“When I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil. With one hand strike my foes, With your other hand save me. Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now.” (Psalm 138:8)
There’s a gutsy quality about Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Psalms that reminds you of something really important. To put it simply, it’s that God -and a God-awareness- spreads over the whole of our lives and can’t be fenced off in one small corner. We tend to keep things in tidily separated compartments, like a small child insisting that the potatoes, meat and veg are all kept apart on his plate.
But life isn’t like that. Things get messy!
Sooner or later we get into the thick of it. Sooner or later, things get mixed up together. For example, some would say: “As a Christian, you shouldn’t really get involved in politics” or even, “Why do they keep going on about religion at Christmas?”
Everything gets mixed up. Think about your motives. There seems to be no out-and-out-good-deed that isn’t somehow just a little self-referential, or mixed up with something just a little less worthy, if we are truthful enough with ourselves.
Think of your emotions. There’s an old cliché about how close love is to hate, but even in the thick of real committed love you realise that you two are two colours of paint, impossible to separate. “And they shall become one flesh” is not a fanciful metaphor, it’s the realistic expression of how that mashed potato gets mashed up with the veg, whether you will or not.
We’re part of one another’s lives. We live in the thick of it together.
Even good and evil, through those motives, those emotions good and bad…. somehow even good and evil get mixed up together. Quoting Paul Russell ““If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the unfortunate thing about life is that everything’s mixed. There’s no absolute good and there’s no absolute evil. There’s just a lot of confusion.”
When you hear of wars and rumours of wars… Don’t be afraid. Don’t get overwhelmed by the noise of the turmoil. And as the Psalmist has it: “In the thick of it, we call on you.”
Acknowledging the condition is one thing. But what do we call on God for?
The first thing is survival and protection: Just keep me alive. Life is lived in the thick of it. So lead me not into temptation. Deliver me from evil
The second thing is discernment: Keep me aware. Give me ears to hear what’s going on. Give me eyes to understand what is happening in the mist of the confusion.
And help me to distinguish between friend and foe. “With one hand strike my foes, With your other hand save me.”
The third thing is a total, childlike trust in God’s sovereignty: “Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal.” He has this in hand.
There is nothing that can defeat me here. I’m with Him.
And if that’s the case, then even in the thick of it, I am totally secure.