannot defend me. Only you can make a way forward for me.
10 Remove your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
11 When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath! Selah

(Psalm 39:7-11 ESV)

I feel frustrated if I wait too long for an indecisive coffee customer in line just ahead of me to place her order. I need to get back on the road. My time was wasted.

I know my time is always well-spent when I wait on the Lord. I find myself right where He wants me to be, with an opportunity to feel the anchor of hope keeping me from drifting off course. In my time of stillness, please help me to take an inventory of anything that needs to be cleared out and released.



12 “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.

13 Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!

(Psalm 39:12-13 ESV)

Lord, thank you that I am your guest. Therefore, I don’t have to provide for myself. I can relax with your generous hospitality. I am grateful to see how my spiritual mothers and fathers have gone ahead of me and set a path for me to follow. Please help me to remember to travel lightly and not settle into this earthly home because I am not a permanent resident. My citizenship is destined for eternity. The measure of my days on this earth will be exactly as you have ordained for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Are you Prepared?

In my part of the country, hurricane season is just over a month away. It’s time to refresh my supplies and check my storm box to see what might be needed. It could be time to let go of the old-fashioned phone I used to plug into the wall jack to make phone calls when the power went out. Our home, like most people, has gone digital. It is undoubtedly time to check on our water bottle supply and see about canned goods.

While I ready myself for storms coming my way from the Gulf of Mexico, am I prepared for spiritual storms?

  • Hurricanes of grief
  • Tornadoes of loss
  • Tropical storms of uncertainty

In the first half of Psalm 38, the psalmist provides a guide for repentance and lament. Soul tending, the necessary work of caring for spiritual health, requires regularly clearing out what has been done wrong and left undone.

Check out that post here if you haven’t read it yet.

The second half of Psalm 38 gives instructions for spiritual storm preparation.

Prepared to wait

15 But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
(Psalm 38:15 ESV)

Waiting can wear me out. Some of the most painful waiting in my life happened when I failed to prepare myself. Accepting the unplanned detour of unexpected waiting is hard.

The focus of my waiting will make all the difference. Am I focused on the one worth waiting for? In verse 15, the psalmist repeats the word you, and the word Lord as if he needs to be reminded of where he will choose to set his focus.

Is my waiting passive or active? Am I watching for hope? Am I choosing to remain aware of God’s provision for me in a season of waiting? Am I willing to place my confidence in the Lord? Can I proclaim, like the psalmist, “…O Lord my God, who will answer”?

Prepared for Pain

16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!”
17 For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me.
(Psalm 38:16-17 ESV)

Waiting is not the only inevitable thing in our lives here on earth. Pain, falling, and failing are all part of my journey. My foot will slip, and there will be someone out there who may cheer. This is the reality of our broken and sinful world. Some celebrate when others suffer, and others boast when others fail.

Before I create too comfortable a distance from “those people,” I am reminded of my own failings in this way. Do I call it justice when the speeding driver gets a ticket? Someone buzzes by me going 90 on the freeway.  Am I too quick to rejoice when I see that person “fall” into the hands of law enforcement? While it may be reasonable to be grateful for the efforts of law enforcement officers, I may have been a little too enthusiastic about seeing someone stopped and receiving a ticket.

The psalmist says, “…my pain is ever before me.” Somehow, I believe that now more than ever, most of us expect to live pain-free lives.

  • Pain reminds me I am not home.
  • Pain shows me my limits.
  • Pain protects me from damaging my body by putting my hand in the fire or walking on a broken foot.

Prepared to Continue to Confess

 I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.
(Psalm 38:18 ESV)

This psalm began with confession and repentance, and this verse revisits this theme.

I love to check things off my list and finish projects. However, this side of heaven, confessing my sins, will never be complete. This is an ongoing practice required for healthy soul care. Sometimes, the weight of what I must confess and repent feels too much. The Bible encourages believers to confess their sins to one another. Just bringing my sins out into the light of day with another believer can bring peace and healing.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 
(James 5:16 NIV)

Prepared to recognize my enemy

19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good.
(Psalm 38:19-20 ESV)

Why does it always surprise me if someone doesn’t like me? Believers are called to follow after good like the psalmist says. Following after good annoys those who don’t. Some people may not like me because I am not “their cup of tea”. However, the Holy Spirit in me may irritate and convict those in rebellion.

