If you’re asking “Just what is God like?”, few books of the Bible answer more directly and generously than the Psalms.
Yesterday I was reading through Psalm 103 (one of my favorites) and found myself stopping on verses 13-16:
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
I stopped reading. A lump had taken up residence in my throat. Yes. This is me. Dust. Temporary. Fragile. It’s what I am, and moreover, it was how I’ve been feeling lately.
And God knows.
Though tested we are, how wonderful that God does not simply toss us into his fires of refinement callously, without a second thought, without regard for our frailty and transience. He acts out of compassion because of our frailty – the frailty he himself built into our design.
We often see the Psalmists appealing to their own fleeting nature, and to God’s compassion, when faced with conscience and fear.
Yet he was merciful;
he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a passing breeze that does not return. (Psalm 78:38-39)
Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow. (Psalm 144:3-4)
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath. (Psalm 62:9)
Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure. (Psalm 39:4-5)
How long? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
Remember how fleeting is my life.
For what futility you have created all humanity! (Psalm 89:47)
My days are like the evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.
But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come. (Psalm 102:11-13)
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (130:3-4)
As we walk through the valley, it’s a relief to know that we can admit our need and pain to God. No “sucking it up”, no religious smiles here. The Psalmists plead their frailty, and it leads them straight to God’s compassion. They always end on notes of his love and justice.
Some encouragement for you today.