Pastor Luis shows us how The Lord can lift us out of shame and confusion into life with Him.
We’re exploring the Psalms. Today the Psalm we’re going to be exploring is Psalm 25. It means a great deal to me because I think it appreciates the realities of life in a significant way. What we’re going to see here is that it demonstrates two different realities, two tension points if you will. One of them, Psalm 25, speaks of the reality that life weighs us down. I don’t think any of us need to be convinced of that. Life does weigh us down. Life has a way with burdens and concerns weighing on us. On the other hand, God promises to lift us up. Life might weigh us down, but God promises to lift us up. The reality is the lifting up is not immediate. We want it to be, but it usually isn’t. Some of us who have been walking with Him for some time know this to be true. There is usually a space in between.
There’s a space in between life weighing us down and God lifting us up. In that space, a couple of things start to happen. We start to recognize that tension starts to build. That tension becomes uncertain. That uncertainty requires us to patiently hold on to His promise of lifting us up. That’s difficult. It’s difficult, for in that tension, I’ve come to recognize that God loves to meet us there. He longs to do something far greater than the concern that is weighing us down. I have to be honest with you. I personally don’t do that well with uncertainty. I don’t know about you, but uncertainty has a way with me if I let it. It starts out as a legitimate concern. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there. It becomes the focal point of my mind. That concern becomes a worry. That worry as I continue to meditate or dwell on it transforms into something a little bit stronger. The concern transforms into anxiety.
Anxiety starts to fill our thoughts and emotions. It has its way with our moods and the way we interpret everything that’s going on around us; not just our concern but now everything starts to get swallowed up into this anxiety. If we don’t resist the anxiety, then it turns into fear, legitimate fear. Fear becomes the blanket we wear. It’s like clothing. A number of things can happen there. Many times, it’s out of that place we make decisions we later regret. More than anything, what usually happens is fear turns into something else. It turns into paralysis because we are now at a place where we don’t see a way forward. We have no real hope to speak of, and so we choose oftentimes to do nothing. I’ve discovered this in my own life because of the nature of what I do. Because I’m a pastor, I have found myself in conversations many times. It doesn’t matter the setting. I could be in an Uber or barbershop. I could be at a coffee house, restaurant, or shopping for something. I’d be walking down the street and bump into somebody and start talking.
This happens. We’ll start to get to know each other. We’ll start talking and go through the initial pleasantries. All of a sudden, they’ll ask what I do. At that point, when they ask what I do, a fork in the road appears. They don’t know it but because I tell them, “I’m a pastor,” at that moment, I can see it within their minds, a decision is being made. They discover I’m a pastor. In their minds, they come to this conclusion, “I don’t know I’ve ever met one of you that I’ve liked. It’s been nice knowing you. It was great to hear your name and a little bit about what you do, but here’s your coffee. I’ll see you later.” It’ll be that or the most awkward, silent Uber ride from that point forward. The music gets turned up. It’s as if they can’t get there fast enough. That happens. I have to say, that’s the minority.
The majority of the time, what usually happens is a sense of safety comes over them. They discover I’m a pastor. It really doesn’t matter what season of life people are in. It happened to me this week at In-N-Out. While I sat next to somebody, they discovered I’m a pastor. All of a sudden we’re talking about life. It gets real. This is what happened. “I saw this girl. I really like her, but I want to know how do you know she’s the right one? You’re a pastor, right?” Now, I’m thinking, “We just met, right?” That will happen. “You know, I’ve been at this job for several years now. When I started I was really excited. Then, I started to discover stuff. I don’t know. I don’t really like it anymore. What do you think I should do? I got several opportunities. I’m so glad I met you because I wanted to talk to somebody about this. There are a couple of options out there for me. What do you think I should do? What road do you think I should take?”
If time allows and they feel safe enough, we’ll go to deeper places. “You know, my marriage is in a pretty tough spot. So and so did this, what do you think I should do?” or “I did this. What do you think I should do?” I tell you, whether it’s my own concern that warps itself into fear or other people’s concerns, I’ve come to understand there’s something of a common denominator. The common denominator is at risk of reducing it to this. I have come to this discovery or at least understand that we all long for direction. We all want clarity. Every single one of us wants answers and relief. We desire immediate clarity. That is what our desire is. Whatever season of life we’re in, whatever challenge we’re facing, what we whittle it down to is; I’m looking for guidance to make the best decision possible.
