“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”
Psalm 62:5-8 (NIV)
Somewhere in the annals of Hillcrest Lutheran Academy is featured the senior portrait of an awkward seventeen year old with the Scripture reference Psalm 62:5-6 inscribed beneath. I still remember the night I “discovered” those verses. I had been perusing through the Psalms, waiting for a meeting to begin in the student lounge of the small midwestern Christian high school I attended, when these words captivated my imagination and gave a steadiness to the emotional roller coaster that was my teenage soul: Strength. Hope. Rest. God is enough. Here was something I could hold onto, words of promise to encourage me. And so like all the other students who had graduated HLA before me, I too had found my Senior Verse.
I didn’t completely understand it back then, but that’s the Gospel in a nutshell, isn’t it? Finding our hope and rest in God. Because our salvation and honor depend on God, and not ourselves, we can trust him in all things and pour out our hearts to him, our rock, our fortress, our refuge. But then, it’s taken many more years of living to discover that life is messy, that I need grace like I need air to breathe, that I need the Gospel. It seems the older I get, the more I live in this sort of paradox between Psalm 62 and the desperate father pleading on behalf of his demon possessed son, “...I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
As a parent, I can relate to that desperate dad. When the doctors pulled us aside in the ER to deliver the blow that changed us and our child’s life forever, when life became measured by before brain surgery and after brain surgery / when you could smile brightly and when you no longer could, we realized we have two choices: hold on to God with all we’ve got - doubts, fears, anger, sadness and all; or go it alone. The amazing thing is that in helplessly bringing all our mess to God, in pouring out our broken hearts to him, he proves himself to be all we need, and our faith increases. Our strength. Our great hope. Our rest. Yes, God alone is enough. This gift of faith, tested and tried through suffering, is becoming beautiful and enduring. Genuine. And someday that mysterious connection between faith and suffering will make perfect sense. Until then, I will let these words of N.T. Wright mull around in my brain, “But if we discovered a faith with nothing unexpected or incomprehensible, nothing to shake us from our cozy normal existence and assumptions, we could be fairly sure that it wasn’t the real thing.” Maybe this could be my epitaph.