119 resh

Every year, millions of salmon fight the currents of tidal streams and rivers.  The world seems stacked against them.  They’ve got a long journey over rocks and rapids and fish ladders.  Their bodies will be scarred and torn.  Every wave of their fin is a fight against the pressure that surrounds them to just give up.  But they somehow know that they must keep going against the stream.  They somehow know that they must do this in order to produce life.  If they give up, if they don’t make it to spawning, if they don’t keep pressing on towards their calling, generations after them will not have a chance at life.

Sometimes it feels like the whole world is against you… people do not support you or encourage you.  You wake up and pray that today will be different, that today will be uplifting and freeing… but then more of the same expletive trouble is directed at you.  (Sorry for my expletive!)  Whether you have anything to do with the trouble doesn’t seem to matter either.  Sometimes there are some very specific trouble-makers in your workplace or family or church who just won’t go away.  Sometimes it feels like there are evil people in your life who don’t desire anyone’s delight except their own.  So if you are in their way, they clash against you.  Even if you are convinced you are doing what you should be doing and trying to please God, people can be antagonistic towards you.  In fact, sometimes it is because you are pursuing the right way to live that people surround you with maliciousness.

Well, the good news today is that you are not alone.  Many other people, good God-fearing people, throughout history have been antagonized by jerks.  That’s also bad news- for it means that this is a problem which doesn’t just go away.  Jesus suggests that persecution is a way of life for even the most devout of believers.   Just because you are following God doesn’t mean others will too.  And just because you are trying to do the right thing doesn’t mean that life will be a lazy tube ride downstream.  It probably means the opposite- an upstream climb.  And when you fight against the current, it’s a battle.  And the pressure all around you encourages you to let up, give in, and go with the flow.  Don’t let the current win.  Keep straining ahead.  Keep pressing on towards your calling.  The life of generations after you might depend upon it.

It’s okay to call out for help from God though.  Don’t try to fight the current in your own strength.  The writer of the longest chapter in the Bible felt surrounded by people that only wanted his downfall.  But instead of relying on his own endurance, he called out to God.  It’s as if he would jump out of the current long enough to gain strength from God- and leap forward into the stream again.  As he nears his destination in Psalm 119, he calls out to God to help him in the current.

153 Look upon my suffering and deliver me,
       for I have not forgotten your law.

154 Defend my cause and redeem me;
       preserve my life according to your promise.

155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
       for they do not seek out your decrees.

156 Your compassion is great, O LORD;
       preserve my life according to your laws.

157 Many are the foes who persecute me,
       but I have not turned from your statutes.

158 I look on the faithless with loathing,
       for they do not obey your word.

159 See how I love your precepts;
       preserve my life, O LORD, according to your love.

160 All your words are true;
       all your righteous laws are eternal.

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