C’mon God, Give Me a Break! – Conclusion

“Everybody has a story of sorrow to tell.” This is what a Brazilian friend and colleague used to say. We all have. We live in a broken world, and we are broken too. The prophet Isaiah puts it in a beautiful way: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5.”

The Psalms of Lament describe real situations that real people were going through in their lives. They are not fiction or poems created to portray human suffering and pain. No, the psalmists were going through a very tough time, and decided to share their ordeal with others. We are blessed for having these psalms in our hands. Let me share with you why.

First of all because they show us that everybody is subjected to this kind of situation. Sometimes we think that things happen only to us. We are the only ones going through hardships, or through that specific kind of hardship. The psalmists experienced a little bit of everything. They faced enemies inside and out. They struggled in their relationship with God. Friends and family mistreated them. They had to deal with their own sins and wrong doings.

The second reason for us to be blessed with these psalms is that they teach us how to be real with God in the middle of our suffering. The psalmists teach us how to pray, and to say things to God that sometimes we think would be wrong to say. We learn from them to be truthful in our prayers and clamors. If it hurts, say it. And say it as it is. We think that if we do not say, God will not know what we are feeling. How dumb is that? The Bible says that God knows what we are thinking and feeling before we can express them in words. So, if you are going through a tough time, just say it.

The last reason why we are blessed with these psalms is that they are supposed to give us hope and lift us up. In all these psalms we have the psalmists coming before the Lord with a word of trust and faith. They are desperate, they complain, but they always come to the conclusion that God is a powerful God, He is a good and merciful God, and He knows what is going on in our lives.

So, my challenge for you is to not only read those psalms, but also pray them. If you look carefully, you will find a psalm that describes your situation and your feelings. Make them your words; immerse yourself in their verses. Open your heart to God and ask Him to intervene in your situation. Do not fear, God is with you and He is listening.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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C’mon God, Give Me a Break! – I want to come back!

Have you ever wandered away from God and His church to the point that you felt a stranger to your own faith? People come to you and ask you about your God, your church, and your faith, and you do not have anything to say?

Those situations have the ability to bring feelings and memories that tell you how important that group of people were in your life and development and how much you miss them. You remember your Sunday School teacher, the pastors, the elders, the programs, the worship, and the music, even those bloopers that every church experiences. You just wish you could go back.

In Psalm 42, we find an interesting plea from the psalmist. He is asking God to let him go back. He finds himself in a strange and foreign land and he can’t take it anymore. Sometimes we leave by our own volition, we do not like the church; we need to move for other reasons, such as school, work, etc. But sometimes we leave as a result of the will of other men. This is the case of the Psalmist. He is in the Babylon in exile. He was taken captive.

His cry is: “Psa. 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” He wants to go back to God. He says, “my soul pants for you, O God.” He wants to have a good and healthy relationship with God. He had that in the past, and he wants to have it again. Sometimes God allows us to experience some desert in our spiritual journey, so we can remember that He is the Fountain of the Living Water.

But it is not only God. He misses the church, the celebrations: “Psa. 42:4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.” How many times you were transported to a forgotten time just because you heard a hymn or you read a Bible verse?

It is interesting that the people around the psalmist, even though they did not believe in God, are the ones used by God to push him in God’s directions. They keep asking him: “Psa. 42:3… “Where is your God?” The psalmist challenge is that at that point of his life he finds himself between a rock and a hard place. He longs to leave but his reality does not allow him to do it.

What can you do if you, a member of your family, or a friend is in a similar situation? The psalmist throughout this psalm helps us to deal with this kind of situation. The first thing that he does is to remember. “Psa. 42:6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon — from Mount Mizar.” Keep the memories of God and that special time alive in your heart.

The second thing is to be sure that God loves you and cares for you. This is what the psalmist sings: “Psa. 42:8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me — a prayer to the God of my life.” Never forget that God loves you.

The next thing that we learn is to present our prayers, cries, and requests to the Lord. If you are facing exile from God raise your voice and ask Him to help you and to let you come back to Him (vs. 9).

Finally, never lose hope. No matter how far you think you are from God, always have hope that God will act and change your circumstances. Twice he says this: “Psa. 42:11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Hope will enable you to sing in the middle of adversities.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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C’mon God, Give Me a Break! – If I am following you, why am I still being persecuted?

