January 23, 2022
I know some of y’all enjoy hiking and camping. But serious hiking is not for everyone. Several years ago, the staff of the Bridger Wilderness in the Tetons released some of the comments taken after people had concluded their hikes. Here are a few samples:
- Trails need to be wider so people can walk holding hands.
- Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.
- Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the area of these pests.
- The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals.
- Please pave the trails so they can be plowed of snow during the winter.
- Chairlifts need to be in some places so that we can get to wonderful views without having to hike to them.
- Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.
- The places where trails do not exist are not well marked.
- [There are] too many rocks in the mountains.
- A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed?
- A McDonald’s would be nice at the trailhead.
I think it is safe to say that in general, people do not endure difficulties and trials well. That’s not only true in the wilderness, but it seems true in all of life. And our lives are troubled, as Steve Hoppe has noted:
“Our world isn’t paradise. Our jobs are stressful, taxing, and unfulfilling. Our relationships are quarrelsome. We get cancer. We break bones, throw up, and get hemorrhoids. We feel nervous, afraid, angry, and upset. The Holocaust happens. 9/11 happens. Poverty, genocide, and starvation happen. Terrorists set off bombs. Our cars hit potholes. Books are ridiculously difficult to write. We go years without speaking to relatives. Divorce splits families. Hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes destroy the planet. Love fades. World peace is a clichéd impossibility. We get wrinkles, zits, sunspots, and bald spots. We rarely smile. We rarely laugh. We rarely let loose and play. Our minds fail us. Our hearts ache. We constantly itch for more. Eventually we die. The world as we know it is anything but paradise.” [Sipping Saltwater, 14.]
As believers in Christ, we are aware that God is behind all our troubles. He designs the difficulties of life so that we will loosen our attachment to this world and strengthen our attachment to Him. He wants us to learn that the provisions of the world are weak and that He and His provisions are strong and satisfying. And He teaches us those realities not only in our circumstances but also in His Word.
This morning we return to Psalm 119 for one of our two annual sermons in this masterpiece (we only have three sections left after this morning). In verses 145-152, it is clear that the psalmist is suffering, but the circumstances of his suffering are never stated — they are “generic” and could be applied to any kind of trouble. What is stated is what he does while suffering: he runs to the Lord in prayer and yearns for His Word. Every January I preach sermons on Scripture and prayer; there is a sense in which this passage serves both subjects — the psalmist declares His allegiance to the Word through His prayers. He will say it this way:
When suffering, intentionally draw near to God in Word and prayer.
One commentator finds two dominant themes in this stanza and labels it after James 4:8: “Draw near to God” (vv. 145-148), “And He will draw near to you” (vv. 149-152). That’s helpful; I want to expand that…
Consider five responses of the psalmist when suffering and sorrowing.
- The Psalmist’s Petition in Sorrow: Obedience to the Word (vv. 145-146)
- The Psalmist’s Practice in Sorrow: Meditation on the Word (vv. 147-148)
- The Psalmist’s Security in Sorrow: the Justice of the Word (v. 149)
- The Psalmist’s Comfort in Sorrow: the Nearness of the Word (vv. 150-151)
- The Psalmist’s Refuge in Sorrow: the Sufficiency of the Word (v. 152)
Download the rest of this sermon on Psalm 119:145-152.
Photo by USDA Forest Service.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.