Psalm 16 shows the way.
David wrote this psalm and the people of Israel sang this song to celebrate the inheritance they had received from God and the benefits of choosing the path of life rather than running after the gods of their day. Like all of the psalms, we can read of God’s goodness to real people in a historical context and we can apply the psalms to our own circumstances as we learn to pray.
Psalm 16 has become a very personal prayer for me in this last year of homebound living. Early in the journey, when fatigue was so intense that I struggled to read even a single page, the psalms were a special solace. Because of their familiarity, I could focus on short passages, reading them as prayers. Psalm 16 has given me words to frame my attitude and prayers about my situation.
Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. (v. 1)
When your immune system is broken, even the simplest germs can cause a dangerous crisis. I studied biology and biochemistry and took an immunology class in grad school. Let’s just say too much knowledge can sometimes be a hindrance rather than a help. By nature, I imagine all possibilities for every situation. This can make me a creative problem solver, but it can also make me worrier as I think of all potential outcomes.
This psalm reminds me to leave “what ifs” behind and run to find refuge in God. He alone is my safety, not my contingency plans.
I can trust Him with my days.
I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” (v. 2)
It is easy for us to find our identity in productivity, plans, and possessions. My illness is a reminder that I am not what I do, that today is the only day I have, and that God is all I need.
This psalm reminds me to surrender my expectations to the Father, to thank Him that He is my only good thing, and to find my identity in belonging to Him.
As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.
I will not pour out their libations of blood
or take up their names on my lips. (v. 3-4)
This psalm also reminds me to be careful who influences me, to remember the sorrow and discontent that comes from running after the gods of our day (like productivity and prestige), and to find delight in godly friendships.
LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,
surely I have a delightful inheritance. (v. 5-6)
Travel has been part of my dreams for a long time. I dream of Oregon, home of my dearest friend and my favorite landscape, with its majestic trees, rocky coastline, and awe-inspiring mountains. And I dream of travel to other continents, to be a part of taking the gospel to the nations. I remember trips to Romania and Ecuador to serve the global church and long to go again. In my dreams, there are no limits to where I can go.
For this season, however, I am limited. On good days, the boundary lines are drawn at the edges of my yard and can be extended to the interior of our van as my husband drives me through the countryside. On fatigue days, the boundaries are the walls of my bedroom. Thankfully, I have more good days.
This psalm reminds me that I can choose to be content no matter where the boundary lines fall. God has assigned the boundaries for each part of my journey for my good. He is with me wherever I am. He keeps me secure. As a beloved daughter of Abba, Father, I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me. (v. 7)
The result of trust in God and contentment with His assigned boundaries is praise.
This psalm reminds me that when I take refuge in God, when I surrender to His plans, He counsels me. Even in uncertain times, He shows me the way. A heart filled with praise is ready even at night, when “what ifs” try to resurface and demand you figure things out on your own.
I have set the LORD always before me.
Because He is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken. (v. 8)
I get to choose what I focus on: my circumstances, or my God. My limitations, or His provision. My illness, or His strength.
This psalm reminds me to focus on God, to intentionally set Him before me. It reminds me that God is present. With Him at my side, I will not be shaken by changing circumstances. I can give thanks for that.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay. (v. 9-10)
With the unshakable certainty that God is with me, my heart can be glad, my conversation can be joyful, and my body can rest. When my heart is filled with gratitude and trust in God, my emotions are not controlled by the rollercoaster of changing circumstances. When I am content with whatever the day brings, knowing that God has allowed it, I have no reason to complain. Our emotions do affect our bodies and our physical health. When my primary emotion is gratitude, my body rests better and is more ready to heal.
This psalm reminds me to choose gratitude and joy. And it reminds me that God will not abandon me even if the worst happens.
You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (v. 11)
God has made the path of life known.
Find safety in Me, not your plans.
Find freedom in My boundaries, not your expectations.
Focus on Me, not your circumstances.
This psalm reminds me that I find life in God’s presence.
I can trust Him.
I can be content with what He plans for my days.
I can give thanks that because He is with me, I will not be shaken.
Father, keep me safe, for in you I take refuge. I surrender my plans and place my trust in you. Thank you for the security of your boundaries. I am content, knowing this day is a gift from you. Help me to focus on you today, not my changing circumstances. I praise you, Father, and thank you for the joy of your presence. Amen.