As one who claims Christ, I have an Enemy; therefore, I will have enemies. It is a painful truth.

This enemy of my soul will pit other humans against me, especially when I am busy with the kingdom’s work. He will cause these “foes” to multiply, gain strength and misunderstand me. This divide-and-conquer method works incredibly well and leads to discouragement.

Prepared to Pray & Surrender

21 Do not forsake me, O Lord! O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!
(Psalm 38:21-22 ESV)

Waiting can be so isolating. The enemy of my soul would like me to keep my anguish to myself and grow weary of waiting on God’s perfect timing. It is easy to give up when I feel forsaken and far away from the Lord.

Division and isolation can give way to despair. These are the times I am called to ask for help from my brothers and sisters in Christ. It can be humbling but so needed.


Do not forsake me, O Lord! O my God, be not far from me! Help me to see and sense your presence today. Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation! I will choose to trust in your perfect timing for healing and help. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Making Room for Repentance

Psalm 38 offers a liturgy of lament for when it all goes wrong, and the sin is mine.

Those times when I realize I am the one who said or did something causing damage or disappointment to someone else. While I can pull out some handy well-worn excuses, the reality of my sin blares like a stuck car horn on a quiet Saturday morning parked right by the house. The sound of that horn and the implication of what I have done sincerely disturb me.

I would much prefer to skip suffering and leapfrog over lament, but stuffing away guilt and remorse will only lead to more and more damage. Like the psalmist, I require God’s mercy. I need to make room for repentance.

1O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
(Psalm 38:1-2 ESV)

Unrepentant Sin leads to Structural Damage

The longer it remains buried under the surface, the more damage it will do to my entire being. I was not designed to carry sin. The weight of carrying it around is too much.

4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
(Psalm 38:4-7 ESV)

Unrepentant Sin’s Damage Quietly Grows under the Surface

When a wound is not cleaned and cleared out, it may fester and cause a noxious odor.

A few months ago, after clearing out a storage unit for a family member, a tiny scratch or abrasion allowed an infection to enter my wrist. Slowly but surely, a hot red patch of skin expanded. I was busy and tried to ignore it. It was painful, but an injury to my hand caused me to miss the signs of a growing infection. I attributed the throbbing pain to a previous sprain. I tried pain patches, hydrocortisone cream, and ice packs, but things only worsened.

Finally, a friend expressed concern and encouraged me to have my doctor take a look. She examined my arm and immediately left the room to fetch an associate to review her findings. Moments later, I was sent to the pharmacy to fill a prescription for a potent antibiotic.

8 I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.
(Psalm 38:8-11 ESV)

Unrepentant Sin Leads to Isolation

God designed me to live in a community with others in mutually beneficial relationships. Unrepentant sin causes me to pull away and hide at a time when I am in the greatest need of support. Sooner or later, I need others to pray for me, encourage me, and offer advice or perspective. Life is hard. Traveling solo leaves me in a spiritual echo chamber.

12 Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long.
13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
(Psalm 38:12-14 ESV)

Unrepentant sin disorientates me and takes my voice

Sound helps orient me on my faith journey. Hearing God’s word daily keeps me on track. Listening to praise and worship music fills me with hope. Sin dulls my appetite for God’s word and leads me to seek escapism in my media choices.  

Unrepentant sin comes between the Holy Spirit and me. I can no longer hear the still, small voice of guidance. Also, I lose my voice when I am not receiving regular replenishment from this promised helper. Doubts crowd my mind. The voice of the accuser is amplified. I get stuck and silent.


Lord, I need Your mercy to cleanse me of the things done and left undone that have wronged others and failed You. Order my life in a way that leaves room for regular repentance. Please help me to acknowledge my sins. Send a fresh wave of your Holy Spirit to examine me. Help me repent of every sin and keep me from denial. I pray all of this in the mighty name of Jesus, and I wait for your reply. Amen

It Started in the Garden – Psalm 36

God directed his beloved children not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan slithered in and spoke lies. Eve took the forbidden fruit. First, she ate some, then shared it with Adam. Their eyes were opened, and they knew sin—the human drive to worship and pursue knowledge blossomed in the garden. However, knowledge apart from God becomes too great a burden to bear.

