So, here’s the scenario: You just came home from a long day at work…what is the very first thing you do? Maybe you grab a glass of water, pass by the kitchen to see what’s cooking or kick off your shoes. Okay, now what are the things you do next? Maybe after greeting the family you head to the kitchen to start dinner, or maybe you sit down and watch your favorite show, or read a bit to unwind. Whatever it is there is probably a routine you follow, a pattern and familiar schedule. But what about those days or moments in life when your entire way of doing things gets disrupted; perhaps it’s an unexpected illness, a family crisis or a new baby, or the days that follow a wedding, when the honeymoon is over and the guests are gone? Whatever the change may be, whether exciting, fearful or joyous we will often ask two questions of ourselves, “What Now and What Next?”
How do I process this new change, what can I do right now to reposition my thoughts and my heart? How will this impact the way I’ve been doing things and what are the next steps I need to take to see this new change through? These were the two pressing questions I came home with after my mission trip with Children to Love this year. I had so many mixed emotions and experiences to process. I was physically spent but spiritually full. I came home asking God, “What will I do with the emotions I was holding in and how was I to use this experience to catapult my faith forward?”
In addition to these two questions I had one pressing desire…I needed some extended alone time with God in His Word. This desire was actually the answer to my first question; it was my “What Now?” As the faces and stories of the orphans raced around my head and sorrow for their plight consumed me, so did one simple yet profound truth shared by one of my mission team members; I heard Rylan Ortiz say multiple times, “We just need to remember God is good; He has a plan for them.” This is what my soul was yearning for, this is what I needed to remember. I desired for the Word of God to be my counsel.
So, the Lord placed Psalm 119 on my heart and at the time, I had no idea why. You see I didn’t know what the Psalm was about; but I knew I was being drawn to it. So that’s what I began to read every day following my return from Romania.
Psalm 119 is said by some to be the Mount Everest of all the other Psalms. It is by far the longest, in fact it is the longest chapter in the entire Bible. We don’t know who wrote it but there are some great contenders: Ezra, David, or Daniel. But what we do know was this psalmist was someone who was going through severe adversity, someone familiar with suffering; we know this through the words he penned: Ps. 119:25;28;86-87;141. The other thing we know about this person was they were wise in their understanding of what will sustain them; this psalm exalts the testimonies of God. Ps. 119:93;105;111;160
So how did this psalm help me through my season of “What Now, What Next”? The first thing it did was remind me that I need the word of God to transform my thoughts, fill my heart and replace the lies of the enemy. The stories of the orphans in Romania will give you two immediate responses: you will be heartbroken for their plight and your heart will melt for their capacity and desire to love. You are left with a why and a how; why is this suffering happening to them and how in the world are they still open to the love of humanity?
I compared these children to the psalmist and it is there I found my answers. Throughout Psalm 119, you will not find the author asking God for money, or food or a home. What he pleads for is the life-giving waters found in the words of His God (Ps. 119:14;24;36-37;50;68;71-72;100;103;127; 165;173;175). God’s testimonies align our heart and thoughts with His character and it reminds us of the provision He provides in every season of our lives. It reminds us of the extreme persecution and humiliation our Savior faced with great dignity; for it was pleasing for Him to do the will of His Father (Isa. 53; Psalm 119:165; John 4:34). Psalm 119 reminds me of a bigger narrative in the Bible; on this earth we are not promised straight and gold gilded paths. Instead we are called to pick up and carry our cross through sometimes scary, unknown terrain but the promise we cling to is clear; whatever is filtered through the hands of God is conformed for our good; it is chiseled and refined toward a greater purpose. This is what the orphans are receiving through the ministry of Children to Love. They are being taught early the importance of God’s Word and have living witnesses applying God’s Word to their lives by the love and light they extend to these children. They are learning we are in a battle with the evil and darkness of the time; that we must armor up and be alert but ultimately our struggle is with a defeated foe (John 16:33; Rom. 8:18;28;35-39; Matthew 16:24; Matthew 7:13-14; Psalm 119:19;67;75; Ephes.6:10-18).
Finally, this Psalm answered my “What Next?” When our time in Romania was over and the tearful goodbyes were said, I was excited to get back home. Upon my arrival in Bakersfield, I set foot on the land which God has assigned as my primary mission field; my home, my church, my community; this is my current assignment, so for me the question of “What Next” landed at the footsteps of home. I reevaluated my schedule, I realigned my direction and motivations; I let go and pressed in. I asked God to direct me to the people He wanted me to serve, and to close doors He never intended me to open.
In verse 59 and 132 the psalmist says this; 59: “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;” 132: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.” In this turning I get a beautiful image of our call to daily worship, to consider Christ and all of His beautiful precepts, to be in the presence of His greatness. It is in that secret place that He has my full attention and He speaks to me as a Friend, a Father, as the lover of my soul.
Psalm 119:32-33 says: “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart. Teach me, Oh Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.” Psalm 119:46, “I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame.” Psalm 119:63, “I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.” And finally Psalm 119: 105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” My prayer for each of us is that we seek God’s Word in every peak and valley of our life, that we surround ourselves with His people and continue together to seek the lost and hurting within our sphere of influence. Finally, I hope this little note on Psalm 119 has encouraged you as God reveals the “What Now, What Next” in your journey.