Looking Toward Joy: Reflections on Psalm 34

Psalm 34 has always been a favorite for me. As a melancholy for whom fear and shame have been 'close companions' for as long as I can remember David's words have provided hope.

I prayed to you and you answered me, freeing me from all my fears. When I look to you I will be radiant with joy. No shadow of shame will darken my face. I cried out to you in my suffering and you heard me,  you set me free from all my fears....Taste and see that you are good. Oh the joys of trusting in you.        

Psalm 34:4-6,8   Adapted from NLT

As I read these words again Monday morning something very cool struck me. My soul had moved. I could see growth. The words felt less like my 'expectation' and more like my 'experience'. As I reflected upon what I was feeling I realized that over the last few years I'm learning to trust God with my all-too-familiar patterns of fear and shame. While my 'close companions' are still present - they have less power over my life. Trust is becoming more natural and comfortable. God even brought a smile to my face. I was reminded of a scene in A Beautiful Mind (2001). It's the story of famed Princeton mathematician John Nash (Richard Crow) and his lifelong struggle with schizophrenia. John develops a relationship with some 'imaginary friends' whose voices play a destructive role in shaping his view of reality. By the end of the movie John learns to see his 'friends' for who they really are. At one point his 'friends' are walking along with John begging him to listen. He pauses, smiles at them, then moves on without them. While still present the power of their presence had been broken. I'm learning that's the way it is with fear and shame. Their voices may remain but I can learn to see them for what they are really are and give their presence far less power in my life.

Something else caught my attention - the words "when I look to you I will be radiant with joy". While I am deeply grateful that my fear is being replaced with an emerging peacefulness and my shame with an emerging confidence - I'm now looking for the emotional freedom that allows a very natural and settled joy to emerge. Maybe that's the next season of my spiritual journey. 

Catch my pride and doubt off guard, that, at least for the moment, I may sense your presence and your caring, and be surprised by a sudden joy rising in me now to sustain me in the coming then.

Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace p.79

Tasting the goodness of God in my life is a good thing. Grace is a surprising gift. The experience of growth brings with it the expectation of continued growth.

Fighting For Your Heart,

Gary