In Psalm 36, David paints a portrait of man’s wickedness and God’s perfection.

1 Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.
2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
3 The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
4 He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.
(Psalm 36:1-4 ESV)

Fear of God

The wicked man does not fear God. His perspective is clouded by pride, and he no longer sees his sin. He has become fluent in the language of lies, and his behavior hurts others. He deceived himself. Even his rest time becomes an opportunity to dream of ways to exact revenge or harm others. He accepts and embraces evil as the cost of living in a fallen world.

My Own Understanding

I long to create a comfortable distance from wicked men and women. I like to believe I am nothing like them. However, I can be tempted to seek knowledge apart from God. I am guilty of relying too heavily on my understanding of situations when making important decisions. I believe the lie that proper research and finding the facts will light my way. Turning away from God to solve my own problems can be a subtle drift in the wrong direction. Wickedness is far closer than I like to think. I need the guidance of God’s word, the Holy Spirit, and regular time spent with the Christian community God has called each of us to be a part of. These daily and weekly rhythms provide the grounding I need.

5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord.
(Psalm 36:5-6 ESV)

God’s Steadfast Love Displayed

Regularly disconnecting from the wired world of my tech devices allows me to notice how the Lord’s steadfast love is displayed across the skies and up to the heavens daily. The myriad colors of a sunrise or sunset reveal the spectrum of beauty God placed in His creation. Looking at nature, I notice how God’s righteousness is as high and unmovable as a mountain. Meanwhile, like the ocean, His judgment runs deeper than any of us can fathom.

7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.
(Psalm 36:7-9 ESV)

How do I take refuge under the shadow of God’s wings?

It requires me to choose to stop pursuing my agenda. I must pause, rest, wait, and watch for the Lord. Even five minutes spent quietly sitting and listening for His voice could allow me to reset my mind and heart.

Feasts of Abundance and Fountains of Life

The feast God offers is His word. The drink He serves is from pure flowing waters of delight.

His fountain of life will refresh my soul, and the light He offers will cast out the darkness that can crowd my mind and heart.

10 Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
11 Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise.
(Psalm 36:10-12 ESV)

Knowing God

When I take time to know God, I will see His steadfast and unchanging love. Pride may pursue me and cause me to swerve back into self-reliance. The Holy Spirit will tap me gently on the shoulder and help me to see my genuine need for God. Truly, I can do no good thing apart from Him.

Knowing Sin

Someday, all who choose evil will fall permanently down and not be able to recover. The weight of sin will crush them. God will allow them to have what they have chosen, again and again, a life without Him.

It started in a Garden. There God met with his children and gave them everything in abundance. He gave them limits because He knew what they could not handle. And yet, just like us, they rebelled in arrogance and were crushed by their own choices.


Lord, help me choose to take refuge under the shadow of your wings daily. Please guide me to follow the wisdom of your word and rely on something other than my limited understanding. Open my eyes to see Your steadfast love on display all around me. Help me to hunger and thirst for the food and drink only You can provide.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Activated Faith or Slothful Solutions – Psalm 34:11-22

Popular Sloths

A quick search of sloths online will point you to an avalanche of all things associated with the world’s slowest-moving mammal. T-shirts, movies, books, and photos document our love affair with these furry creatures. There must be something that draws us to them. Is it the slow pace of their lifestyle? Is it their relaxed attitude? Is it their apparent chill vibe?

Sinful Sloth

Ironically, sloth, the word so closely associated with these beloved creatures, is listed as the last of the seven capital sins. Tsh Oxenreider explains, “It might seem like a strange bedfellow with the likes of pride, wrath, or greed; could it be that God considers laziness to be as bad as those vices?” (p. 115 Bitter and Sweet: A Journey into Easter)

Tsh explains that sloth, according to Thomas Aquinas, means “sorrow for spiritual good.” Growth and vigor in our spiritual life require regular exercise and effort. Autopilot in the area of discipleship doesn’t work. Spiritual apathy can overtake us far too quickly. We must actively and regularly seek the Lord to avoid slothful outcomes.

An Active Role

The psalmist in the second half of Psalm 34 reminds us of the action needed.

