I had the opportunity to take a few days off recently, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The rush of Easter-related activities at my church — combined with some deaths in my church family and some sermons that didn’t come together as easily as I had hoped — left me feeling a little “shut in” by stress and weariness. Please understand, however, that in saying this I’m not seeking pity. After all, I think that all of us encounter times when our souls feel cramped and our options seem limited. I’m simply acknowledging that there are those circumstances that make us long for a sense of balance and freedom and “openness” to return.
Enter today’s psalm (Psalm 18:1-19). David understood that feeling of being surrounded by hemmed in by troubles. After opening his psalm with an expression of devotion and trust, he gives voice to his predicament: “The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.” (verses 4-5) But even from within the confines of his prison, David knows that he serves a God who shatters tombs and opens prisons and sets captives free. And so, his lament is transformed into an expression of deliverance and thanksgiving:
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place (emphasis added);
he rescued me because he delighted in me. (verses 16-19)
The Lord has brought me into a spacious place, and I give thanks for that. But in addition, I pray that the next time I feel “imprisoned” — because let’s be honest: there will be a next time — I’ll be able to remember that there is always room to breathe for those who dwell within the ever-present embrace of God’s love. As Eugene Peterson puts it in his rendering of Ephesians 3:14-19…
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
May the Lord lead you into a spacious place today, my friends. And may you live full lives, full in the fullness of God.