Look Up, Child

During community group last week, we were commenting on how long we’ve been coping with this stay-at-home situation and how it feels sometimes like it’s been years. “It’s been fifty-five days,” piped up one group member. “But who’s counting?” For many of us, these have been the longest fifty-five (plus) days of our lives. 

One of the many wonderful things about the Bible is that there is no facet of human existence that is not contained therein. David sings mournfully in Psalm 13: “How long, O Lord?” We already feel less alone. Sometimes it is not the severity of our trial that feels defeating but simply the length, or more specifically the unknown length; we just don’t know when it will end and we don’t know if we can bear up till the end.

David goes on, “Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

Here’s an immutable fact of life: our perception creates our reality. Some people are more in their feelings than others, but we’ve all been given a variety of emotions by our creator with which to express the fullness of our being. But these feelings can run away with us, because while they are God-given they are also affected by our fallenness and therefore cannot be trusted as drivers of our actions. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The NLT version says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” We are to understand heart here as the seat of emotions. And while our feelings are certainly not always desperately wicked, we have to admit that on a certain level, even our best intentions are mixed. 

But while sin is still our nature, it is not our only nature, and we can take great comfort from this.

When it comes to feelings, I’m an all or nothing kind of gal. I’m either on cloud nine or I’m in the pit of despair. Luckily, I manage to stay in the clouds most of the time, which is good because I don’t handle the bad emotions very well, mine or other people’s. I once jokingly told a friend that I’ve never cried in my life; she looked me straight in the eye and said levelly, “I can believe that.” 

Poor David, who was probably clinically depressed, didn’t have the emotional ability to shut down his bad feelings or avoid them. We see this in Psalm 13:2. David Guzik says, “Thinking about our troubles is hard work. Trouble is often like a pill God wants us to just swallow, but we make it worse by keeping it in our mouths and chewing it.” Ever had one of those “dark nights of the soul” where you just lie awake in bed, focusing on your trouble or your anxiety, just spiralling in negative thoughts? David was doing that. He was in his own head, taking his own counsel, and being led to dark places by his feelings. When we are depressed or discouraged, the answer is not to be found by looking inside ourselves but by looking to God. As Paulo Coelho said, “You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it.” We’re all going to fall into the river at some point in our lives. The trick is learning how to get out.

In verse 3 David cries out, “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God.” He’s desperate. He’s gone around and around the thing in his own mind, and he’s tired of sitting at the bottom of the river. So he looks up. “Light up my eyes,” he says, and this is a key turning point for David. He is admitting that he has been blinded by his feelings, that he has not been seeing rightly or clearly. He is asking for God to enlighten and clear his vision. This is also Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus (Eph. 1:16-23), that God “may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…” [emphasis mine].

Immediately after praying for God to light up his eyes, David begins to preach to himself: “But I have trusted in your steadfast love.” He reminds himself that God has not let him down in the past, nor will he now. Joe Thorn wrote a book on self-preaching, which he defines as “the discipline of intense Biblical meditation; reading, dwelling on, and applying the truths of Scripture to our own lives that leads to a deepening love of God, hatred of sin, and faith in Jesus Christ.” He says, “As many of you already know your life will push back on your theology, and this is why we need to push back with the truth of God’s word. We need to preach to ourselves. … Preaching to ourselves is not a self-centered discipline. It is not a looking in as much as it is a looking up. … You have to preach to yourself because the world is broken, the devil is scheming, your heart is corrupt, and you need the gospel. Preaching to ourselves does not mean we must always be in the word, but that the word must always be in us. It means we must pray through our theology and circumstances.”

This is precisely what David did. After David realized and admitted his failed self-reliance he called upon God who then enlightened his vision. David was able to see clearly and remember the truth of God’s love for him. Because of this, David is able to end the psalm with “I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” 

What a beautiful picture of the power of God’s steadfast love! In six short verses, David moves from “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” to “I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Because he saw his need and cried out to the Lord. 

Lauren Daigle’s song “Look Up, Child” is a sort of modern psalm following this theme. She sings:

Where are You now

When darkness seems to win

Where are You now

When the world is crumbling

Oh, I, I

I hear You say

I hear You say

Look up child

Look up child

And the strongest affirmation of God’s dominion over every circumstance comes at the bridge:

You’re not threatened by the war

You’re not shaken by the storm

I know You’re in control

Even in our suffering

Even when it can’t be seen

I know You’re in control

So I encourage you over the next month, which may or may not last a million years, if you start to feel despair, discouragement, or depression, to just look up. If you need someone to reach a hand down into the river and pull you up, reach out to your community group. And if you’re not in a community group, give me a call, because in all of this — in the water or out of it — we’re better together.

Written By: Jess Upshaw Glass

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