Have you ever wondered why good people suffer? Yes, we all do it. David is not different. He knew very well that he was not the most perfect person around, but he was on the right path. But even though he was trying to do the right thing he was suffering on the inside and out. Psalm 40 is a beautiful picture of that season in his life.

In this psalm he starts saying that he was rescued from the pit. He recognizes that God saved him and restored him. This is what he says: “Psa. 40:2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Praise and worship followed that redemption. David recognizes that he could not get out of the pit without the action of God, and because of that he was grateful. “Psa. 40:3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”

He goes on to state that that redemption was more than just a little help. David recognizes that the redemption means surrender of his life to the Lord. This is how he puts it: “Psa. 40:6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.” The expression “my ears you have pierced” is a reference to the voluntary servanthood (Ex. 21:5-6).

David also mentions his desire to do the will of the Lord. “Psa. 40:8 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” He does not want to be a nominal servant. He really wants to follow the Lord, keep His commands, and obey His law.

Finally David says that he will proclaim the Lord’s righteousness. He is making a vow to go public with his decision to follow the Lord. “Psa. 40:9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD.”

Probably, like me, you are thinking, wow this David is doing everything that he can to be a good member of God’s family. He was redeemed, he offers worship and praise, and he dedicates his life to serve the Lord. The Lord will protect and help him, right? Not necessarily. Doing everything right does not guarantee that our life will be trouble free.

David learned that. He complains that even though he was doing everything that he could the problems were still there. “Psa. 40:12 For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” They were not few. They are coming from different directions. He mentions his sins and the enemies who surround him. Yes, the enemies are still there. These are the expressions that David uses to describe their actions: “all who seek to take my life, all who desire my ruin, those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!””

Like David, sometimes we find ourselves doing everything right and despite that we continue to experience troubles and trials. During those times we should act like David did, keep doing the right thing and plead to the Lord to save and help us. Let us pray using David’s words: “Psa. 40:17 … I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.”

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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C’mon God, Give Me a Break! – Do not take me now!

As we age, our preoccupation with our body and health increases. Every new pain or discomfort comes with that feeling that maybe this is something else. Every time that our doctor calls us after receiving our tests gives us chills. It gets worse when he or she says: “We need to talk.” Now this feeling is amplified when we have done something wrong.

Psalm 39 was composed during a situation like this. Most of the scholars believe that it was right after David’s son, the one that he had with Bathsheba died. David contracted an illness and almost died. During that time he developed an unsettling feeling of the proximity of death. He knew that he had sinned, and now God was going to punish him with death.

In this psalm David makes clear that he understands that life is short. He describes it poetically in these verses: “Psa. 39:4-6 Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.” Not only that, but he asks God to let him know how much time he has. He is not only curious about his life span. He wants to be sure that he has time enough to get things right.

One thing that he tried was to keep his mouth shut. But it seems that he did not get the results that he was looking for. “Psa. 39:2-3 But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased. My heart grew hot within me…” He thought that if he stopped talking, blaming, cursing, and complaining things would get better, but despite his desperation it did not work. This is what happens when we try to fix our sins with our own solutions. There is nothing that we can do that can fix our sins before the Lord. David should have known better and so should we.

He finally realized that only God could save him and forgive him. At that point the only thing that he could do was to cry for mercy and help. “Psa. 39:8 Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.” How long will we keep trying to solve the problems that we created and trying to redeem ourselves from our sins? We need to learn with David to bring our wrongdoings to God and leave them at His feet.

At the end of the psalm David has one more thing to ask. He prays that God will give him more time so he could experience joy again. “Psa. 39:13 Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.” Like David, none of us would like to die without resolving relationships and without experiencing forgiveness for our sins. It is this kind of joy that David is talking about, the assurance that he is at peace with God.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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C’mon God, Give Me a Break! – I know I have messed up!

Our parents, our teachers, our coaches, our friends, the bullies, our enemies, our friends who betrayed us, God Himself, and the list goes on, and on, and on. We always find someone to blame for the adversities that we encounter and the problems that we face in our lives.

As we learned with the Psalms of Lament, most of the time, people around us cause our trials. They do not like us, and they oppose us and want to defeat us for many reasons. The problem is that many times the tribulations that we are facing are not caused by outside sources, but inside. We are suffering as the consequence of things that we did.