11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
(Psalm 34:11-14 ESV)

Seek Teaching

Fear and respect for the Lord do not come to us naturally. Active and regular time scheduled daily provides learning time. Years ago, the pastor I served with said the decision about whether to attend church each week doesn’t occur on Sunday. Church attendance results from a series of choices that must be made days earlier and planned accordingly. Choosing to rest on Friday and Saturday sets you up to be ready and energized for church on Sunday. A decision to go to bed early on Saturday night provides enough sleep to get up and go the following day.

Weekly time spent in a faith community with God builds up believers and provides companionship on the faith journey. Jesus modeled this by traveling with his disciples. Lone ranger Christians struggle in isolation.

Seek and See Good

Humans love to see good (vs.12). We are drawn to the beauty in a baby’s smile or a piece of art.  The Lord knows that we need to see what is good and beautiful.

Human flourishing is energized by active and regular exposure to beauty.

Meanwhile, evil in this world has the opposite effect. Being in the presence of evil leads to spiritual corrosion. Hence the commands in verses 13 & 14, “keep your tongue from evil” and “turn away from evil.”

An area of real challenge for every follower of Jesus is to turn away from the evil the entertainment industry serves up.  There is some excellent content right next to some dismal choices. An active and regular effort is required to curate what is taken in for entertainment. It is far too easy to allow fatigue to lower resistance and reduce discernment. Auto-play features on streaming services take me to places I don’t need to go. I can’t afford to be slothful with my media habits.

Turning from Evil

Simply turning away from evil is not enough. One has to take an active and regular pursuit of peace. Strife multiplies in our modern world, and offense is taken like a daily vitamin. Peace eludes those unwilling to seek the Lord.

Ultimately the Lord calls me to turn away from evil because He refuses to be in evil’s presence. If I am keeping close company with Him, I will lack any desire to seek out evil.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
(Psalm 34:15-22 ESV)

Hearing Him

Verses 15, 16, and 17 remind me that as I am tuned into the frequency of the Lord’s wavelength, He is also tuned into my wavelength. I actively and regularly listen to hear His voice, and He hears mine.

Finally, the last section of this psalm, verses 18-22, speaks to the Lord’s promises to practice the ministry of presence in my life.

The Lord can look into each of us and see our hearts. He is not confused or distracted by our outside appearances. While other human beings can never really understand our sufferings, the Lord can.

The Lord is willing to be near the brokenhearted and keep company with us in times of suffering. Our friends and family can become overwhelmed by our brokenness, but He never does.

Affliction Unavoidable

If I am right with God, can I avoid all afflictions? No

Verse 19 says righteous people may experience many afflictions, yet the Lord delivers His people. The outcome is always in the Lord’s hands.

The Lord “keeps all his bones,” and not one is broken, refers to how His Father held Jesus together. No bones were broken is a prophecy fulfilled. While we don’t have the guarantee of no broken bones, we do know that our Heavenly Father pays close attention to every aspect of our suffering. Nothing escapes His notice. He is actively and regularly checking in on me.


God specializes in reclaiming what others might have written off. He redeems the lives of those who actively and regularly seek the refuge of salvation made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In spiritual warfare, believers are encouraged to don our spiritual armor. One key piece is the “helmet of salvation.” This piece plays an essential role in reminding us whose we are. The helmet of salvation covers our minds with the knowledge of our salvation and our new identity. Take time to regularly and actively thank the Lord for our new identity. This truth should never become worn out, and we should walk as a child of the light. (Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV)


Lord, help me not to become weary of seeking You and doing what is right. Please help me to actively and regularly seek you first and avoid slothful solutions. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Taste, See, and Satisfy Your Soul – Psalm 34:1-10

Over thirty years ago, I worked in a town almost an hour away from home, and my husband was trying to balance his classes and a part-time job. Financially we were stretched, but we desperately needed a second vehicle. The Lord provided an old farm truck.

In the Spring, I began driving this Chevy to Blinn College in Brenham. This vehicle was high off the ground and lacked a side step. I was required to wear a dress or skirt to work every day. These years might have been known as the season of flowing florals. I had unwisely invested heavily in Gunne Sack and Laura Ashley. You might imagine me with one of my voluminous cotton dresses, running towards the open truck door and then trying to launch myself onto the bench seat. This could have gone better, but mostly it did not. Of course, there was no air-conditioning. It’s relatively warm in South East Texas for almost all the months of the year, so I often had to “freshen up” upon arrival on campus.

