Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.
Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.
I will praise you with the harpNew International Version
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you—
I whom you have delivered.
One lasting memory from raising a preschooler was how she never seemed to be bored with repetition. She watched her favorite animated movie so often that she could recite the first ten minutes of dialog. She wore out her favorite cassette of children’s songs twice. When I would try some new experience with her, I would hope for her affirmation by the request, “Do it again, Daddy!”, and of course I complied. At the same time, I would also hope she would stop after repeating the activity only a dozen times or so.
I’m not certain of when she outgrew her love for repetition, but that is an inevitable part of coming of age in our society. To some extent, we are taught impatience as we are urged to pursue something “new”. There are also social pressures to which we become sensitive as we mature. To avoid embarrassment, we often don’t want to admit that we might need to hear it again, or need to be helped again, or be otherwise incapable of taking care of ourselves. There is also a level of maturity we gain in perceiving and responding to the viewpoints of others, leading us to respect the possibility that the person to whom we’re making our request might not want to do it again or explain it again.
Too often, we attribute these same maturations and emotions to our relationship with God. We want to grow and develop as Christians, and we assume that as we mature, we will become less reliant on God. In one sense, it is true that God doesn’t want us living in the same sins year after year. Paul chastised the church in Corinth for still subsisting on spiritual “milk”, rather than developing a hunger for the solid “food” in God’s Truth. However, Paul also explained that as we develop as Christians, we rely more on God instead of less. Mature Christians spend more time in prayer, trust God more for guidance, and show less independence and more willingness to follow God’s Way. These characteristics are the opposite of what we learn as children about “growing up”, so this lesson of growing in our faith is one we need to keep applying to our lives over and over.
The psalmist who wrote Psalm 71 still struggled with relying on God, but he had learned over the years that his only sure salvation would come from God, in God’s time and in God’s way. When enemies were closing in to destroy him, God would save him. When sickness would come, God would restore him. When decisions were overwhelming, God would guide him. Even though he had asked many times before, even though he was old, he prayed with confidence because he knew God would respond. By the time this psalm was written, the psalmist had learned that God’s answers were certain, but often not what he expected. With this wisdom from experience, he didn’t pray for specifics of what God should do, but rejoiced in confidence that God would provide.
God wants us to do what this psalmist described. Even when we find ourselves in the same problems and calamities again, God wants us to call for guidance and rescue, and to call sooner than later! Even when we make the same sins over and over, God wants us to repent again and change our ways again. Even when we are depressed and discouraged by the same problems that don’t seem to go away, God wants us to hold firmly to our faith and let God provide the way over and over again.
Paul provided us with a reminder in how God works in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul wrote that he had received an undefined “thorn in the flesh”, and that he had prayed repeatedly to God to remove this disability. Instead, we read God’s answer in verse 9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Paul found reason to celebrate over his infirmity, because it caused him to rely more on God. So, we, like the psalmist, should offer to God a prayer something like this:
God, we ask you to move again in our lives. You know all the ways in which we are still weak, and though feel shame for our repeated failing, we come to ask You again to work in our weaknesses. Heal us again, God. Direct us again, teach us again, touch us and calm us again, God, that we would grow to trust You more in every circumstance and with every part of our being. Amen.
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