Before we begin to receive God’s goodness as if we are the centerpiece of creation, let’s think better of it. Yes, he is a refuge. Yes, he is a rock. Yes, he is a fortress. But, it’s not all for our sake.
“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame… Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!” Psalm 31:1-2
The Lord is, indeed, a refuge, a rock, and a fortress. But his protection should not lead us to believe that he exists for us; no, we exist for him.
For twenty-five years, I have prayed Psalm 31:3 for myself and anyone seeking counsel for God’s will. Honestly, I’m like a broken record. About twenty-five years ago, my family was at an intersection. We were working in South Africa and had been asked to transfer to Kenya. During our transition, our organization went through a reorganization and our job in Kenya disappeared. We set aside a month to pray and read Scripture. We were seeking God’s will. I’m not even sure which one of us came across Psalm 31.
But it changed our perspective on the will of God.
“For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me…” Psalm 31:3
Leave it up to Americans, but we had subtly believed God’s will was some mysterious, seldom discovered pathway in life. God was hiding his will, and we had to seek it out. Sure, we seek first his Kingdom and then all other things are added (Matthew 6:33). However, it’s a mistake to believe either of these two perspectives: one, he’s hiding his will; and two, his will is about us.
He’s not hiding it. It’s not about us.
God’s will is about his name. I don’t like loss. Never will. But in the face of loss, I can humbly submit my life to his will because it’s for his name’s sake that he leads and guides me. And you. He takes us out of the net because he wants to glorify his name. He wants to further his name. He redeems us to show his goodness to the world.
So, I cry out with David to lead me and guide me for the sake of the Lord’s name.
“I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction… Be gracious to me, O Lord…” Psalm 31:7, 9
Mysteriously, when he glorifies his own name, I experience his steadfast love. He is gracious to me—grace-filled. Even in my devastating affliction he causes me to rejoice in him because his steadfast love is unstoppable. I repeat a mantra to myself and to others who are suffering in tough circumstances: If your circumstances are telling you that he has removed his steadfast love from you, your circumstances are lying to you. Even if your eye is wasted in grief, sorrow, and sighing.
“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘ You are my God.’ My times are in your hand…save me in your steadfast love!” Psalm 31:14-16
How could we not be inspired to trust him? His mysterious ways, while making his name known, turn out to be good for us in a Romans 8:28 way. Psalm 31:19 reveals that he has stored up abundant goodness! Indeed, how could we not trust him? And how could we not let his goodness be known to the children of mankind?
“Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me… Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful…” Psalm 31:21,23
How could we not praise and bless him for his steadfast love. Unimpeded. Unquenchable. Unstoppable. In spite of difficult circumstances—loss included. Especially loss. Loss is a concrete and real picture of the effects of brokenness in our world. Up close and personal.
He preserves the faithful while he is making his name known. Stand firm in the face of loss. He will lead you and guide you through it all—the good times and the difficult times—for his name’s sake.
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” Psalm 31:24