I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.
The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!”
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
Yes, our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
For You have delivered my soul from death,New King James Version
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living.
We’ve often heard stories of how someone had to hit “rock bottom” before they could recover. That’s certainly what this psalmist describes. If we force ourselves to think about it, we probably remember times in our own lives when we hit “rock bottom,” but we usually try to forget those times. Those bad memories recall pain and frustrations. We don’t want to relive the panic of not knowing what to do next. We remember feeling trapped, unable to find options or a way out. That’s why we treat “rock bottom” stories as warnings to the foolish and as measures of heroism for those that overcame their desperate circumstances.
Neither of those were the reason this psalmist wrote this psalm.
What we don’t often consider is that there is a blessing in having no options. The power that will lift us out of a “rock bottom” situation comes when we trust God to save us in whatever way God chooses. So long as we think we have options, we are tempted to use those options to direct our “rescue,” but our efforts to control God sink us deeper into troubles. The best lesson we can learn from a “rock bottom” experience is how to surrender to God. If we’re really good at this lesson, we might learn to surrender to God before things get quite so bad!
The psalmist uses the term “simple,” also translated as “naive,” to describe this virtue of turning things over to God. Those words had the same negative connotations when the psalm was written as they do today. We don’t want to be naive; we want to be smart and clever! It often takes being “brought low,” as the psalmist described it, before we are willing to set aside our “cleverness” and simply accept that God knows best.
To state this contradiction more clearly, we are wisest when we are simple and naive before God. We are wise only when we accept without reservation whatever way God leads us. Being simple means comprehending that God’s leading will appear mysterious, unpredictable, and especially uncontrollable. Being simple means that we have to give up our ideas of what God “should” want in our lives. When we’re at “rock bottom,” we are forced to admit that we don’t know what is best for us, but once we’ve recovered, we don’t like to concede that we are incapable of managing our destiny. Being simple means embracing with joy that God’s holy knowledge will often appear as a contradiction from our human perspectives, but that it brings immeasurable and eternal blessings.
The psalmist also tells us that this simplicity gives rest to our souls. Trying to control our lives and direct our destiny is impossibly hard work, filled with anxiety, dread, and doubt. Giving up and letting God set our path and take charge of our future fills us with peace and rest, even when our circumstances are painful and difficult.
For me, that feeling of peace is the best indication I have that I am following God in simplicity and faith. When I examine my soul and don’t sense that peace, I need to look more closely to see what I am doing to deviate from that simplicity. I need to consider if I am choosing what is best out of my own intelligence, pulling back from God authority over my life, and limiting what I will accept from God. To push God away like that is to create a substitute god that is more to my liking, but my substitute gods always lead me to failure.
Romans 8:28 affirms the virtue of simple faith: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” It truly is simple: God is God, and I am not. God loves me much more than I can comprehend and more than I love myself. God is good, all the time!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.