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Psalm 4 outcry

VOICES | Living right side up in an upside-down world

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In every life, upsets occur. How did it come to this? you say. What happened to the country I grew up in, the family we once were? How could my church turn on me? Where did my security go? In some ways human experience hasn’t changed from a few thousand years ago when King David expressed his own life upsets in extravagant terms. When we’re on a more even keel, his laments can sound like complaining. But when we’re in the middle of it, an outcry like Psalm 4 is practical advice.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! … Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

First, call on the Lord. Demand His attention, if you must. It’s OK to sound desperate—to be desperate. The mere act of calling out indicates you know whom to call out to. That, by itself, indicates that if you are not right side up in your own person and mind, you know who is.

O men, how long shall my honor be turned to shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?

The upside-down world laughs at serious matters and takes seriously trivial slights. Its denizens disregard searching questions and seek answers within themselves. Overlooking, or dismissing, the source of their honor, they decay into shame. Looking everywhere else for truth, they breed lies.

But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.

This may sound like pride or self-righteousness, but when one is in the crosshairs, it is comfort and reassurance. Even as you cling to Him, He holds on to you; even as you search for Him, He finds you. It’s not a retreat to the bunker with the other chosen few, but a rallying to the flag in the middle of the conflict.

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.

There’s plenty to be angry about: rank injustice slathered with relentless talk of justice, oblivious hypocrisy while pointing out hypocrites, real deception ­leading to real harm. But you must see to yourself first. Examine your own motives and reactions; pull the planks out of your own eyes. Before going off like a ­reactionary firecracker, purify yourself. And above all, trust in God who will supply justice in time.

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”

The godless have no real good to offer. Their chatter is empty. Their incessant clamor for affirmation and safe spaces and guaranteed income pours out from a heart of fear. In the abundance of consumer goods lurks want and desperation. But in the light of God’s face fear melts away. You can show them some good, if they ask. If they want it, they can have it. If they seek it, they’ll find it. Let it shine.

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

Which would you have, settled joy or transient ­happiness? A big house with a big mortgage or a secured mansion in heaven? Foundational truths or the shifting sand of common knowledge and public opinion? Well, then—

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

You began vertically, crying out and clinging. You flushed out your fears, and now look around with eyes refreshed. You see all the threats, lies, and troubles hurled at you in their true position—stood on their heads. You let go; you lie down. Your Father pulls up the covers, lays a reassuring hand on your forehead, reminds you that He knows, He cares, and He controls. Safety is here, with Him, and nowhere else.

Now close your eyes and drift off to sleep in the right side up.

Janie B. Cheaney

Janie is a senior writer who contributes commentary to WORLD and oversees WORLD’s annual Children’s Books of the Year awards. She also writes novels for young adults and authored the Wordsmith creative writing curriculum. Janie resides in rural Missouri.


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