I sat silently in this truck while barreling down various farm-to-market roads, forever slightly behind schedule. I had a quiet commute for over a year because there was no radio. Looking back, it was a gift in a season of great transition. The old farm truck gave me a sacred space to pray and think.

These days, I can’t imagine anyone riding in vehicles without a radio, a phone, or a tech gadget of some kind. We live in a time when silence seldom occurs. Even standing at the gas pump, you may experience the odd combination of infotainment on a small screen inches away. The soundtrack of our lives seems stuck on play.

The lack of silence causes me to feel distracted.  My attention scatters without quiet space in my daily schedule to gather my thoughts. It’s far too easy for my mind to bounce around and think of other things. Even during my daily Bible reading, I struggle. It’s such a discipline to engage in God’s word fully. Multi-tasking is far too often my default setting.

How do I find ways to enter into scripture and be more present?

Psalm 34 calls for God’s people to actively engage in each verse and suggests practical ways to do this.

1 I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. 
3 Oh, magnify the LORD, and let us exalt his name together!
(Psalm 34:1-3 ESV)

How do I bless the LORD?

I can bless the LORD by thanking Him and praising Him. Not because He needs to hear that from me but because I am changed by hearing myself bless Him.

Boasting in the LORD

My soul can boast in the LORD because it reminds me about all He has done for me. Try making a list of boasts about what God has done. See how it transforms your attitude.

In verse 3, believers are encouraged to exalt God’s name together. There is something powerful about corporate worship. While we can each enjoy impromptu solo praise and worship time at home or in the car, deep encouragement comes from experiencing musical praise and worship with our faith community.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from my fears. 
5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of his troubles. 
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and deliver them.
(Psalm 34:4-7 ESV)

Focus on Delivery

Sometimes the LORD delivers me from an enemy or threat. No doubt, I am sometimes blissfully unaware of all the times He has done this for me. However, He also delivers me from my fears by showing me what is true about Him. Sometimes He reveals that my fear is unfounded and false. Other times, his deliverance comes as He takes away my fears. Still, in other circumstances, He makes His presence known and sends His angels to keep me company.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 
9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. 
(Psalm 34:8-10 ESV)

Taste and See

How do I taste and see that the LORD is good?

“Taste and see,” could mean to feel, touch and experience a more physical connection with God’s word. God intends to satisfy our hungry souls with a spiritual meal that I might miss out on. How can I signal my brain about the importance of what I am doing?

Cue Your Brain

When God calls me to come more fully into His presence, He requires a full-focused effort of my mind, body, and spirit. This kind of scripture engagement takes some extra measures. I need to ground myself to engage my brain more fully. I may need to ensure my feet are firmly on the ground, and my posture is adjusted to be more fully present.

In the Anglican tradition, we stand in church when the Gospel is read. This is a way we show respect, but it is also a way to use physical posture to remind me how important the message of salvation is.

Setting a Place

Just as I might set the table for a special guest, sometimes setting up a special place to meet God can cue my focus. Is there a chair reserved for quiet time in your house or on your back porch? Lighting a candle or using the scent of an essential oil whenever I read God’s word might also help.

While none of this is required, these techniques can cue our brains to focus.

What if I asked the Holy Spirit to help me?

What if I tried listening to God‘s word read to me aloud while I traced my finger across the text?

Some days call for an even more focused effort.

  • Listening to the Bible while writing out the Scriptures
  • Singing Bible verses
  •  Journaling or doodling

Trying different ways to take in Bible verses can offer a fresh perspective and promote growth.

Fear and Lack

How can fearing the Lord cause me to have no lack? (v. 9)

Fearing the Lord is realizing how immense He really is. When I ask Him to reveal himself as Jehovah Jireh (the Lord our Provider), I may begin to see more of the ways He has provided. I could even make a list of His generosity.

I am far too good at estimating lack. When I focus on weighing and measuring what I don’t have first, then that is all I see. When I focus on the provision, I may have a different perspective.


Lord, help me to sit in silence. Guard my mind against distraction. Help me to focus on what you have for me this day. Help me to taste and see Your goodness, and be satisfied. Teach me Your ways to do this. In Jesus’ name, Amen.