Deliverance and Sustenance

By Jill Wondel, Associate Conference Lay Leader

During Lent this year, my small group has been studying the Psalms. We’ve had wonderful conversations, reflecting on the stories behind the Psalms and imagining both what the author was experiencing and how Jesus and the disciples might have understood these poems and songs. But one in particular stands out to me this time. It’s Psalm 3.

The heading at the top of the poem tells us that this Psalm was written when King David was fleeing from his son Absalom. In the story, Absalom works to gain the Israelites’ favor in an attempt to overthrow his father and become king. David flees Jerusalem with those who are still loyal to him. When the time for the battle becomes imminent, David is advised to stay back and to allow his troops to go to war without him. It says that he stands by the city gate while all his men marched out in units of hundreds and thousands. And then he waits. And this is the Psalm written during that time (from the NIV):

Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.”
But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.
Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.
From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.

David is looking for deliverance, for sustenance, and what does he do? He prays for God’s help and then he takes a nap. He expects that when he wakes up, all will be well.

Admittedly, this is not how I usually pray. I usually ask God to give me strength and wisdom and ability to solve the problem on my own. I expect that I will step into the battle, and I will win, with God’s help. Sometimes this is true. But, what if sometimes God is perfectly prepared the win the battle on my behalf, without any efforts on my part? Maybe all I need to do is ask and then rest. It reminds me of the part of the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer where Wesley prays, “...may I be used by you, may I be laid aside for you ... ”

Perhaps this last year has been a chance to rest in preparation for something I cannot see. Perhaps this Lent has been a chance to remember to whom the battle belongs.

These days, I have a new mindfulness practice. I’m stopping to ask the Lord, “Is this my battle or yours?” and then, when it’s not for me to fight, to practice trusting God enough to find rest while I wait.