“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19)
At first glance, Psalm 68 seems to be all over the place: rest and war, deliverance and bloodshed, mountains and livestock corrals and army camps. We approach it from such a distance of time, culture, and context that it can be difficult to know where to start. So consider another situation with results that have also been all over the place: the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of deaths has been staggering, the economic losses life-changing, the shift online stressful. At the same time, animal and plant habitats have been reinvigorated, technology has leaped forward, and in-person contact is no longer taken for granted. We could try weighing pros and cons in a sort of summary, but a better framework would be to recognize that around the world life is always easier for some and harder for others.
But that doesn’t mean we have to be fatalistic or hedonistic or give in to YOLO extremes. Looking again at this psalm, we find God responding to each person according to their situation. To those people who choose wickedness and act unjustly to others, God brings justice and discipline. Meanwhile, God sees those who suffer injustice and gives them spiritual and/or tangible release. God leaves those who want nothing to do with Him to navigate struggles without help. But those who ask God for help find He comes alongside them to face troubles together. While some people have died from illness, war, or weariness, God grants others more days on this earth for reasons only He knows. During tragedy, He offers real comfort to each of us according to what we need, whether that be defense, advocacy, provision, strength, sleep, and even joy. Politicians and government administrators try to keep societies running, and God recognizes their nations and offers guidance. And while humanity is preoccupied, God remembers His other creations and delights in the weather patterns, beautiful topography, and intricate animals.
So in the face of all these various situations, we have a choice of what narrative to believe and how to respond. Will our internal perspective be one of recognition at God’s work in the world, trusting that He treats each person with appropriate discipline or mercy, and gratefulness for the good things still in our lives? Will our external behavior reflect God’s love to us by generosity, advocacy, compassion, and responsible stewardship for others? This isn’t a call to put on a happy face and pretend everything’s fine; it is, however, a call to recognize that God is willing to accompany us through a tumultuous life. And that is worth celebrating.