Here are some brief thoughts on God’s love found in Psalm 36, from my devotional reading this morning. In my 49 years of life and 30 years of doing gospel ministry I have come to see two glaring realities in believers’ minds that need to be reversed: 1) they tend to see their troubles as bigger than Christ’s indwelling power and 2) they tend to see God’s love as very small and not very satisfying.
Now don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of talk about “facing our giants” and thinking of ourselves like the Alex Kendrick’s movie. Of course with God’s help we will overcome our obstacles. Philippians 4:13 is our favorite verse, right? “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Yes, there’s a lot of that.
But at the same time there’s also a lot of underlying discontent and unsettledness in LOTS of Christians because there is this one, particular problem they’re facing that is just too big to allow real joy to exist. This has certainly been true in my own life over the years. It’s as if there’s one category for the problems that aren’t big enough to take away all the joy. Of course God enables me to rise above all of them. But then there’s another category. There’s this one problem, a big one, a hard one. It never goes away. It won’t die easy. Though we know all of God’s good promises, nothing is enough to outweigh this one.
But what about God’s love? Isn’t it enough to satisfy and make me live above the hardship? Yea, right! Suddenly all the great love of God just rings in our ears like an old cliché we hear grandma say all the time. It’s just a “band-aid answer.” God’s love sounds to us to be nowhere near enough to sustain us.
That’s what makes Psalm 36 so profound. There are two topics in its twelve verses: 1) hardship caused by the wicked person and 2) the great love of God. That’s it. Really to the point, and eye-opening! David rattles off four verses about the wicked person who denies God. This person has no fear of God. He flatters himself. His words are great trouble. He does really bad things to people. He connives and schemes how he can hurt people and make himself look good. He will even kill.
When you have this kind of harmful person or problem in your life all the self-help books in the world just aren’t enough. They tell you all those Facebook quotes like, “Get the negative people out of your life.” Or, “Set boundaries to protect your relationships.” Those just don’t work. But often Christians read the Bible and listen to sermons and think the exact same things about God’s word. “God’s love helping me face this life-altering problem?” “Yea, right!” “That’s easy for you to say, but you’re not the one dealing with it.”
And yet this is exactly what we see David report. God’s love was enough to sustain him. He didn’t lose his mind. He didn’t run away and never come back. He didn’t despair and shrivel up into a non-existent soul. Instead listen to what he said. “Your steadfast love, Oh Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds (verse 5).” After stating how big and damaging the acts of the wicked are. He recounts how much more profoundly weighty God and His love are. Think about these truths of God’s love, “extends to the heavens,” “like the mountains,” “like the great deep.” David thought about how troubling his hardship was but then he put his thoughts on something far more awesome. When he reflected on who God is and His great love, thoughts filled his mind that overshadowed his hardship, “how precious is your steadfast love, O God.” It is a “refuge.” He can “feast on the abundance.” There are “delights” that keep him from despair. God’s “the fountain of life” brings him joy when there seems to be no way to have joy.
May God cause us more and more to see Himself for all that He is so that we are filled more and more with His joy.
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” Psalm 36:7-8