Psalm 38 tells us about this. In this psalm David comes to the conclusion that some of his problems are not caused by Saul or any other enemy, but by his own sins. Do not misunderstand me, the problems and trials that David was facing were real and painful, but they were only the result or the natural consequence of something that David did.

David understood that God was allowing and using people and circumstances to punish him for things that he did. He opens the Psalm with these words: “Psa. 38:1-2 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me.”

In this Psalm we learn with David how to handle this kind of situation, how to understand what is going on, and react in the right way, and to take the higher path. We need to understand that sometimes we cannot blame our enemies for our difficulties, but only ourselves. What should we do? Let us see what David did.

1 – Recognize – The first attitude is to recognize our sins, and our wrongdoings. David did this many times in this Psalm: “Psa. 38:4-5 My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” David uses the expressions “my guilt has overwhelmed me” and “my sinful folly”, to describe his acceptance of responsibility to what is going on with him. Yes, the enemies are still going after him and he is still being betrayed by his friends, but he is just reaping what he sowed.

2 – Confess – The second attitude that we learn with David in this kind of situation is to confess. We recognize our sins and now we need to come before the Lord and say it. This is what he did: “Psa. 38:18 I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” The word confess means: “To announce (always by word of mouth to one present); specifically, to expose, predict, explain” Confession is when we come before the Lord and expose what we did, and agree with Him that whatever we did was wrong, and we are sorry.

3 – Ask for mercy – The next thing that we see David doing here in this psalm is asking for mercy. Throughout this whole psalm we have David asking for the Lord to have mercy on him. Here are the final verses of this Psalm: “Psa. 38:21-22 O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.” David knows that the Lord is merciful and full of grace, and it is to this God that he presents his petitions.

My friends, sometimes we will suffer at the hands of people who are evil and do not like us, but sometimes our sufferings and trials will bring the discipline of the Lord because of our own sins and wrongdoings. Like David we should recognize them, confess, and ask for mercy.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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C’mon God, Give Me a Break! – They are against me without any reason!

Have you ever been blindsided? Not only have you been caught by surprise, but attacked by someone that you would never expect? It could be a good friend that you trusted, a long time colleague, or a member of your own family. We share this common experience. We expect opposition from our enemies, but not from people that we have not wronged.

Psalm 35 is a cry from David. He is not crying because of the persecution that Saul unleashed against him. He is crying because people who knew him were raising their hands and voices against him.

We find his complaint in these sentences: “those who seek my life”, “those who plot my ruin”, “they hid their net for me without cause and without cause dug a pit for me”. He also mentions the time that he helped them, and now they are paying him with evil for good. Here are his words: “They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. Psa. 35:12-14.”

He suffered with them, he fasted for them, he prayed for them, and he cried with them and for them, and then they turned against him. Here is how David described what they did: “But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing. Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me. Psa. 35:15-16.”

How could he handle this kind of situation? Isn’t it bad enough to have the king coming after you? Now you have to worry about people that you know and care about? As you see David can help us to go through this kind of situation.

The first thing that David did was to ask God to fight that fight for him, “Psa. 35:1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.” David cannot fight all those fronts by himself, so he asks God to fight for him.

David also doesn’t have a problem being frank with God, “Psa. 35:17 O Lord, how long will you look on?” And “Psa. 35:22 O LORD, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord.” But not only that, he is specific enough in telling the LORD what He should do to his enemies. The list is too long for me to include here. David does not have a problem exposing his heart before God and in front of the people. Do not forget this is a song and not a secret document. People would listen, learn, and sing this song. David’s sincerity is shockingly amazing.

But one thing that we all should learn from David’s experience is his desire to have God close to him, not only protecting him but also assuring him that everything will be OK. We can feel that in this verse: “Say to my soul, “I am your salvation. Psa. 35:3”. David is like all of us who have been in this kind of situation. He only wants to be sure that God is with him and close enough to whisper to his soul “I am your salvation”.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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C’mon God, Give Me a Break! – They are plotting against me

I remember a time long ago when I faced opposition because of my ministry. I decided to make some changes in the way we were doing church, and that stirred powerful people against me. I wrote a book in Portuguese about that (A Doutrina da Gravata). During that time, even though things were calm, I knew that something was going on. I could feel that people were plotting not only against me but also against the church in which I was pastor.

