Steps to Freedom
Let's look at the first couple of Psalms as a way to understand life in the desert. A desert experience might be a time of struggle with finances, health, relationships, job, or a time where God seems far away. I have described the reality that the desert can be like doing a “face-plant” in the sand, on the desert floor. Or, it can be a mountaintop experience where you look around, having reached a pinnacle of success or accomplishment, only to find yourself empty and wondering if it all was worth it. Sometimes you are in the desert because of things that happen to you. Other times you are in the desert because of choices you’ve made. Either way, when you are in the desert you can feel trapped and without options. One of the questions that is uppermost in your mind is…”How do I get out of here?”
I enjoy the Psalms because they are written by people like me, who have thoughts like mine, who talk to God like I want to talk to Him, and who get answers that are clear and focused. Today, I’d like to give you four steps that are the road to freedom out of the desert. If you are in a desert today, or if you get in the desert at some time in the future, you’ll want to know the way to freedom. Each of these steps are taken from Psalm 9, where we can experience the journey with the Psalm writer. The four steps are like a sandwich. The first and last step are things we do. The second and third step are perspectives we adopt. With these steps, rather than feeling trapped in the desert, you can know and experience freedom.
The First Part of the Psalm
I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High (verses 1-2).
Step One: Worship God
Worship removes us from self-centeredness and takes us to God-centeredness. When we worship, we are turning to God and are communicating with Him. Our own perspective and our own condition no longer trap us. We are free to see things differently and to realize that our own limitations are no longer the barrier they seemed to be.
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care (Psalm 95:6-7).
Part of why we spend time each week singing is we believe that turning our hearts to God is the best step towards becoming free of whatever is holding us down and whatever is overwhelming us. Worshiping God reminds us that our problems are not overwhelming to the creator of the universe. It is the first step of freedom.
The Second Part of the Psalm
My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously (verses 3-4).
Step Two: Trust His Character
The Psalmist here cites his confidence that his cause will ultimately be made right because God will judge righteously. The more we know God, the more we have confidence in our condition. That confidence rests in His character. Because God is faithful, we know He will do what He says. Because God is merciful we can depend upon His kindness to us. The psalm writer speaks of these truths all the time:
For the word of the LORD is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love (Psalm 33:4-5).
Knowing that God is faithful and that His character is right means that we can trust His working in our lives. Many times when we are going through the desert, we look for ways “out”. Instead, what God will do is take us “through”. And, He will do so in a way that is not harmful to us, but is loving and kind.
Often, our perspective is limited. One author summed this up beautiful with the poem “The Tapestry.”
The Third Part of the Psalm
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you,for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you (verses 9-10).
Step Three: Rest in His Care
The one place of absolute security and safety is in His arms. His comfort and shelter are without fear and without fail. While others may and will disappoint you, He will never fail you. His is the care and comfort that you need to receive.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (I Peter 5:6-7).
When we are in the desert, one of the steps to freedom is to rest in God’s care. That does not mean that you somehow enjoy being in pain. What it does mean is that we come to a place, in the midst of our pain, where we know that God’s care can be counted on. The Bible says “He will never leave us or forsake us”. You are not, and will not be, alone when you walk through the desert. He will be caring and guiding you each step along the way.
The Fourth Part of the Psalm
Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done (v. 11).
Step Four: Share with Others
In sharing with others, we give them God’s gift of hope. We are able to see the result of God’s working in us. And, by meeting the needs of others, we can be freed from the desert of our experience. The road out of the desert is most clearly seen when we are reaching out to meet the needs of others. And, most specifically, when we share Christ—even if during our weakness and struggle—with those around us, we are taking steps out of the desert.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (II Corinthians 12:9-10).
I know, it is incredibly counter-culture. But, the road to freedom from the desert is to come into right relationship with God and come to a place of humility. It’s not a masochistic nature…you don’t invite pain and suffering and say “Yahoo!” What you do say is “God, it’s you and me. And I’m going to be resting on you. I’m going to share with others, give to others, and help others, even though I’m not doing real well right now. And God, I’m going to trust your character and your care to get me through this.”
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last (John 15:16).
Trust in His care and character—you won’t be disappointed.