I spend most of my days joyfully chasing three small boys. However, there are some days when I’m the one who wants to run away and hide in the bathroom. For those of us mothers with young children, the desire to “escape” and find comfort, relief, and pleasure in something other than God is a pronounced temptation. But all of us can succumb to this ungodly way of dealing with trials, both big and small. In this portion of his Personal Reflection, Dr. Powlison will offer us a guide to how, “Faith works out into a right longing to escape trouble and to help others in their troubles.” (Click here to read the previous posts in this series.)
Personal Reflection, cont.
by Dr. David Powlison
1. Ponder the following passages from Psalm 31.
“In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge…Into your hand I commit my spirit…You have seen my affliction; you have known the troubles of my soul…Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress. My eye is wasted away from grief…Make your face to shine upon your servant; save me in your lovingkindness. How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you have wrought for those who take refuge in you, before the sons of men! You hide them in the secret place of your presence from the conspiracies of man; you keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues…Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the LORD.”
Read it over 3-4 times. Take it slowly. Emphasize different sentences, phrases, words. Notice the troubles he faces, and how open he is about his experience. Jesus quoted this psalm as he was dying. Notice also how persistently he calls on the character and promises of God. What most strikes you about this passage as you think about it in comparison to the “false refuges” where you tend to turn when the heat is on?
2. Now work through our six questions.
Situtation: What difficult circumstances trigger your avoidance and escapism?
Reaction: How do you tend to express pleasure-, safety-, and comfort-seeking (thoughts and fantasies, ‘addictions, ‘vices’, emotions, behavioral choices to avoid or procrastinate)?
Motive: What “false refuges” do you flee to? What things, activities, and feelings do you turn into your god, your strong tower of safety, your comforter from trouble?
Message: What specific things does God reveal about Himself (right in this passage), that bid to do battle with your escapism? ______________________________. Fan out into the surrounding sentences, backwards and forwards into the psalm.
Turn: Bring the real you, in your real world, to this real Savior and Father. Have a real conversation about what matters. Talk to God about all these things. Look how honest David (and Jesus) are in this psalm. They honestly experience the difficult circumstances, and come to God about these experiences, interacting with specific things about God.
Respond: What are you now called to do (and to not do)? What specific action will express how faith-working-through-love replaces false-refuge-working-through escapism? What are innocent pleasures? What can and should you do right now? Or when you get back home later today? Or tomorrow when you face your typical difficulties?
3. Worship is the opposite of being an escaper and false refugee.
What “consolations to delight your soul” do the hymns, (“Jesus what a friend for sinners” & “How firm a foundation” ) offer, give, proclaim, embrace, hope in, delight in?