Coming in April – Lord, Teach Us To Pray, daily reflections on The Lord’s Prayer

Father, I Don’t Understand

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like a weaned child that is with me.
Psalm 131:1-2

Are you struggling with something you can’t understand? Is your “I Don’t Understand” file getting bigger? There is a short psalm that helps me as I struggle with not understanding life’s pains, injustices and confusion. It is Psalm 131, “one of the shortest psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn” (Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David). It is a little gem of a psalm that helps me when things don’t go my way, when life doesn’t turn out the way I wanted. Simply, it is a psalm about growing up in our faith.

This psalm is written by David, one of Israel’s greatest kings, a man who had lived much and done much, sinned greatly and was greatly forgiven. Scripture describes him as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) who “served the purpose of God in his own generation” (Acts 13:36). Yet, even such a great and accomplished man struggled with things he too could not understand.

In this brief psalm David tells how he placed his confidence in God rather than in needing to have all the answers. David imagines himself like a child who has been weaned and resting quietly in his mother’s embrace, illustrating David’s confidence in God.

He paints a picture well understood in any culture throughout history. No sooner is a baby born than he looks to mom for breakfast, lunch, dinner and middle of the night snacks. The baby expects mom to be there whenever he wants, whenever he cries, whenever he demands her presence. The baby takes to being the center of the universe, crying “Feed me!” “Hold me!” “Comfort me!”

But then the cataclysm happens! The child is weaned and has to take a bottle! It is not a happy time for the child, the mother, even the entire household. The child cries, screams, turns red in the face, wondering what has happened to mom. “Doesn’t mom care?” “Does mom know?” Her great, comforting presence seems to turn a cold shoulder.

Then the day comes when the child’s tears stop. The demanding stops and the child is happy to eat with the family. The child sits contently, no longer demanding to be fed, but simply to be with mom. Unless a mother weans her child, he will never grow up. He will be a baby all his life, growing older but never growing up.

In Psalm 131 David is saying that in all of his ups and downs he has learned to think of himself “like a weaned child.” David has “calmed and quieted his soul” so that he stops demanding that God do this or fix that. The man after God’s own heart no longer tries to unscrew the inscrutable, or occupy himself with “things too great and marvelous” for him to understand.

Near our home is a wonderful prayer garden where my wife Rita and I like to go and talk with God. There in the garden is a beautiful bas-relief of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, pictured praying the words, “My Father, I don’t understand you, but I trust you.”

There are things that happen in all of our lives that in order to understand, we would have to be God!  But what peace and growth in faith to begin to say to God, “My Father, I don’t understand you, but I trust you.” How wonderful it is to let go our demanding, our need to understand, and just be with Father, having the confidence that He loves us more than we will ever know!

A fellow traveler,

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