I knew it was bad but I didn’t realize how bad. It’s one in five? One in five people really? But that’s what the study shows. One in five people in our nation are takingsome psychiatric drug. Now some of those are for things like ADHD or schizophrenia. But most folks are taking them because they are either depressed or anxious or both. 40 million Americans alone have some form of anxiety problem. And lots of them aren’t even doing anything about it.
What about those that are? Well, more and more we’re finding out that the medications don’t work so great. Now, yes, a fair number of folks do need medications. But for a lot of folks the drugs aren’t doing much of anything. In fact, they may even be making them worse. Yet since 1985, the sales of just those drugs haveincreased by 5,000%. That’s a lot!
And let’s be honest, whether we have a diagnosed problem or not, who doesn’t get anxious? Terrorists are out to kill us. Who knows what the next test at the doctor’s office might show? And it seems all too easy to lose a job these days, and all too hard to find a new one. And heck, what about the day to day worries of life, running late for an appointment, getting stuck on 95, dealing with our kids or grandkids or our parents or spouse? Heck, how many of us are a little worried about Thanksgiving, anxious getting everything ready or wondering if so and so will make a scene?
So what do we do with all that? How do we find peace in a world of anxiety? How do we live lives more free of worry and all that comes with it? In the words of this psalm, God shows us the way. Let’s hear what God has to say.
What’s up with this song? The writer, David, ignores one of the basic rules of eliminating anxiety. What is that? Well, think about it. What often makes you and me anxious? We are thinking the worst. We are catastrophizing. We are creating in our heads disasters that haven’t happened and probably won’t. Yet we’re creating them, and worrying about them too.
But what does David do. He thinks the worst. Though an army encamp against me, though my mother and father forsake me. Sheesh! Why does David imagine the worst, awful scenarios that haven’t even happened? Why? David wants to have a strategy against fear and anxiety that can stand against anything the world can throw at him. He wants to know that if even the worst he can imagine happens to him, he will still be okay. And let’s get real, David did have some real problems, including folks who wanted to kill him. That’s probably more stress than any of us are dealing with. So what is the strategy that David develops?
Well, he lays it all out in verse 4. He says. “One thing I asked of the Lord that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” What? That’s the secret? Going to church 24 hours a day? Really?
But David isn’t asking that at all. David is telling us. I want to experience the presence of God, every moment of my life. I want to behold the face of God. If I have that, I know, even if an army camps against me, I won’t fear. But what does it mean to be in the presence of God? I mean. Isn’t God everywhere? Aren’t we always in the presence of God?
Well, yes and no. Right now, as you heard Robert play and the choir sing, you were in their presence. But do you really know them? Well, you only know them if you’ve come up and met them, if you’ve been face to face with them. That’s how we really know folks, only when we see them face to face.
And that’s what David wants from God. David wants to know God personally and intimately. Sure, you can experience God looking at a sunrise, but will you know God personally? No. Look, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. And if I look at a light bulb, sure I’ll experience the genius of Thomas Edison. But if I go, Thomas, are you there? Hello, Thomas! I won’t get much. The only way I will know Thomas Edison personally is if I meet him face to face.
But why does knowing God personally and intimately give us the key to a fearless life? David gives us the answer right at the beginning of verse 3. He tells us “One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after…” David knows. If I make God my one thing, then I need never fear anything ever again. Why?
Well, where does anxiety come from? It comes when we make anything else our one thing. And that anything else could even be a good thing. For example family is a good thing. Financial security is a good thing. Health is a good thing. But these good things can’t be ultimate things. They can’t be the one thing. They can’t be the one thing that we depend upon to make us happy, to keep us secure. We can’t live in that house so to speak. Why? Well, that house can collapse. And if it does, where is our security then?
Now I’m not talking here about every day anxieties. A certain low level of anxiety just shows we care about things. I’m talking about when our fears paralyze us, when our anxieties threaten to overwhelm us. When that happens, we know. A good thing has become an ultimate thing. And we sense how insecure that thing is. And that insecurity leads us to fear and worry.
Don’t you see? Our anxieties are only the smoke. And if we follow the smoke, it will lead us to the fire. They will show us what has become too important, what good things have started to become ultimate things, the central things; the little idols of our lives. Don’t you see, our worries help us. They help us see what are the things that are starting to enslave us, the good things that are becoming ultimate things.
But if God is the one thing, then David knows that he has nothing to fear. After all, David knows that nothing can take away God’s presence. God is the one unshakeable reality of life.
So what happens, even if his father and mother forsake him, what does he say? The Lord will take me up. And let’s be honest. In all of our cases, our mother and father will forsake us. It could happen while they are alive, if we have parents that are not faithful to us. But even the most faithful parent dies. All parents eventually forsake their kids in that way. Yet, have you ever run across someone who can’t get over the wounds of his childhood, who can’t let go of the bitterness to a parent who injured them. Those folks will never have peace. In their bitterness, they have made their parents’ failings an ultimate thing, and it is destroying them.
