Buts Really Get in the Way Sometimes

I’m not a very cynical person by nature. Most of the time, I’m pretty optimistic, actually. .I love to recognize the potential in the people around me. I enjoy dreaming about future possibilities. It doesn’t take me very long to see the good in the bad.

Yet sometimes, my pessimistic side comes out.

One of the places this can occur is when I am reading the Bible. Too many times, I read verses, and instead of enjoying their beauty and depth, I focus on the “buts” in my head.

You know, the “buts.” The voices that say things like, “But that’s not the way life really works.” Or “But no one really feels that way.” Or “But what about the other times?

These buts can be good. They can cause me to dig deeper, explore, and not take the surface answer as the best answer.

But these buts can also make me think I’m smarter than the Bible.

I forget to treat the biblical writers as intelligent individuals that also knew about these exceptions. Yet, the exceptions and the buts did not hinder them from expressing their feelings of praise.

Psalm 18 is beautiful and grand. It speaks of God’s dramatic rescue of His servant, David. Yet, sometimes when I read it, the buts get in the way of me seeing its power.

When I read this verse,

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. – Psalm 18:3

I think, “But God doesn’t always save when we call. What about those times?”

Well, David knows that, too. In Psalm 13, he wondered how long God would hide His face. He pleaded with God to no longer let his enemies triumph over him.

David’s knowledge that God does not always rescue in the way and at the time we want Him to does not stop him from praising God when salvation does come.

Or what about these verses?

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. – Psalm 18:20-23

They make me think, “But David is not blameless. No person is blameless.”

Well, David knows that too. He writes many Psalms of confession, the most famous of which is Psalm 51, written after David has an affair with Bathsheba. Plus, this Psalm is an adaptation of 2 Samuel 22, which is clear about David’s sins.

David’s knowledge of his sinfulness does not hinder him from seeing himself the way God sees him: forgiven. He has sinned, but He has also confessed. He has sacrificed and sought God’s grace. He can leave those sins in the past and not dwell on them any longer.

So now, I want to leave some of the buts behind. Can I challenge you to do the same thing?

Try diving into this Psalm without cynicism. Work to praise God for what He does, without thinking about what He doesn’t do. Attempt to appreciate the times you see God moving in your life, without dwelling on the times He has seemed silent.

Do you ever let buts get in the way? How do you think we can let them go?

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could read it and think about it, even when that is difficult.

Advent Series Day 5: our cries have been heard

When I was 7 years old, I was at a water park with my family. We were in the wave pool at a point when the water was still. My dad was in the deep end, and I swam out to meet him. But while I was on my way, the waves started. I struggled to get through them. I was not a strong swimmer. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t find help... until I spotted a bar mounted to on the side of the pool. the wave pool at Noah's Ark

I somehow made my way to the bar and hung on for dear life. I breathed between the swells going over my head. I wanted to cry out for a rescuer, but I had to use the time between waves to just breathe. So, I prayed. I prayed that someone would see me and pull me out. Suddenly, I felt hands grip my wrists and heave me up to the side of the pool.

My prayers were heard.

At the end of the book of Genesis, the people of Israel are in Egypt. They are there because God had used Joseph to provide for them, and the Egyptians, during a time of famine. The Israelites are secure. The pool is still.

But in the book of Exodus, the waves begin. As generations pass, the Egyptians forget about the way Joseph rescued them. They stop seeing Israelites as an ally, and begin to see them as a threat.  The Egyptians force them into difficult slave labor. Pharaoh even has all male Israelite infants thrown into the Nile. The Israelites groan under the weight of this affliction. They cry out to God for a rescuer.

Their prayers are heard.

Moses is out tending sheep when he sees a bush, filled with fire, but not burning up. He goes to get a closer look, and hears the voice of Yahweh.

The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land... So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” – Exodus 3:7-10

And so begins the story of the exodus- one of the most important stories of the Israelite nation. God hears the prayers of His people and sends Moses to rescue them. Through Moses, God sends plagues on the Egyptian people- plagues that show Yahweh, and not the Egyptian gods, as the true God. Plagues meant to motivate Pharaoh to release the Israelites. But these plagues do not work until God sends the most devastating message- the plague of the death of all firstborn sons. The Israelites are saved from this plague if they sacrifice a lamb, and spread its blood over their door frames. With this plague, Pharaoh is convinced. He releases the Israelites from slavery.

They are saved by the blood of the lamb.

We too were trapped and oppressed by the dark forces of this world. We needed a savior. The birth of our Messiah shows that God heard us crying out. He was concerned about our suffering and slavery. And so He came down to rescue us.

When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. – Galatians 4:4-7

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  – 1 Peter 1:18-19

We are no longer slaves. We are redeemed by the blood of the lamb. We are children of God.

Jesus is the answer to our prayers.