Plotting, as you all know means: “a secret plan or scheme to accomplish some purpose, especially a hostile, unlawful, or evil purpose.” In Psalm 31 David finds himself in a situation like that. Even during the times that Saul was not pursuing him, he knew that they were plotting against him. It was not only Saul that wanted him out of the way. He had other enemies, not only foreigners but also domestic.

Have you ever been in this kind of situation, when you know that people around you are planning something against you? They do not like your ideas, your beliefs, your attitudes, and the way you do things. They do not just talk behind your back, but they plot against you. They attempt to devise ways to get you down or out.

In this psalm David can help us to deal with this kind of situation. He knows what is going on. This is how he describe it: “Psa. 31:4 Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.” And “Psa. 31:13 For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life.” And “Psa. 31:20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues.” He knows that they are making traps for him, conspiring and plotting against him, making intrigues and accusing him. It is not a nice picture.

Another thing that David tells us is the reaction of our friends during times such as this. When people around us see what is going on they start to distance from us because they do not want to get caught in the crossfire. This is what David noticed: “Psa. 31:11-12 Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends — those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.” It is during those times that we find our real friends.

So, what should we do in this kind of situation? David basically did three things. The first one is to pray. He asked God to protect and save him: “Psa. 31:2 Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.” In situations like these the first thing that we must do is to present our cause to the Lord and ask Him to intervene.

The second thing to do is to trust in the Lord. If you pray but do not trust in what God can do, it will not happen. You will not get the answer for your prayer. David said: “Psa. 31:14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”” He also uses expressions such as: “Into your hands I commit my spirit”, and “you are my rock and my fortress”. David is certain that God has control of every situation and that his life was in good and powerful hands.

Finally David does what he does best, praise. He started praising God even before the situation was resolved: “Psa. 31:21 Praise be to the LORD, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city.” His past experiences with God enabled him to praise the Lord even in the middle of difficult circumstances. It is the assurance of God’s love that will move us to praise and worship Him.

Therefore my brothers and sisters, if you suspect that someone is plotting against you, do as David did, put your lives in the hands of God, He is powerful, He is good, and He is worthy to be praised.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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C’mon God, Give Me a Break! – Do not let me die like the ungodly

Have you in your Christian journey gotten so close to the ungodly and distanced yourself so far from God’s precepts that you feared for your life? Maybe you thought that if God punished your enemies, because of the close proximity, you would be affected in the same way and would be counted as one of them.

Jeremiah prophesied something about a similar circumstance. The people were behaving so badly that if they died they would be in deep trouble. Here is the text: “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved. Jeremiah 8:20.” Have you ever been in a situation that if you died at that moment you feared for your eternal destination? Psalm 28 illustrates a situation like that. David is still fleeing from Saul and his enemies. Sometimes they were very close to each other, and it was so ugly that David thought that if he died at that moment he would go to the pit with his enemies. The pit here means the grave. David was not only concerned about his life per se; he was also concerned about his reputation. He would be counted as ungodly and because of that he cried out to the Lord.

This Psalm is marked by the phrase “Hear my cry” and “He heard my cry”. In the first part David argues with God that even though he was close to his enemies they were not the same. The differences were enormous; they were “wicked”, “do evil”, and “harbor malice in their hearts”. In this first part he also asks God to punish his enemies.

Sometimes, even being a Christian, we act in the same way as the ungodly. Our deeds do not glorify God; our words hurt people; and our hearts are cold toward the needs of our brothers and sisters. We are selfish and preoccupied with our wellbeing.

David knew that this kind of attitude was wrong and he pleaded with God to not let him die like that. In the middle of his tribulation he has time to seek the Lord: “Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. Psalm 28:2.” He cries for help and he lifts his hands toward the Temple. With this attitude he recognizes that he does not have nor deserve anything from God. He depends totally on God’s grace and mercy.

The beauty of this psalm is that it shows us how good, merciful, kind, and loving our God is. In verse 6 we have a 180-degree turn. Here is the text: “Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy. Psalm 28:6.” We learn here that when we turn to God, He turns to us immediately. Before David finished his prayer he already had the answer that God heard him. From that point on David praises God, exalts His power, and confesses that he trusts in Him. He also intercedes for God’s people.

My friend, sometimes during our journey we will get very close to the enemy camp, so close that we will think that if God decides to act against them we will go down with them. It is for these times that we have this psalm. Cry to the Lord, ask for mercy, and know that He will answer you instantaneously, even before you finish your prayer.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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