The best decision possible means the decision that would have the lowest amount of risk and the highest amount of result. That’s the best decision possible. “Can you give me that because you’re a pastor? You could do that? You could talk to Him. You’ll make it all clear? That’s how it works?” I have to say, anyone who would promise that would have to completely ignore how nuanced and complex life actually is. The reality is that there is far more gray than black and white. The reality is that we are faced with uncertainty and risk every day of our lives. This is personally why I have come to truly love the scriptures. Especially the Psalms because they’re honest and real. They don’t hide how difficult life is. Yet they’re able to hold the intention. The promise that God is able to meet us, lift us, and strengthen us. In that place of uncertainty, many times, we will discover far more about ourselves and about God than we ever would in the path that has zero risk and everything is clearly laid out for us. That is the gift of discovering. He will lift us up.
David is a man who is known as a man after God’s own heart. He was a man who experienced uncertainty at high levels. Yet he declared trust in God in an unwavering fashion. Both were true. We’ll walk through Psalm 25 together. This is a Psalm written by a man who is desperately clinging to God in the midst of his circumstances. We’re told in verse one, “To you, oh Lord, I lift up my soul. Oh my God, in you I trust. Let me not be put to shame. Let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame. They shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.” David is coming to plea for himself. Why? Because he feels surrounded by people in a situation in which he feels they’re waiting for him to fail so they could rejoice.
It might not be the case for us that there are actual people waiting for our failure. Many times our situations might feel like they are mocking us. Waiting for us, longing to rejoice over our failure and demise. He says in verse four, “Make me to know your ways, oh Lord. I need guidance, teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me for you are the God of my salvation. For you, I wait all the day long.” I’m coming to you for guidance and help. Show me. “Remember your mercy, oh Lord, your steadfast love for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions, according to your steadfast love, remember me for the sake of your goodness, oh Lord.” David in just seven short verses ends up capturing the full scope of what it looks like to be fully human and a man or a person of faith.
How? What does David do? He draws near to God and lifts himself up to God. He says, “God, I’m coming near to you. I trust in you. I know you exist.” It’s almost like what we’re seeing is an internal dialogue. As David comes to God asking for guidance, it’s almost as if there’s a whisper within that starts to creep up. the whisper might sound something like, “David, have you forgotten what you did? Don’t you remember? Don’t you know? David, you’re asking God for guidance. You really think you deserve it. Do you think He doesn’t know your youth, the times you rebel and did what was wrong? He knew it. You know yourself better than anyone.” It’s easy to hide from others. It’s hard to hide from ourselves. In the midst of feeling the bubbling up of his shame and guilt of knowing his own contradiction and knowing he doesn’t deserve it, what does he do? He turns to God and says, “No, God, remember your mercy? Remember your committed steadfast love? Remember not my sins or my transgressions but your steadfast love, remember me. I ask you for guidance. I come to you not because I earn it, but because you are that good. That’s what I’ve discovered about you. Your goodness is greater than my contradictions and weaknesses. It’s greater than my guilt and shame.”
“Good and upright is Lord, therefore, he instructs sinners in the way.” This is so against what we might expect. What we might expect is good and upright is the Lord, therefore he locks those who are not outside. He says, “No, those who recognize their own flaws and weaknesses, He instructs them. “He leads the humble in what is right and He teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the Lord,” they are committed to love, “steadfast love and faithfulness for those who keep His covenant and testimonies.” That is what He has revealed about Himself. “For your name’s sake, oh Lord, pardon my guilt for it is great. I don’t deserve it but because you’re that good, I call on your goodness to prevail over my lack of deserving it.”
Who is the man who fears the Lord? That word fear is not panic. It’s awestruck. It’s recognizing someone greater than them is in their presence. Visually, it is the image of being caused to voluntarily lower one’s neck in deference because it’s an admission. You’re far greater than I. He says, “Who is the person who does that? Him will He instruct.” God will instruct him in the way that He should choose. “His soul shall abide in well-being and his offspring shall inherit the land.” True security will be found. “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, who have reverence of Him and makes known to them His covenant,” His relational commitment. “My eyes are ever toward the Lord for He will pluck my feet out of the net.” He is saying, “The one who has reverence for God will become teachable, and the one who is teachable by Him will be the one who is rescued.” He will be lifted out of the net. “So, turn to me and be gracious to me for I am lonely and inflicted.” You hear the pain. “The troubles of my heart are enlarged, bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction in my trouble and forgive all my sins. Consider how many are my foes and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh, guard my soul and deliver me. Let me not be put to shame for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.” I asked not just for myself, but for my people, “Redeem Israel, oh God, out of all his troubles.”
