NPR program entitled: Facebook and Mortality: Why your incessant joy gives me the blues.
The stories’ producer, Jon Brooks (not the local John Brooks) said he had an existential Facebook meltdown a few years ago it was largely envy related…most of the posting are about how well everyone but were living.
We’ve all heard about how to not compare your insides with other’s outsides…buts hard to do.
The amount of recreational time 1.65 billion humans (22% of the worlds population) spend on Facebook and Instagram is only exceeded by the time they spend watching TV.
What researchers have found (and Facebook is a treasure trove for researchers…maybe because they can do the research from their couch) is that the online environment promotes “narcissistic behavior” with most users sharing only positive things about themselves.
There are a large number of “envy-inducing postings”
This is turn leads to some Facebook users engaging in an “envy-coping plan”…this plan involves even greater self-promotion and impression management.
It triggers a self-promotion-envy arms race.
One woman reported getting genuinely depressed and she said it has everything to do with envy.
She said “There’s this jealous part of me, that’s like, ‘do we have to see that?’ Everyone seems like they’re happy on Facebook.”
People around us can seem so happy…so satisfied…this is especially true of virtual people…online selves
But even walking down the street or looking around you in church it is easy to think and believe…”why can’t I just be happy and content like all these people are?”
By the way if you were here last week for Small Group Sunday you heard one the benefits in living in authentic community is the opportunity to have real relationships with real people…no self-promotion arms races.
But think about it…how many people do you know really well who don’t experience periods in which they struggle with psychological or social problems, problems at work, anxiety, depression, self-control issues, etc….most of us would have a short or an empty list.
Every one has or will feel physical pain. Sadness, shame, anxiety, fear, loss.
Everyone has memories that are embarrassing, humiliating or shameful.
Most everyone could post things on Facebook that would make most everyone else…feel like they are normal in their struggles…because for the most part it is true.
In Psalm 25 David opens up to God, and to his community about his suffering and his hope.
If the book of Psalms were David’s Facebook page…people would not likely get envious of his life…even if he is a wealthy, famous, and powerful king.
Psa. 25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
“I Lift up my soul”…turns his attention, affection…to God…he is choosing reorientation here…because his life circumstances are disorienting.
2 in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
Have you been in a situation where you have taken a stand, people know what you believe…who you have placed your hopes in…they know you are a believer.
Now they are watching…for mistakes, for offenses, for sins, for problems in your life that will be evidence that you are a fake, that your God is a fake.
They are nitpicking you because “if you were a Christian you would be more perfect and have a more perfect life.”
And everyone knows if you are a good person, God loves you most…and if God loves you nothing can or will ever go wrong in your life…
So, with this myth in mind…people are watching David…They are enjoying his failures.
3 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.
His cry to God is “Do not let me end in shame”
AND his confession is
“Those who hope in you will never end in shame.”
So what he is saying? If you put them together he is asking that God help him put his hope in him…so that he will not end in shame.
4 Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
David has offered his soul, his life to God…now he is ready for God to train him, to show him his will and ways.
After yielding his will to God he asks God to reveal his will & ways.
This highlights something important for us…it is unlikely we will have clarity of direction from God unless we have surrendered our direction to God first.
We can be honest with what we want…but we have to move to faith and surrender to what he wants…”God if possible…take this cup…but not my will, yours.”
No easy thing, in fact it can be an impossible thing apart from his Holy Spirit at work in our hearts…we desperately need him to help us want what he wants for us.
His paths for us, his ways are not subjective…they are not at the mercy of our feelings and moods…our ups and downs…the mast majority of what God wants for us…it is written in black and white.
“But I want more than the Bible tells me…it is not specific enough to help me where I most need help.”
Its true we shouldn’t go searching in the Bible for individualized messages taken out of their context.
But we must be paying attention to the clearly revealed will of God for our lives…he has made known who we are to be becoming, how we are to treat him and others, how we are to move through live in ways that reveal him and experience him.
