The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!”…
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
-Psalm 116:3-4, 7
I fail. So often, so constantly. I fail to pursue my relationship with God. I fail to be the patient teacher He has called me to be. I do “[lag] in diligence, [am not] fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). I fail to sit at His feet to enjoy the secrets He longs to share (Psalm 25:14), and instead get caught up in the busyness and trivial distractions of life (Luke 10:38-42, Hebrews 12:1-2). I treat temporary joys as if they are the substance of my joy, and push off eternal things as if they are of little value (2 Corinthians 4:18). Quite simply, I put my own agenda before God’s and act like my plans are better than His; in essence, I hold the King of Heaven and Earth in contempt.
And that thought makes me shudder. My sin is great. The sin He willingly took onto His own body, the sin He lovingly paid for with His blood, that very sin I choose to indulge in while ignoring the One Who freed me from its power. Acknowledging my guilt, the only thing I can do is ask God for His forgiveness and help to pursue His purposes for me.
I try to do better. I stumble, He lifts me up, I see victory, I taste defeat. I rely on Him sometimes, other times I think I can do it on my own. Progress is made, then lost, and I feel like I’m nowhere near where I should be. But as I trust Him, He continues working on me: adding here, removing there, teaching and leading and shaping me to look like Jesus Christ.
What now? I’m a failure, He’s the Victor. I cannot come before Him brazenly, because I know I’m unworthy. But I know He tells me to seek Him (Psalm 27:8), and I want to see His face. How can I come before Him? What does He want me to do, to say? “What shall I render to the LORD / [f]or all His benefits toward me?” (Psalm 116:12)
I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD
Now in the presence of all His people….
O LORD, truly I am Your servant;
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the LORD.”
(Psalm 116:13-14, 16-17)
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with You.
This seeming paradox never ceases to amaze me: I show my gratitude by receiving His gift, fully and completely. I serve Him because He made me free; when I am His bondservant, I am free. I thank Him for answering by continuing to call. I simply do what I’ve promised, publicly showing what God has done in and for me, and trust Him with each day of my life.
I rest in His goodness. My eternal destiny is secure, my ultimate joy is a certainty, and even the temptations of this life cannot stand against the wisdom and power God offers me (v. 8). He is merciful, so I don’t need to fear His anger or punishment. He is righteous, so I pursue what is right, not fearing that He will ever be unfair. He is gracious, so I gratefully accept gifts I don’t deserve, and I rest in His strong hand (v 5).
I live in His salvation, and my soul can rest.