Psalms, the reason I personally love it so much is that it doesn’t land in a nice tidy bow where everything’s cleaned up, clarified, and perfect. It lands in a point of tension. There is very little resolution here. It’s also a Psalm in which we see a man who is holding on to the promise of God and at the same time, he’s not hiding how he truly feels. I’m lonely. I’m afflicted. I’m distressed. You will rescue me. You are steadfast. You are merciful. God I’m surrounded, but you won’t let me be put to shame. God, I feel guilty, but you will forgive me. God, I don’t deserve it, but you love to instruct those who fear you. I think this is actually a very real picture of what life with God looks like. Both are present in the space in between. Life may weigh us down. His might lift us up. What it looks like in between is to live in a place we don’t ignore one or the other but he meets us right there. He wants to do something far greater than the concern that brought us there. I think David ends up modeling a couple of things for us as we consider what we might be walking through right now.
One of the things I think David models is what it might look like for us to deal with something far greater than the concern that weighs on us. Only the grace of God can lift the weight of shame. Shame is something every single one of us will need to deal with in some way, shape, or form. None of us are absolved from this. I wish I could tell you that there was a way but there isn’t. Guilt is something a little bit different. Guilt is the internal prompt that we have done something that requires correction. Guilt is the internal compass that tells us we’re off track and we need to get back to true north. That’s guilt. Guilt tells us, “Listen, we have done something wrong and we need to do something right.” We dissipate guilt by right behavior. That’s how guilt leaves us. It’s a buffer on our conscience, meant to bring us back into the center of the lane. The more consistently we remain in the center of the lane, the more guilt starts to leave. It is true.
Shame is altogether different because if guilt tells us our behavior needs to be addressed, shame tells us that we are inherently unworthy of love or of belonging. Shame tells us we are unworthy of love or of belonging. No amount of behavioral change will ever convince us that we are worthy of love and belonging. No amount of right behavior will ever convince us that we are worthy of another’s love or belonging. If we try to do that, we will consistently find ourselves missing the mark and rather frustrated, inevitably discouraged, and feeling like, “This whole faith thing, maybe I’m not cut out for it.” That’s why it’s so important. David was not dishonest about his sense of shame and guilt, but he threw himself at the mercy of God. He threw himself on the love of God and asked God for forgiveness.
If David was able to do that based on what he knew about God, then we are able to do that based on something far greater. His name is Jesus. Jesus is the one who takes our shame upon Himself. He is the one who is able to lift our shame off of our souls. You might think, “How is that even possible? How is it possible He could take my shame off of me and put it on to Himself?” Well, my brother-in-law lives in Brooklyn with his wife. My wife and I try to make our way out there as much as we can to visit them. Whenever we’re out there, I like to explore throughout New York, enjoy good food, and all that there is in New York. One of the things I’ve discovered in New York is those old-time elevators. Have you ever been in one of those? Those elevators have an accordion door. It feels like you’re getting into a prison cell. It latches and you feel a little claustrophobic. There’s a whole bunch of noises that are happening, but there’s no movement. It’s rickety as you’re moving up. Everything’s shaking. I’ve been on one of these. I’ve seen a counterweight start to come down. As the counterweight comes down, we go up. This counterweight has to be greater than what is in the elevator. That counterweight comes down, the elevator goes up.
I do believe this is something of what Paul was telling the Corinthians when he told them, “For our sake, He made him to be sin who knew no sin.” That is to say, the man who was perfect, who is greater than any other human being on the face of the earth was a man who descended. He came down and became a man who became sin, the very source of our shame. So that you believe in Him, we might become the righteousness of God. That we might be lifted up to be right with God. Jesus is that counterweight. This is an incredible thing. When we get into His elevator and say, “I believe in you. I feel guilty and ashamed. I feel unworthy of even coming to you, of asking you for help. You will lift me up because you descended that I might ascend. You lowered yourself and in lowering yourself, you lifted me up.” I can’t explain how huge this is because many times we may start there. We may start in the place of thinking this is all based on the grace of God.
