Fess up. I know you have one.
A mental checklist for life.
I mean, you probably don’t call it that.
But at the end of the day, if you have to answer the question, “how was your day?” – I’d bet your gut answer is based on that list.
It’s a list of what you think makes your time worthwhile. The things that can make a day bad or great.
It can be dumb as anything.
Your team won the game. You got a killer discount on a new pair of shoes. It was foggy outside. (I love fog) Christmas is only 85 days away. (I also love Christmas)
On some level that’s fine – extremely normal.
But where that list gets us into trouble is when we starting using it to evaluate our lives.
Because you probably do that too. You have some sort of an idea of what you expect yourself to be. Some sort of an idea about how you expect your life to go. Possibly one shaped by too many episodes of Gilmore Girls.
And chances are, if you sit still and look around, what you see isn’t it.
You should be better. You should have gotten further in your career. Should have written that novel/screenplay/children’s book that you always dreamed of writing. Should have made more friends. Should have had more kids. Should have been nicer to the kids you have. You should make more money. You should have a bigger house. You should . You should. You should.
Or maybe (particularly if you’re like me and smack in the middle of your 20s), it’s not past regrets but future worries that plague you.
You know where you want to end up, but you don’t have a clue how to get there from where you are. In fact, maybe you even suspect you can’t force your life into becoming any of the things you want it to be, and the thought leaves you hopeless.
So maybe you’re paralyzed with fear and indecision. Maybe you’re listless and discontent. Or maybe you’re a ferocious workaholic determined to take control of your future.
We all have those moments when the future stretches out in front of you in a terrifying foggy blank.
When outcomes seem either uncertain or bleak. When life feels like either the space after all the highs, or the waiting period before life really begins.
Moments when our mental life list seems to whisper constantly about how we’ve missed our chance.
Here’s a tiny little Psalm to give your heart hope.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
(See it was nice and short).
But contained within those few verses are some life altering promises of God. Some of the Benefits of God, if you will 😉
Here’s the scene – Israelites are making their annual pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. But this is not modern day, grab a bus, hop on a plane pilgrimage. This is grueling several day walk for many of the pilgrims. It’s dangerous, it’s bandit ridden. It’s HOT (Israel is REALLY HOT).
But it’s not just that image –
The journey to Zion (to Jerusalem) in scripture is a pretty apt metaphor for the Christian walk. We no longer go to the temple every year (because God DWELLS IN US!), but we do journey steadily toward our ultimate home – the place where the Lord dwells fully, and will dwell fully with us.
And it’s danger-ridden isn’t it? And it’s high pressure. And it’s a LONG trip for most of us.
So I think we can sympathize with the Israelites reciting these Psalms.
We can sympathize with that question as we walk on our journey, “Where does my help come from?”
And we have the same answer – our help comes from the Lord.
What an encouragement when you remember His strength. The one who made heaven and earth – the one with the power to shape all of life, the one who shapes the circumstances and places of OUR lives, looks lovingly down on you.
So we can confidently say, here, in this place (under these skies) is where the Lord has placed me. This is where I’m supposed to be.
And look, it only get better. The next line is, “He will not let your foot be moved”. WILL NOT LET.
That’s a serious statement about how the Lord watches over you. It’s not just that he creates the environment you are in, but also that he personally guarantees the places where you are.
Let’s be clear here. We all do dumb things – we make mistakes, or act badly. But this is the goodness of God – so immense is his power, so infinite his love that even our stupidity and error is woven into his glorious plan.
So we can look at the situations we’re in, at the job we have or don’t have, the money we make or don’t make, the friends we’ve hurt, the places we’ve failed, and we can glorify the God who swears that he wasn’t asleep during those moments. He didn’t overlook or fail to act. He has us held in EXACTLY the place we ought to be.
Can we do one more?
When it talks in verses 5 and 6 that the lord is a “shade on your right hand” that’s fancy old fashioned talk for “protects you from threat.”
That can feel untrue in certain moments when life overwhelms, but the Bible has some sweet things to say about how the Lord walks with us in hardship.
One of my favorites is in Psalm 103. He promises that he never forgets our limits – “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust”.
In whatever hardship we face, whatever difficult situation we encounter, this fact remains true: the Lord knows our weakness. If the struggle is too great for you, if your powers are failing, He WILL provide.
He will be shade over you. His strength will cover your weakness.
It all comes together in that much repeated line, “The Lord is your Keeper”. There’s today’s benefit 🙂
Dig into that. You’re life isn’t a series of random events, there’s no dumb luck at work.
You are in Narnia. A carefully built world, where the moments are purposeful, where the struggles lead toward a glorious conclusion and where the outcome is guaranteed. Where every pitfall and downturn and celebration are important.
Including the one you are in the midst of now. HERE is where the Lord has put you. Right here.
In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis says that the real problem of Christian life, “…comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back [and] listening to that other voice…”.
So when your mental life list whispers (or shouts in your ear) shout right back, “THIS is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Can you put a name on the things you are demanding from yourself or your life?
What things make you feel like a failure? Or a champion?
What would be your idea of a perfect life? Do you feel like what you are looking toward lines up with God’s priorities for you?
In his book, The Happy Christian (so good), David Murray argues that confidence for the future (one of the cornerstones of happiness) is based on a feeling of control.
We need to feel certain about what is to come. For non-Christians (and for most of us instinctively) – that’s based in self-control. A conviction that our actions can determine our outcomes.
But a Christian worldview finds contentment in outside control – God’s sovereign control of our futures.
Do you find it easy to surrender control to God?
Does the idea that the Lord has determined your future calm you or make you anxious?
How does that reflect your view of your creator? How do your actions reflect what you believe?
Why not take a second to text a friend and ask them how you can pray for them in their immediate life situation.
One of the greatest joys of community is how carrying the burdens of others lightens our own 🙂
Feeling really gutsy? Ask them to pray for you too.
I’d recommend, “Contentment in a Discontented World” by Kevin DeYoung . You can find it here.
This short (but super dense) article from the Gospel Coalition needs a few minutes to really digest.
If you don’t have that kind of time to give it, take a pause on the 5th paragraph. Here Kevin talks about how the things we want (that better job for instance) are not about the things themselves, but about the feelings we want to have.
As you look through that list, see if you can spot the way your life list of dreams is made of desires that point you back to a need that can only be met in Christ.
Praying today that the Lord would faithfully show you His goodness right where you are.
As always, it’s a joy to journey with you.