The vast majority of his will and ways for our lives…is in the book.
Even when we are committed to obedience and have his word in front of us…we must still cry out to God over and over…”Lead me in your truth and teach me.”
Because have this capacity to go looking in his Word for what we want to see there…rather than what we need to see there.
But let’s go full circle to the gospel…David cries out for direction because he knows he is unable to fix himself or save himself…he confesses “You O God are my savior, my hope is in you all day long.”
His salvation is from the Savior…his hope is in him always…there is no part of any day that he believes can save himself.
Remember…Salvation has always been by grace through faith…Old testament and New Testament times.
Israel had the law given to Moses and if they kept it they would remain safe in the land…if they failed…they would be expelled…and that is what happened.
But personal salvation…not national protection…was always about faith.
The promises made to Abraham and to David… were not in any way contingent on human obedience but on God’s character…his faithfulness.
“Instead of being a covenant based on law (“do this and you will live”), it was based on a promise (“Live and you will do this”).
In the covenant of law…obedience proceeded life.
In the covenant of grace…life precedes obedience.
David, this immensely capable human being…who could be posting to PsalmBook…all of his great achievements and gifts…musician, warrior, ladies man, giant killer, king…man after God’s own heart…instead he posts from the depths of his need…
“My hope is in you God all day long.”
6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 7 Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.
As David struggles with the challenges of his present situation…the sins of his past are ever before him…this keeps him humbled…
They are forgiven…they are not forgotten.
David is not asking God to literally “forget” when he says “remember not my sins.”
David knows God’s mind is far different from ours…but he is using human language and thought forms to address God.
So he says “Lord, would you replace thoughts of my sins with thoughts of your great mercy and love in your mind?”
“When you think of me would you think me in light of your love, not my sin?”
We know that since Christ has taken our place on the Cross…the answer is “yes.”
The righteousness of Christ has been credited to our account…the legal/accounting language is accurate but it can sound cold.
We can pray like David did here but instead of a question we can offer a prayer of confident thanks…
“Thank you Father that when you think of me you do not remember my sins but of you remember your son…his sacrifice has displaced my sins…paid their debt.”
Maybe the hardest thing for a human mind to wrap around is this equation “grace plus nothing equals relationship with God.”
If you are a follower of Christ your struggles, pain, trouble are not indicators that God doesn’t love you, or is making you pay for your sin…its not punishment from God for your guilt.
Even though our choices have consequences in our lives…we cannot pay for our sins…even with our troubles.
Certainly we can suffer for our sin and God can cause the “Wheels to fall off” in our lives, to get our attention.
But if you have trusted Christ, all that God does in your life is from love…
*You did not “earn” his love and therefore you cannot now “earn” his wrath.
1John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Heb. 12:7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
Perhaps your human parent treated you with contempt; their love was contingent on your good behavior.
Perhaps you have experienced this from others in your life…dependent love, contingent grace…If you are good enough, then you can earn their love.
It is very important that you do the mental, emotional work to not apply this to your relationship with God…it is important that you think and learn to feel what is true about God…how?
Proclaim the gospel to yourself…proclaim the gospel to others.
Not in sermons…but in everyday, normal ways.
In our ongoing conversations with friends and family can we learn and choose to inject words of God’s mercy and acceptance.
When so many are saying so much about elections and fantasy football…because their minds are so full of those things…we must find non-weird ways to speak of God’s undeserved, unearned mercy in our lives.
I am not against small talk…political, sports, otherwise…my point is that often grace talk is either entirely absent or out of proportion to other things in our conversations with each other.
The reality of the gospel fades compared to the in your face realities of human personalities…sports, political, local, national.
I’m not advocating for weird…or for tiresome…”Praise God” after every sentence…communication
I have found that I talk most about what is in most in me.
What I most talk about is what becomes more of what is in me.
Phil. 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.
There’s a word for a person who perpetually looks to the “bright or happy” side of life…they are said to have a Pollyanna perspective.
