I don’t understand a lot of things. Some mornings I still wake up with a defensive spirit and an arrogant heart, but then I recall the words of Psalm 131, and rather than praying for immediate answers, I pray for a soul like that of the Psalmist. A heart not lifted up. Eyes not raised too high. A mind not occupied with things too great and too marvelous for me. A calm and quieted soul.
It doesn’t make sense.
I don’t understand why people kill other people out of anger. I don’t understand why an invisible virus can both take and destroy lives with the fierceness of a great army. I don’t understand why people we love get cancer. I don’t understand why the dearest of friends are pitted against each other with the simple click of a share button. I don’t understand why sometimes doing the right thing can cost so much. I don’t understand how all of this can still be used for our good and God’s glory.
But I wanted to understand. I needed to understand.
And that desperation to understand how and why God can bring good for His children out of such loss and heartache is what made reading Psalm 131 so uncomfortable a few weeks ago.
The Psalm opens with these words: “O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things to great and too marvelous for me.” (Psalm 131:1 ESV) I had only to read one verse to feel, as a dear older sister in the Lord would say, “my toes getting stepped on.”
I started to rationalize and convince myself that the things this Psalmist was writing about, were not the things I was struggling with wanting to understand. The things mentioned as being “too great and too marvelous for me” were not the things found all over the pages of my journal in recent weeks. No, this was a good Psalm, but not one meant to convict me. This was one for them.
But as I kept reading, I suddenly wasn’t so sure. The Psalm continues with this: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD, from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:2-3 ESV) Calm and quiet? I wanted that. I longed for that. But my soul was the farthest thing from it. Perhaps, after all, my heart was not like that of the Psalmist’s in verse one. Perhaps, I was occupied with things too great and too marvelous for me. Perhaps, my heart was lifted up and my eyes raised too high.
A heart not lifted up…
My eyes wandered from the Psalm down to the study notes below. My commentary suggests that the opening of the Psalm, which speaks of a “heart not lifted up” and “eyes not raised too high,” is a description of humble man or woman’s attitude toward God. To have ones heart lifted up and eyes raised high is an expression of pride and arrogance, to demand or expect something from God which He does not owe us.