A trusted friend recently recommended Psalm 131 to me ... and I thank her for it! I have been grazing in these fields in recent days, and wanted to pass along just a few snippets. But first, the psalm in its entirety:
A Song of Ascents, of David.
O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.
A couple of things have stood out to me in this simple little poem.
First is that, so often, our anxiety stems from the fact that we involve ourselves in matters that are too difficult for us (v.1). We take as our sole responsibility things that ought to be handed to other, more capable, people; and, even more so, that ought to be cast as burdens upon the Lord. The internet is a great problem in this regard, it seems to me. With so much information at our fingertips, it is easy to search, and read, and end u tangling ourselves in matters that are beyond our competency and/or emotional wherewithal. Does that sound familiar?
Instead, David says, we should lay these things down. We should not dig into matters which are beyond our abilities. Is this an excuse to be irresponsible? To just drop subjects that really do need dealing with? Of course not. The point that David is making is that he has learned that there are some things that he must simply put into someone else’s (or Someone Else’s) hands, rather than into his own. I haven’t often been very good at that. And I need to learn to trust – especially to trust the Lord; to cast my burdens on Him. There are so often decisions that seem too big for me; tasks that seem too difficult; obstacles that seem too high to hurdle. And there has to be a way in which, without shirking responsibility, I can yet say: “Nor do I involve myself … in things too difficult for me.”
The second thing that has grabbed my attention in recent days is the picture of the weaned child resting against his mother (v.2). “A weaned child” (emphasis mine) – a child that no longer needs its mother’s milk. A child that can crawl or toddle around the house on his or her own. A child that can get into all sorts of things and has achieved some level of independence. Yet in this case, the child chooses to rest against his mother. He decides to compose and quiet his soul … even though he could be bouncing around, doing other things.
Here, I think, is part of the cure for anxiety. We could be doing other things, with the measure of independence that we think ourselves to have achieved. We could be fretting, calculating, internet searching, or fixing. But, like the child in David’s mind eye, we deliberately choose to quiet our souls before the Lord; we deliberately set aside the “things too difficult” in favor of climbing in our Father’s lap; we intentionally go to God instead of the internet, the telephone, the calculator, the anxious thoughts, and so on. This, too, is a challenge for me. I seem spring-loaded to try and fix things myself; and therefore to fret when I don’t seem to be able. But I must be “like a weaned child.”
“I do not involve myself … in things too difficult for me,” says the king. Instead, “I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother.” And if the incredibly competent king of Israel could say those things, how much more must you and I! But, O, how often I have failed! And how often David’s example seems to go against everything inside of me. Even as I type these words, I feel the tension in my heart (‘surely it’s not really this simple, is it?’). Yet there is wisdom – profound wisdom – in the simple faith of Psalm 131. Let us seek the Lord’s help in applying it. "O Israel, hope in the LORD."