The word comes from an early 20th century novel made into a Disney movie in 1960 called “Pollyanna.”
About a little girl who always saw the bright side when all the grownups around her were downers…she infected their perspectives over time…even though a tragedy took some of her sunny disposition.
Paul was no Pollyanna…when he encouraged thinking and speaking of things that are true, noble, pure, lovely admirable, excellent, praiseworthy…he is speaking from the perspective of a man who has seen and experienced much hardship…however he is full of the gospel.
He has given much time to thinking, and speaking of God’s grace in Jesus Christ…this has infected his view of the world.
It must infect ours as well.
8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. 9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. 10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant. 11 For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
Again, keep in mind the mercy of the Lord in his discipline of us…
Heb. 12:7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.
His discipline of his children is not his wrath…it is his love.
When we were children and our parents disciplined us it didn’t feel like love…now as adults we can look back and see the love in it…if we haf parents who were not cruel…some of you did…so this is harder…but still important.
We are always going to be children before God…but we must move towards being adult children…children who see God’s discipline in our lives as love.
Think for a moment of some aspect of your character that was positively altered through discipline, trouble, pain…think of who you were before, what you thought, said, did, what you valued…now think of who you are now.
Would you have made those kinds of changes apart from the pain of not changing?
I don’t like the pain of discipline…but I certainly like the results of it.
12 Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. 13 He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. 14 The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. 15 My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Fear for the child of God is reverence, careful attention…not the fear of an abusive, or of a fickle god who is hateful and unpredictable in his actions.
This word is also used of worship…ultimate respect…when this is present our ears are open to his will and ways for our lives.
The results of living with open ears to God’s will and ways is prosperity, generational prosperity.
This is not a prosperity gospel…God is not a means to our end…we don’t feign “fear” and respect so he will give us what we really want.
This is love for God that leads to a certain way of living that leads to certain kind of life…that life will prosper…a heart set on God’s pleasure cannot help but prosper in whatever the circumstances.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. 17 The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. 18 Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. 19 See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me! 20 Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. 21 May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you.
So David has made some powerful statements of faith and offered some reality based prayers…now he gets really honest with where he is.
1.He is mental and emotional affliction…his heart is exponentially troubled (they have multiplied), he is in anguish.
-He likely has people around him…but that doesn’t keep him or us from being lonely
-He began by telling God…”I lift up my soul to you.”
-Now he asks God…”Turn to me”
–Free me from my anguish…anguish is such a strong word…its one of those words that feels like its meaning to me…anguish.
-When you are in anguish nothing matters more to you than freedom from it..nothing.
-He is calling out to God…asking God turn his attention towards him…because of his troubles God now has his full attention.
-And in his troubles he struggles with wondering is he has God’s full attention…but of course he does.
- He has moral affliction
-Dr Robert Tick is an expert on what is now called Moral Injury.
-Symptoms can resemble PTSD…but they have a different cause.
-PTSD is fear based…fight or flight response has overtaken your mind and body.
-Moral injury is when a person has done something that has broken their own strongly held moral code.
-Soldiers will talk of feeling like “their soul left them” or “was torn from them.”
-David, was a soldier…he was in combat…no doubt he had moral injury from those experiences.
-In addition David had done some horrible things that he did not have to do in combat and should not have done.
-Now part of his affliction, his distress, is the memory of his own sins.
-He begs God to “take away all of my sins.”
-I’m sure many, if not most of us here can shudder when past sins come to our minds.
-The prayer of a believer asking God to “talk away all of my sins” has been already answered on the cross…”It is already finished.”
-We continue to fess up as we mess up…in order to maintain fellowship with God…but relationship with God is established by the work of Christ on our behalf.
-The ongoing work that must be done is the work of believing what God has said he has finished.
- He has relational affliction…people hate him
-It’s hard when people don’t like you, when they hate you.
