[Sorry for the long post, but I hope it reaches out to you 🙂 ]
I was unfortunately diagnosed with a benign chronic illness after multiple, multiple tests. I did not personally mind, but it had inserted its awkward, ugly nose into my life, my academics and general well-being. As I lay down on a stretcher ready to enter a noisy dome for an MRI, I silently previewed the hectic past week. I had missed a whole lot of university hours and having to make up for it felt quite overwhelming. Unlike what most people would expect, I did not question God or show defiance. I did wonder why this had to happen to me, but I generally strung closer to God. For all my symptoms, most near and dear said it was all in my head, as I had all my previous tests return negative. They said that I was probably hiding something that was mentally disturbing and I had to defuse it so that it would relieve me of my illness. So, unbelievably, instead of being relieved that the tests were all negative, I was secretly hoping that one of the tests would show something – anything to explain how I felt, that it wasn’t all in my head. Of course I didn’t care what the others said – they weren’t experiencing the pain, the discomfort, the difficulty that I was facing. But I still had to know why I felt this way.
It had been a long two weeks. Every day was the same; I left early in the morning after a forced breakfast, in spite of the nausea. They said I was ill because I skipped breakfast. Yeah, right; perhaps you’d like a doctor’s degree to go with that piece of advice. Mostly I ended up throwing up that hurried meal. Then I’d be queued to meet the doctor, and those waiting rooms were not entirely pleasant. It just felt so unproductive to waste so many precious minutes in a doctor’s waiting room. And then I would meet the doctor, tell him my symptoms got worse everyday, and he would prescribe yet another test, bewildered as ever. By now I had lost most of my strength, I felt like a walking zombie and surprisingly enough, I still had good spirits.
So, as I was pushed into the MRI chamber, I told God, “This machine might be really noisy, but you know what? My mind is really calm. It’s really silent inside. I don’t care about any of this, Lord, I just want You to talk to me. It’s good enough over here.”
And as I looked into the piercing bright lights, I suddenly recalled a verse I came across about a month ago. It was Psalm 18:1. I had read most of the chapter but it was just the first verse – just one line that struck me then: “I will love You, O LORD, my strength.”
It’s just a small verse, which many would overlook. If you picked up a study Bible, it would have probably left out the explanation for this verse too. Perhaps, if I would have quoted the second verse it would have made more sense to some: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” But in that moment, I felt I could have spoken volumes and volumes on that one small line alone. When I told someone else, they weren’t all to excited about it, they couldn’t understand the depth of such an ordinary verse. Guess it takes one to go through it to understand what it means.
The Psalm was written by David, and if you saw the context, the subtitle to the Psalm reveals that it was written ‘on the day that the LORD had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.’
But overlooking the context, at that moment, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the tense that David chose to use. “I WILL love You…” It doesn’t take a grammarian to realize that one would normally use the word ‘I will’ in that context to indicate future tense. David could have just said “I love You, O LORD, my strength.” The fact that he chose to use this tense struck me hard. It was like a choice he was making even when he didn’t have to.
David was essentially saying – God, I will love You. Although it feels hopeless now, and I am a fugitive being chased around the wilderness by the King himself, with no security for my life, I will still love You; Because You alone are my strength. I have been dodging and scuttling about for weeks now, and this little army of men here, they have put their trust in me and I feel responsible for them too. I have to feed them too, even it means I go without a meal. So, Lord, I might be physically exhausted and weak, and on my own, King Saul can squash me like a little bug, but You are my strength. And I will love You because I know that You will get me through this. You called me when I was a nobody chasing sheep through the pastures, and You anointed me; I know You’re not going to leave me here, hanging on for life. You helped me beat Goliath, there is nothing You can’t do. I will love You.
David was thrown into a situation which would have left many questioning God and hurling their fist toward Heaven. David could have argued that he was such an innocent little boy who did nothing wrong, and while he chased sheep, he even spent the time to compose music praising and glorifying the great and mighty creator. He didn’t deserve any of this. But that day, he made a deliberate choice – “ I will love You, O Lord – even when I don’t have to.”
If you look into the second verse once again, you would notice all these different attributes that David bestows on God, but in the first verse, there is a very special quality that calls for emphasis which is recalled in the second verse again. Of all the features of God, David underscores ‘my strength’; Not ‘I will love You, O LORD, my rock’ or ‘I will love You, O LORD, my shield’, but ‘I will love You, O LORD, my strength.’ David realizes that the Lord was always a shield and a rock and a fortress. In the end, God would always save the day. But for David, his rock, fortress, shield and deliverer were all God. But when David called on God as his strength, it was not all God alone, but it was God through him. It was special because it revealed how God used him, and worked through him – David was empowered through God. The other attributes were all God – independent of who David was.
David was constantly pushed through life, belittled, and generally made to feel inferior. When the prophet Samuel visited David’s father Jesse, he asked to see all of his sons to select God’s appointed to be the next king. Even then, David didn’t qualify his father’s attention as king-material. Standing before the giant Goliath, David probably felt like a beetle. When confronted by King Saul, David said that he was merely a dead dog, a flea who was not worth the king of Israel’s attention. David was humble so much so that the thought of having the mighty Yahweh on his side was overwhelming.
Of all the ways he could have begun that psalm, David chooses his words from an overwhelmed heart: “I will love You, O LORD, my strength.” It was not just physical weakness that David was implying but the deep emotional and spiritual weakness as well. In spite of his close escapes and brushes with victory, he admitted that he was weak, and in need of His savior, who was the strongest. He understood that he was nothing without the LORD.
So as I lay there in that bright chamber, I did not have to be strong, I did not have to prove myself to anyone, God was on my side, and in all my weakness and my frustration, the LORD was my strength. And even if everything seemed hopeless and dark now, I would still love the LORD, my strength. And that was all that mattered.
When every step is so hard to take
And all of my hope is fading away
When life is a mountain that I cannot climb
You carry me, Jesus carry me.
You are strength in my weakness
You are the refuge I seek
You are everything in my time of need
You are everything, You are everything I need.
[Everything I need >> Kutless]