We may start there, but we can easily transfer. We might start out saying, “Lord, it’s not that I deserve it. It’s that you are so good. Your grace has lifted me up.” Over time, we might start to think, “Now that I’m behaving right, I come to you. I used to come to you because of your goodness. Now, I come to you because of my behavior. Now I feel entitled. Now, I feel like you owe me,” or if we fail, “Now, I can’t come to you anymore. Although I want your guidance, I can’t ask you for it because I feel rejected because of my own shame.” What’s required is we have to understand this. The life we are invited into wasn’t meant to simply begin there. The life where shame might come. Guilt might come. His promises to lift it over, and over, and over. I come to you God not because I deserve it, but because you long to give me guidance. My shame need not get in the way.
He doesn’t just lift our shame. God also lifts the weight of anxiety so we can address our concerns. He lifts the weight of our anxiety, so we can actually address our concerns. This is where David was a man who practiced the ability to step through many points of anxiety over and over. It’s not like David didn’t do anything. All we need to do is read the book of first Samuel to recognize David was a man of action. He was a man who made decisions and calls. He stepped forward into and out of risk. He navigated and didn’t do it perfectly. Boy, did he fail sometimes. He primarily developed a habit of asking God to lift his distresses and anxiety because he knew no amount of action was able to remove that, only God can. This is why Paul encouraged the Philippians by telling them, “Listen, do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving make your request made known to God.” What are those requests? Make them known to God. The peace of God which surpasses our understanding will guard our hearts and our mind.
A decision made out of a place of anxiety is going to be far different than a decision made out of a place of peace. What happens is once anxiety is lifted, we now regain the ability to make rational wise decisions. Faith with God does not exclude the capacity to think things through, exercise wisdom and prudence, and be able to consider the different elements at play. We are not asking for a risk-free situation. What we are asking is, “God, will you give me the peace of your assurance that you’re with me in the midst of this risk? Will you give me the peace of your assurance that your steadfast love is here? I don’t need to ever worry about my shame. You’re not against me. You’re for me. Your grace for my life is greater than my anxiety. Now that I’m settled knowing that you’re with me, I ask you to help me make the best decision possible. Now that I’m in my right mind, I can move forward. Now I can address this, but first I need to get to that place of your peace guarding my heart and mind.”
Acting out of peace is always going to lift us further than acting out of panic. If that’s true, as David reminds us, then the fog of confusion is lifted as we walk in His ways. That is, we apply what we already know about Him. It is in that place. Many times in this life what we want are answers. He offers Himself. We want a clean-cut path. He offers courage to trail blaze. We want clear markings. He offers a clear presence. We want our concerns addressed. He wants our character built in the in-between is where He is able. Building doesn’t happen without application. It doesn’t happen without us being tested, training, and doing what we already know to be true.
After David cried out to God and let Him know of his loneliness, anxiety, distress, and guilt, he lands in verse 21 and he says, “May integrity and uprightness preserve me.” It’s another way of saying, one thing I will not abandon what we are so tempted to do when we’re anxious, fearful, and in panic mode. We abandon what we know to be true and right about God. If that’s the case, I would love to encourage you to just think about what would it look like for us to return to integrity. What would it look like for us to move one step in the direction of what is right in His eyes? David says, “I don’t see everything, but as I move in the place of what I know to be consistent with you, God, you will lift the fog. You will show me the way. You will prove your faithfulness. You will guide my steps because you are with me. You are with me.”
It was around two years ago that my wife and I had something happen to us. It’s never happened to us before. We have a dog and a cat now. Back then we had a cat. Well, she has a cat. We live in a home that has an upstairs and a garage. There’s an in-law unit in the back of the house that we share with a neighbor. We also share the garage. There are steps that go from the garage up into the hallway, right next to our bedroom. That door has a chain on it. If you try to open it with the chains on it, it will slam against the chain and slam back shut. It was around 2:00 in the morning when someone attempted to open that door. It knocked against the chain and closed. It was one of those noises that was unmistakable. It woke me up. It was pretty loud. I thought, “Man, maybe that was a dream. I hope that was a dream.”
I nudged my wife and I said, “Hey honey, did you …” Before I finished, she said, “Yes.” I said, “Okay, it wasn’t a dream.” I said, “Wow, okay.” So, we were sitting there, waiting and listening, trying to figure out what was going on. I didn’t hear anything. I leaned forward to the edge of our bed to see what’s going on, maybe there’s a light or something. What I see is our cat just sitting there, looking at the door growling, which I didn’t know cats could do. I thought, “Clearly, it’s not a good sign.” Then I thought, “If somebody’s actually stealing stuff from our garage, there’s going to be a car out front. So, I made my way around the edges of the hallway into the kitchen, around the edges of the wall, and made my way up to the front. My best version of a ninja. I opened up the curtains and saw there was a car in the middle of the street in front of our house. There were a couple of guys talking. The car lights were on and the engine was running.
