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How many of you can relate to the notion that it can be easier to go to God during times of abundance versus times of struggle? I definitely can, and I believe that there several reasons why we make an inward turn when times are hard. We may be ashamed of our misstep. It could be that we let our pride get the best of us. We are also sometimes upset with God for allowing difficult situations to occur.

Psalm 51 provides a master class on how we should seek help from God when we find ourselves in spiritual and emotional despair. To that end, today's devotion focuses on the following three helpful steps that we can take when we find ourselves in a rough spot:

  1. Supplication
  2. Acknowledgement
  3. Hope

What is supplication? Supplication is a form of prayer in which we ask God to provide something in earnest. We see in verse 1 that the psalmist is very clear with his "ask." He is seeking mercy from God via God's unfailing love and compassion. He has the awareness to know that he is in a bad place and done some bad things; as such, he is asking God to step into the gap to wipe his sins away. Supplication is important because it is an acknowledgement to self and God that we understand that only God can provide a fulfilling and spiritually productive life. But, the awareness of God's power to provide isn't enough.  We must also come to God in a contrite spiritual posture.  

You may be saying to yourself: "hold on…I thought that me going to God and asking for help is enough!" Psalm 51 shows us that we not only need to go to God and request help in earnest. We must also engage with God in a humble and transparent way. Verses 2-5 show us what a humble and transparent supplication looks like and what it requires: that we are intentional with respect to our self-examination, so that we understand when and where we've fallen short.

The self-examination is not intended for us get down on ourselves; instead, it should be a safe space for us if we've resolved in our mind that we cannot provide our own salvation - only God can do that. 

Because of our culture's focus on the individual, many brothers and sisters are ashamed to be transparent with God about personal shortcomings or mistakes. I got news for you -- Psalm 51 informs us that we are all born with a sin nature, which means that we are all born with the inclination to sin. So, when we do, think or say things that we regret, we should not be surprised; instead, we should do just as the psalmist does -- embrace our limitations and place our hope in God.

I love verse 17 because it is a window in the psalmist's soul. Although he is a flawed saint with a "broken spirit", he has placed his hope in God's unending mercy. This is so important for us when we go through difficult times. It is so easy to beat up on ourselves and lament about how others may view us. A pause in the midst of our inevitable troubles to remind ourselves that we don't place our hope in our actions, reputation would allow us to internalize the fact that we've placed our hope in God and no matter how broken we may feel, if we go to God with a contrite heart, we will never receive condemnation from him.    

Reflection Questions

  1. What are the emotions that stop you from going to God during a time of need?
  2. Do you have a hard time acknowledging your role in the wrongdoing or wrong sentiment?
  3. Are you sure that you've placed your hope in God and not in yourself?