-Its rare that a person doesn’t have an enemy…deserved or undeserved
-Maybe you would not call the person in your life…who makes you lose sleep at night, or makes work or school miserable…an enemy…but none the less…you can relate to David.
-A bad relationship with someone you must live with or work around can make your life complete misery.
-David cries for rescue…because his hope is in God.
-Look at how that hope fleshes out in practice…”May integrity and uprightness protect me…because my hope is in you.”
-These two words mean essentially the same thing…parallelism…because his hope in God…he is able to do what is right, to show integrity.
-David did practice this in real life.
-When his enemy Saul was trying to take his life, there were several times when David could have killed Saul…ended it…but he did not, because it would have been wrong.
-How we deal with those who oppose us shows whether we are taking refuge in God or taking our lives in our own hands.
-Do we “do unto others what we would have them to do to us?”…or…”Do to others what they are doing to us?”
*Faith in God always shows up in the way we relate to others…especially to others who are hard for us to love or like.
-This completes the sufferer’s trifecta of misery… mental/emotional/physical affliction, Moral affliction, Relational affliction.
Yet…he ends with a corporate prayer…he includes his people in his prayer for redeemption.
22 Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles!
This is very personal, honest stuff…David did not put his feeling in a locked diary…he shared it with others…with us.
This last verse shows he took his private and personal pain and shared it with the larger community of God’s people.
We are not made to suffer, to struggle alone.
People are challenged by your strengths, they are encouraged by your weaknesses.
So what are we to do with our affliction?
The article I read concluded its not the content that causes problems or brings encouragement or discouragement as much as it is the relationship with the one posting the content.
So if you have close relationship with the one posting…you can rejoice with them, or mourn with them.
Well what do you know…virtual relationship is only as valuable as actual relationship.
David models a healthy path for navigating through the mess of our lives rather than by the mess.
Here’s my attempt at discerning some reference points from his shared struggles.
- Don’t Deny the struggle exists
Hinduism, Christian Science, Health and prosperity gospel…all try this…living in unreality
They deny the existence of evil, bad…the struggle is illusion…not the struggle is life.
But we need balance here…Jesus modeled balance
Honesty with his struggles…”I am overwhelmed, friends, be with me during this hard time.” “I am overwhelmed, Father, take this cup from me.”
Integrity in his faith…When his friends were sleeping and failing him…he did no falter.
-Though he prayed for another way…he was fixed on the father’s will…”Not my will, but yours be done.”
- Don’t Run to or from the struggle…run toward the will of God
Again King Jesus…the one King David foreshadowed…did not run from the cross…but resolutely went there for the joy set before him.
Jesus also did not model running towards suffering…he was no stoic, no Buddhist, no denier of his own desires.
The Buddhist believes that suffering is caused by desire, so to eliminate suffering you must eliminate desires…cease to care.
But Jesus’ death on the cross is rightly called “The Passion.”
His suffering was full of passion, desire…he did not model running towards suffering…but certainly he modeled running toward the will of God…that, for him meant a cross…as well as the joy that for him and for us that followed his path to the cross.
- Do include others in it…others meaning both God and people.
David’s conclusion…shows that he is writing for his troubles to be “posted publically” to be used as an aid for the worship of others.
Jesus…took his friends with him…even though they disappointed him.
He modeled another important balance…include others, get help and hope from them…but put your ultimate hope in God not in others.
The struggle is going to continue…in this life we will always struggle…but Jesus, not the struggle has the final word…therein is our hope.
I’ll conclude with a passage that parallels Ps 25 in its core principles…see if you can locate them…
Rom. 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
*Don’t run from suffering
*Don’t run to suffering
*Do run through suffering.
*How is this possible?
*How do I not live in fear or denial…balance is…well it is impossible.
*I agree…this is not a race of mere human effort…but a race of Holy Spirit infused perseverance & Holy Spirit inspired hope.
*So the gospel is not about self-help…it is about helpless selves…the Holy Spirit of God living in us is our only hope to live this kind of life…but that is very sure hope.