I really like lists. I make a to-do list every day, of the tasks I would like to accomplish. I write shopping lists and stick to them to the letter. I have lists on my phone, on my fridge, next to my bed. Ticking off that first task of the day is one of the best feelings. When it comes down to it, I make lists because I like to know what I’m doing, when I’m doing it and what’s next. I like to know that I’m in control of my day – that everything is ticking along nicely.
And that, I think, is why God turns everything on its’ head every now and then. My neat lists get put to one side, and I have to trust in Him that He will use my day for His will. And when that happens, I get the privilege of helping people through tough times, of praying with people in need, of seeing people inspired and full of joy, of sitting down and getting to hear awesome stories, and of achieving things that definitely weren’t on my nice neat lists. I see sessions that I had planned turned around, and things happen that I couldn’t have thought of. My plans don’t even compare.
Someone once said that “the best preservation is to commit ourselves to God’s keeping” (Barnes). However much I try, I can’t save myself – I can’t guarantee that nothing bad is ever going to happen. But when I choose to trust in God, I don’t need to go anywhere else, or rely on anyone else for protection – nothing else compares. I can do this with entire confidence that God has got my back, and I can expect God to turn up. However much I try to have my own life sorted and planned, it could all fall apart in a moment. But leaning my life on God gives me the strength to make it through things that I wouldn’t have a chance of getting through on my own.
David, the writer of the Psalms, once wrote a prayer to God:
“Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” Psalm 86:2-4
But why does God care – why should He bother helping us?
1. Because we are holy.
That part of the Psalm has also been translated as “Preserve my life, for I am holy – I am sanctified by grace and devoted to your service” (Psalm 86:2)
When David called himself holy, he was not saying that he was perfect. We can’t be perfect – we mess up, we make mistakes.
But holiness = grace + devotion to God.
David was looking to God for protection because he was a friend of God, and he knew that he was covered by God’s grace. He didn’t have a right to a relationship of God because he was good – he knew that he wasn’t good enough and that he needed grace. He had devoted himself to God, and so he looked to God for protection when he was in danger. A child will look to a parent for protection, because they are a child; we look at the law for protection because we are citizens; and the people of God can look to Him for protection because we are His people.
I do not come to God on my own merit. I come to Him in the knowledge that my own merit is not enough, but that His grace covers me and he sees me as holy. He is my Father and I’m His daughter – I’m walking with Him not because of what I’ve done, but because of who He is.
2. Because God is holy.
“God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.” Psalm 18:30
We have a big, big God, and He is perfect; he can’t be bad, can’t sin. And God takes this perfection, and through Jesus, paints it over us, so that His perfection covers our imperfection.
We can’t earn God’s love – there’s nothing that we can do to get us to God’s level. But His flawlessness covers our flaws.
3. Because we are loved.
We have a promise from God – that He will hear us when we call – and He will listen. He is compassionate by others – he sees our hearts, he sees when we are hurting and burdened, and he hears us call. He’s seen it all – there’s nothing that we can do that will make Him love us any less.
He doesn’t need us to try to be perfect – he wants us to see that we’re not, and to look to Him to help. There’s no point in trying to do it by ourselves – we can’t save ourselves. But when we look to Him, he will be our shield and our protector, and will give us the strength to carry on.
“You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call you.” Psalm 86: 5