Yesterday we were reflecting on the fact that there are times in our lives when we feel beaten up by the circumstances of life, and the Lord does not always change those circumstances but walks through them with us. Sometimes, there are times in our life when there are shadows over us that don’t seem to shift. We pray and ask for deliverance, or wisdom, or a way out of that valley, but it just seems to go on, and there is not an immediately obvious way out. Or we feel trapped, like someone in a besieged city surrounded by an enemy.
Recently I was reading Psalms 31 and 32 and I was struck by David’s experience. He was in tight places ‘Free me from the trap that is set for me’ (31:4), ‘I have become like broken pottery’, (31:12), ‘I was in a besieged city, in my alarm I said “I am cut off from your sight.”’ (31:21,22), ‘my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer’ (32:4).
However Psalms 31 and 32 also contain a lot of good news for us. Of particular relevance today are Psalm 32 verses 7 and 10. ‘You are my hiding place, you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.’ and ‘the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man (or woman) who trusts in Him.’ The wonderfully brilliant truth, fact and certainty that you and I can fuel our thanksgiving with is that, not only is the Lord with me in the valley, Psalm23:4, but also His love, and He Himself, surrounds me there. When I begin to see these truths more clearly, ‘songs of deliverance’ and thanksgiving ignite in my heart and flow from my lips.
Psalm 31 expresses the same truth ‘You are my rock and fortress (v3). Inside a fortress you are surrounded by the Lord’s ‘thick walls’. Many other scriptures emphasis that we are surrounded by the Lord and His love – especially important when we are experiencing trouble of any sort. ‘In the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling, He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock’ Psalm 27:5. ‘The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them’ Psalm 34:7. ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.’ Proverbs 18:10. All of that points to us being surrounded by the Lord, protected and safe, even when our circumstances and feelings suggest that we are under siege, or trapped or seem surrounded by troubles.
But often we don’t see it, or we forget it. So in addition to looking at the Psalms where David, who was often in tight places, experienced God surrounding him repeatedly, let us also go back to Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6: 11-18. Elisha and his servant are in the city of Dothan. His servant gets up to make Elisha’s morning cup of tea and he sees the city is surrounded by horses and chariots, ‘A very strong force’ (v14). Understandably he panics. The enemy king is not friendly, he is ‘enraged’ (v11). ‘Don’t be afraid’ says Elisha.
Now at this point some of us can get angry with our well meaning Christian friends who tell us not to worry or be anxious about the things that are making us anxious, telling us “it will be alright”. “Be realistic” we cry, “it’s bad”. And it certainly looks bad for Elisha’s servant and sometimes for us. But like the servant we often forget one thing: Elisha, like Jesus, always adds the big BECAUSE when He tells us not to be anxious. Jesus doesn’t just pat us the head and say “don’t be anxious, it will be fine.” He says ‘Don’t be anxious BECAUSE your heavenly Father knows what you need, Matthew 6:25&32, and you are very, very valuable to Him, Matthew 10:29-31. Likewise Elisha said in effect “don’t be afraid, BECAUSE there is an even larger army surrounding us.”
Then Elisha prays that his servant’s eyes will be opened, and he sees the hills around them full of horses and chariots of fire. Wow. Please notice ‘full’ and ‘of fire’. You and I need our eyes opened to see just how much we are powerfully surrounded by the Lord, His love, His power and His angelic forces.
And that is where thanksgiving can really kick in and help us. I believe the more we thank the Lord for these truths, the more our faith will rise and our eyes will be opened to the full reality of our situation. We really are surrounded by the Lord, His love, His resources and His power, even in our dark valleys.
Can I suggest you listen to Michael W Smith singing that simple, yet profoundly powerful song “This is how we fight our battles” by feeding on the truth with thanksgiving that “It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You.” https://youtu.be/YBl84oZxnJ4 . Thanksgiving then becomes a major way in which we fight our battles.