Don’t you see these words can be true of everything we have? If my money forsakes me, if my spouse forsakes me, if my health forsakes me, the Lord will take me up. If God is my one thing, that one thing can never be taken away. And if I have that one thing, then nothing, nothing will ever be able to shake me.
Ok, so now, here’s the question. How do we make God the one thing? How does that happen? How do we live in the house of the Lord? David tells us that we do two things. We behold the beauty of the Lord, and we inquire in his temple. And he splits the rest of the psalm to talk about those two things. In verse 8, he says, “Come, my heart says, seek his face!” That’s beholding. Then in verse 11 he says. Teach me your way, O Lord.” That’s inquiring.
So how do we seek God’s face? Well let’s take that first image in the psalm. The Lord is my light. Take a moment, and think about what light means to you. How comforting it is. How warm it can be. How it pushes back the darkness. Ponder for a few moments the light of God’s love pushing back every dark place, every dark thought, every dark emotion you have. Imagine that light of God just filling you up.
Now before you think, woah, that seems a bit deep, just realize you’re probably already doing it, just not with God. Let’s say you see a new car that you really like or a beautiful piece of clothing or a person you’d like to meet. What do you do? You fill your mind with dreams about that thing or that relationship. You fantasize about it. How awesome driving that car would be. How terrific that piece of clothing would feel. How wonderful a relationship with that person would be. Don’t you see, it’s the same process? It’s just that none of that stuff will ever give what you imagine they will. But God will actually give you more than you could ever imagine. God will lavish upon you a beauty, a peace in your life that you could never have dreamed on your own.
So do that with God. Take images like God is my light or God is my refuge. Fill your mind with what that means. Contemplate the wonder of it. When you do that, you will be beholding the beauty of the Lord. You will be living in the House of the Lord.
Now what about inquiring of the Lord, what does that mean? The word here actually simply means seeking advice. You ask God. God what do you want me to do? What’s your will for my life?
Now to live in the House of the Lord, you need both these things. If you just seek God’s will for your life, but don’t gaze on his beauty, you’ll just be uptight and legalistic. But if you only gaze at God’s beauty and never seek what God wills for your life, that won’t work either. Why? Well, it never works in any other relationship, why should it work here?
Think about it with marriage. When you fall in love with someone, sure, you gaze upon their beauty. And if a marriage is to stay strong, you’ve gotta have some of that beholding the beauty going on. But if that’s all you got, then that marriage will head south fast. In marriage, much of what you do is learn how to please your partner. You do what gives them joy, what best serves them. If you enter marriage thinking, oh, sure, I’ll behold your beauty but you want me to do stuff for you, find out what your desires are and meet them? Sheesh, I can’t do that. That’s way too inconvenient. Will that marriage be a good one? If you want to keep gazing on the beauty, then you better find out what gives your partner joy, what meets his or her needs and then give it.
If you want to gaze upon God’s beauty, then you gotta find what will give God joy, what God’s will is for you. And the more you do that, the more you’ll experience God’s beauty.
Several weeks ago, we looked at these lepers that wanted to be healed by Jesus. What did they do? They heard what road Jesus was coming down, and they hung out there. What road do you hang out on to see Jesus? You hang out on the road to obedience. Jesus will meet you on that road every time.
That’s why I ask you to read the Bible, to pray, to live a simple lifestyle, to forgive others. That’s the road to obedience. And the more you hang out there, the more the beauty of Jesus you’ll see. And what is the beauty of Jesus? Well, it said David inquired in the temple. What did David see when he inquired at the temple. He saw a bloody mess. He saw animals slaughtered and sacrificed. But David grasped what that meant. He saw a God who could not look the other way when it came to the wrongs people did. To clean up that mess, then another mess had to be made to make it right. But David saw a God willing to make that mess, to find a way to forgive, to love, to draw people back into intimacy with him. In that bloody mess, David saw the love and beauty of God.
Now if David could see that in a lamb slaughtered on an altar, how much more can we see it in Jesus, the lamb of God hung on a cross? How much more can we see God’s beauty in the face of Jesus, who to clean up our mess, literally became a bloody mess for us. How beautiful is a God who goes that far to love us, to forgive us, to draw us back to him.
When you get caught in worry, when you feel paralyzed by fear, ask yourself. What good thing am I making the ultimate thing? Then let it go. And start gazing at the beauty of the One who is the One and the Only, the bright and morning star, our light and salvation. Ask God what do you want me to do? What will give you joy? And as you do so, you will find your love and peace becoming more and more, and your anxieties and fear less and less. You will discover the peace of God, a peace that surpasses all understanding. And in Jesus, that peace will guard your heart and mind, so that if even an army encamp against you, you will not fear.