“My sin is always before me…”
Picture it with me. As I try to move forward, all I can see and hear is the vivid rerun of what I’ve done, what I’ve said, how I’ve wounded the heart of God.
“Against you—you alone—I have sinned…” The hearts of others are also amidst the wreckage. I replay the script gone bad—over and over again. Do you know this scene as well? No matter the specific circumstances, the aftermath of wrong choices is always a dismal picture. And I generally make it worse by allowing myself to wallow in fear, self-pity, and tears of remorse. I imagine the worst consequences as I sort through what was…what should have…what could have. I know I should pray—that’s a given—but the evil one stubbornly keeps my focus on me and my futile efforts to imagine a way out.
The words transgression, iniquity, and sin seem to come from a bygone age; what do they mean? Let’s substitute those words with the phrase “deliberate rebellion”—the worst rejection of God’s unfailing covenant love. However we label it, we’re way out on the leash and need to be reeled back in.
Finally, weary and sad, I turn to psalms—a trustworthy path back to the tender and loving embrace of God our Father. My faltering mumblings usually start with something like: “help; please help me,” a less articulate version of “have mercy on me, O God.” My prayer continues: please keep the Holy Spirit firmly lodged in me; I don’t want to grieve Him again (Ephesians 4:30).
A brief detour to David’s story is in order. His initial introduction to Saul came in the wake of the Spirit’s departure from Saul (1Samuel 16:14–19) when Saul deliberately disobeyed the Lord. David saw the horror of Saul’s increasing personal torment (1Samuel 18-20) and knew his own disobedience could lead down that same dreadful path.
It takes time to refocus; “restore the joy of your salvation to me” is not always answered immediately, but somewhere deep in my soul I begin to sing of God’s abiding love and great compassion, truths that reverberate through the whole of the psalms. Music is a balm to the beaten soul, the “crushed bones,” and the “broken spirit,” and God does not despise my brokenness. How many old hymns contain pleas to be washed and cleaned up! It is a radical change we seek—foul to pure, filthy to clean, wandering to steadfast. “Turn your face away from my sins,” but not from me. He continues to be with us—Immanuel—and with me.
It is a remarkable thing. The psalms are God’s provision of the pattern—given to faint souls—to approach Him no matter what. At the same time, they are God’s answers, assuring us of His unchanging goodness and His loving and powerful hold on our lives.