Where Will My Help Come?
AN IMPORTANT QUESTION
Psalm 121 opens up with the words, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come?…This is an important question that has the sound of a brief prayer for someone in need. We do not know all the circumstances of why this question of help is being asked, but there is a sense the Psalmist is on a journey towards some destination, whether it's the mentioned hills or someplace else. We do not know the reasons why the journey has gotten so difficult for the person lifting up this brief prayerful petition of help.
It could be that something has happened on their journey and now they are anxious and afraid. Or maybe their prayerful question is seeking an answer for a need in their life. Whether it is a physical need, or an emotional need, or a spiritual need, we can’t be sure; but something is causing the one on the journey to feel so distressed to ask the prayerful question, “Where will my help come?”
This important question is one we can relate to ourselves. At some point in our life journey and in our faith journey we will reach a point where we will ask this question. We all face significant and ambiguous moments in our journey of life and faith when we feel helplessness, anxiety, doubt, fear, grief, pain, and neediness. Even as we gather together this morning many of us might be feeling some or all of these feelings.
Maybe its been the weather these last few days, but there have been so many people I have encountered this week who have said they feel like they are in a funk, and something feels off. I could not agree more. To be honest the news of the world, with a pandemic happening in the world, and other events swirling in the news it has caused a feeling of anxiousness and helplessness. Many of us in this moment might relate to the Psalmists important questions, where will my help come?
The important answer to this significant theological question of need lies in the 7 verses that follow. “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth…The Lord will keep you from all evil; the Lord will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.” For a question that seemed unsure of what’s ahead, the answer that follows is full of hope and security. Our help comes from God, but the hopeful reply does not stop with just help, the assurances and promises of God keep flowing abundantly. God not only helps us, but God keeps us. In fact the word keep is mentioned six times in the 7 verse answer to the Psalmist’s important question.
Because the word KEEP is being used so much, it must be an important word, so what does it mean that God will keep us? When we think of the word KEEP we might think about possession, like we have something that is ours. But the intention of God’s action of keeping is something deeper than to just belief that God has us in God’s possession. For example I have a favorite coffee mug, it is my possession. The church staff will tell you that I keep it on the top shelf so no one can get it. But I do not keep it there…I store it there. But I keep my pets, my two dogs. My two dogs are not my possessions, but they are important to me, so I keep them. So important that I feed them, take care of them. I protect them and take care of them not for my sake but for theirs. They are so important to me that if something happened to them, I would feel pain too.
So to keep something means it is not just yours, but it is something you tend to and care for. Other translations of the Bible use the words guardian or watching over in place of the word keep. God is making it known that God will tend to us and care for us this time on and forevermore.
I think that it is so great that today’s Psalm is paired with the gospel reading of John. Jesus says those words that proclaim good news to the world, “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, bu tin order that the world might be saved through him.” Our two readings affirm this good news, God’s loves us through Christ, therefore God keeps us and cares for us.
As we sit here doubtful, or grieving, or anxious about the future, or overcome with pain. May we all hold tight to this good news, that God through Jesus Christ keeps our life. We might feel like we have lost a grip on life and maybe a grip on God, put God has not lost a grip on us. God’s enduring love through Christ will always keep us. In all we experience in our journey, even those moments when we lift up our eyes up to the hills, and ask where will my help come, even in that uneasy moment God is with us.
Many of us know through our own life and faith experiences that by lifting up this question all the difficulty we are facing will NOT go away in a moment as if all will be right with life in an instant. However let us not lose sight that by lifting up this prayerful question, we can listen to God’s answer through prayer.
As we talked about last week in our Lenten Sunday school series, prayer is the essential means of communication in our relationship with God. Prayer is not only when we speak to God but when we listen to God. In our moments of prayer, especially in moments when we are lifting up prayers of petitions like today’s brief prayer of help in Psalm 121, it is helpful to remember that prayer is initiated not by us but by God. Paul tells us in Romans, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
In our moments when we feel we are losing a grip on life and calling out to God, prayer is a way to remind ourselves that God has a firm grip on us, and God will keep our life. Marjorie Thompson writes these hopeful words for us about God and prayer, especially as we face tough times on our journey. “Our confidence in the power of prayer is rooted in the promises that God is continually working for good in the midst of ambiguous situations and that God’s purpose will prevail in the end…Love is the only power capable of enduring all things. It remains immovable after all else has fallen away. Therefore we can ask for eyes to see where God is already at work and a spirit ready to cooperate with God’s activity in any given circumstance. The more fully we entrust ourselves to God, the more freely God’s loving purpose can be worked out.”
“Where will my help come”? As we ask ourselves this prayerful question on our journey of life and faith, especially in those ambiguous moments there is no doubt God is at work to provide an answer. I am sure if we shared our own experiences with each other about our times in need, some of might say that the answer to this question came to us clear as day, and others will say the answer was nothing like they expected. Some might say it came in the form of God’s gift of medicine and science. Some will say their help from God came in the form of friends and strangers who joined them on their journey. Others will say they are still seeking a response to their circumstance.
As you seek help and assurance may you lean on those in the pews next to you, and may you prop your worries, fears, and anxieties on the Good News that even as we face uncertainty and anxiety on our journey, even as we face unexplained pain and death, that God will keep your life. May you cling tight to the good news that you will never experience those things alone, and God’s love will endure all things. God will keep you and be with you, from this time on and forevermore. Amen