This week I have been feeling overwhelmed, but not in a bad way. I have been feeling joyful and humbled because of God’s goodness to me. Last weekend, as I charged through some items that had been lingering on my to-do list, I was writing letters to the girls that I sponsor through Compassion International. I always include a verse in my letters, and something brought Psalms 16:11 to mind. I pulled up the psalm, and the whole of it resonated perfectly how I was feeling. I only used three verses of it in the letters, but I spent the week soaking up all of it.
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.
The word chosen appears in the name of my blog to celebrate the amazing love, grace, and mercy of the One who set me apart before I was born. But this week, David’s psalm had me thinking about my own choice. Maybe you have seen a car with a paw-shaped magnet or sticker that reads, “Who rescued who?” Bad grammar aside, I was thinking about David’s statement, “The LORD is my chosen portion. . .” and the fact that we are both chosen and choosing. Who chose whom? We know that God chose us before we had consciousness to choose. Yet, we have the free will and the responsibility to choose for ourselves. It brings to mind Joshua’s challenge to the Israelites (aka God’s chosen people) to “choose this day whom you will serve. . .But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15) Chosen, but needing to choose.
I was wondering to myself about what it means for God to be “my chosen portion and my cup.” David is not the only one who wrote this kind of statement. Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:24, “‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I will hope in him.’” Lamentations 3:21-26 is a favorite passage of mine, and it has a lot of parallels with Psalms 16. Jeremiah was writing from a position of devastation, yet for him, having the Lord as his portion meant having hope in the midst of despair. He was able to say, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases. . .” (Lam. 3:22) Another person who chose the Lord as her portion was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping her, Jesus said, “. . .Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:42) Mary had chosen to sit at Jesus feet and listen to His teaching. That is the posture that I want to have.
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalms 16 seems to be a celebration of the joy and peace that comes with choosing to serve the LORD as God. The happiness, security, and pleasure of having God on our side can make it seem like a selfish choice. As I rest in all the goodness I see around me, which I know is from the Lord, I wonder at my own motives. Yet, I realize that I could be in the same place and not recognize His goodness. If I did not choose to “set the LORD always before me,” I might think my life unsatisfactory. If I did not have the promise of a “beautiful inheritance,” I could be desperately hopeless. There were times in my life when my faith was not as strong, and I had difficulty trusting God’s plan for my life. I had chosen to follow God, but I was unhappy. I was trudging along His path for my life begrudgingly. But God drew me closer, and I chose to draw nearer. My circumstances have changed a bit over time, but the real change is in my heart. It is strange how God can so dramatically alter the lens through which we view life.
I have always thought of myself as emotionally cold. I have often questioned whether I truly love Jesus as I ought to. I am not always sure that my knowledge has penetrated my emotions. But this week, as I felt this strange happiness that is difficult to express, I realized that it was full of love and devotion. Apart from love, would I have joy in spending time in Scripture and prayer? It is love for God that leads to having joy in His presence and in communication with Him. The more we love someone, the happier we are to spend time with that person. When we love, there is joy even in the sacrifices we make for that other person. I am realizing that there is love in my passion for learning Scripture and in my delight when I am able to serve. It is this mutual affection that has transformed my attitude about life.