I thought, “Wow, man, they’re stealing. They’re robbing my garage.” I thought, “Man, what do I have there? I have books. They’re all about God. Take the books, take them. You need them. You clearly need them.” I’m sitting there. I’m thinking, “Man, I got to address this. This can’t just be. So, how am I going to do this?” I started going through scenarios. In one scenario, I thought maybe I’ll just go down there and say, “Hey, guys. Hey, just this person living here. You’re good. Take the books, go. You’re fine. No worries.” Nope, that won’t work out.
So, I went into the kitchen. I thought, “Man, I need something to defend myself with.” So, I got a knife. I thought, “Let’s think this through.” I go down there. I have a knife. They have a gun. It’s a bad situation. Okay. Maybe, I go down there. I have a knife. They have nothing. I’m a pastor. What am I doing here? That’s not good. So, I went back into the bedroom. I’m going to call the cops. I say, “Honey, I’m going to call the police.” She goes, “Yeah.” “911,” I’ve never done this. “What’s your emergency?” “I think someone broke into our house.” “Where?” “Downstairs.” “How many are living in your house?” “Me, my wife, and our neighbor in the in-law suite.” “Sir, we’re sending men right now. Do you mind if we break your door down?” I said, “I’ll open the door.”
Two minutes later they were there, I mean, it was fast. Four patrol cars came, swooped in on our house, and ran up the front steps. I open the door, and I just point towards the door in the hallway. It was amazing. These big men, earpieces, run into our house. Guns drawn, flashlights lit. They step in. They start talking to each other and all this kind of sign stuff. I’m like, “Man, this is SWAT.” They open the door, fearless. Just step down, go into the garage. They light it all up. They go, “Put your hands up, put your hands up.” I thought, “Whoa, this is amazing.” So, I run down there. I see our neighbor, this elderly woman. I said, “No, she lives here.” She goes, “Luis, why?” Cops are in the front. They go to the back. They light it all up. They look everywhere. They look for signs of breaking and entry. They don’t find anything. They just comb the whole house, make their way upstairs. They all leave.
The last one who was clearly the one making the calls, I said, “Man, thank you so much.” He shakes my hand. He goes, “It’s our privilege.” Pats me on the back. He says, “You’re okay. We’re going to leave a car at the top of the hill, watching things. You’re fine. You’re safe.” I said, “Thank you.” He left. I thought, “Wow, that was amazing.” Looking at my wife, I was like, “That just happened.” We think it was an animal, a raccoon. We called the cops on a raccoon. I was worried. I was anxious. I had my wife, our neighbor, and just me. I was fearful. I could tell you, I did nothing. I called for help. When it was all said and done, I wasn’t anxious. I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t fearful. I called for help.
I don’t know if we can understand this fully, but I think this is why Paul said it surpasses understanding when we call Him for help. When we’re way down, there is something of a force that moves upon us in the spirit. Heaven moves towards those who call on Him. It may not change the situation but you better believe something far greater than us is present with us. Someone stronger than us, who is more capable than us invades our soul. Where His light shines, darkness flees. It has no other option. In those places, we ask Him to lift us up. In that place, we discover far more about ourselves and His goodness. He is capable of meeting us wherever we might be at. I don’t know what situation we’re walking through right now but I can assure you, our shame should not prevent us because He lifts it. He lifts our shame. Our anxiety should not have its way with us. He lifts our anxiety. Our confusion should not dominate us. He will lift it. As we move on the courage He gives us, we step forward one step at a time. Oh, to have the experience of calling on Him, having Him meet us there, and then us walking it out. It’s a gift no one can take. It’s what molds us. May that be the case for us. Wherever we might be, may He lift our soul.
Lord, I thank you. I thank you that you are never intimidated. There’s nothing that scares you. Nothing in our world, situation, or within our soul. Our shame does not push you away. You courageously stepped into human history. You took our brokenness upon yourself. You took our situation into your hands, our soul. You, the God of the universe, are able to speak peace into our hearts and minds. You’re able to demonstrate that you love us. Because you love us, we can come before you. You give us security, nothing else can ever assure us of. I pray you to give us the courage we need to step one step forward with you. As we step forward, the fog would lift. You would have your way with us. We pray for your blessing over our lives, over our souls, and you lift us in Jesus’ name. Amen.