Preparation for Worship: When Your Heart is Overwhelmed

“Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Psalm 61:1-2

We all know what it feels like to have an overwhelmed heart. No matter what stage of life we are in, it seems like the responsibilities and the busyness never end. What is it that overwhelms you? Is it the interactions you have with others? Is it all the homework you have? The papers and assignments? Is it your coworkers who leave extra work for you to do? Maybe there isn’t one particular thing in your life that sticks out as overwhelming, yet your heart still feels weighed down at times. I have been there, too. At these times, we feel far from God. We feel like we are drowning in a sea of worry and chaos and that God has abandoned us. We feel the cares of this world pressing in on our hearts.

David knew what it was like to feel distant from God, just like we do at times. In Psalm 62 he is crying out to God and asking to be led to “the rock that is higher than I.” This rock is Jesus Christ, as stated earlier in Psalm 18:2a, where David writes, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer.” Jesus Christ is strong and safe. He is as unchangeable and firm as a rock or fortress. He is higher than we are, knowing our hearts and knowing what is good for us. 

“For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.”

Psalm 61:3-4

Where do we desire to go when we feel like we are at the ends of the earth? We desire to run to the shelter of Jesus Christ! We want to look up to Him, being assured of our salvation and that He is working everything for our good. We want Him to comfort our hearts so that we feel safe and loved rather than overwhelmed. The good news is that this is exactly what God does for His people. In sending His Holy Spirit into our hearts, we are led to see our weaknesses and our need for Christ. We then see what Christ has done for us on the cross and rest in the joy and peace of our salvation. Christ truly is our shelter and strong tower! We are safe in His wings no matter what we face each day.

This Saturday, I encourage you to meditate on Psalm 61 as you look forward to the Sabbath. Sure, the cares and worries of this work week may have your heart feeling a bit weary, but God knew what He was doing when He gave us a day of rest. Sunday is given to be a day full of spiritual renewal as we go to church and meditate on God’s Word. We look forward to enjoying a whole day set aside for not feeling overwhelmed. God hears our cries from the ends of the earth. He leads us out of the pit of an overwhelmed heart into the strong tower that is Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Madelyn Monsma

Totally Depraved

We as Reformed believers confess the T of TULIP, that is, Total Depravity. This means in all our members we are wholly and completely given over to sin. To impress upon ourselves our great need for Christ and the amazing love of God to make us His children, we must know our miserable state. In learning of our sinfulness, we can stand in greater awe for the love of God in which He foreordained Christ’s blood for us, yes, even you and I, who were totally depraved and inclined to hate him, to wash away our blemishes and purify our souls even all the corruption of all of our members! (I Pet. 1:20-22, emphasis added). I want to focus on the fact that all of our members are given to sin. Scripture paints a full picture of the depravity of me and of you by showing that each member from the head to the feet is given to sin. 

Logically, we begin with the tops of our heads and see the sin which is manifest there. The Bible does not so much associate a particular sin with the tops of our heads. However, it does make multiple comparisons between sin and our head. The first comparison says that our sins pile up so high that they extend beyond our heads and even protrude into the heavens (Ezra 9:6). We only daily increase our debt. How often do we picture how large this debt becomes? It is so great we cannot even see the tops of the piles of our debt as it were. The second comparison can be found in David’s confession in Psalm 40:12 that “they are more than the hairs of mine head.” Again this picture emphasizes the great multitude of sins that we bear. David cries out here that his “iniquities have taken hold upon [him].” Without God we only grow in our sins and increase our debt. We would quickly become the servants of sin again. 

The head is only the first of many pictures showing the sinfulness contained in our bodies. Continuing down from the tops of our heads, our eyes, ears, nose, and mouth each are filled with their own sin as well. We face the “lusts of the eyes” (I John 2:16). We are tempted to look at evil and say it is “pleasant to the eyes” even as the forbidden fruit was pleasant to Eve (Gen. 3:6). Our ears “itch” to hear the praises of others who speak of our greatness or we “stop our ears” from hearing the admonition of God’s love (II Tim. 4:3; Zech. 7:11). In those whose nostrils the breath of life was breathed there is now only the stench of death to be smelled (Gen. 7:22). And the sins of our mouth cannot be emphasized enough by scripture! There are, for example, many passages in Proverbs which speak negatively of the sin which proceeds from the mouth, tongue, and lips. Perhaps most notable is Proverbs 18:7, which says, “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.”

It is exhausting to continue to search and see the sinfulness of our members (and we have only seen our heads!), but we continue down our members to the chest. The chest which I Corinthians often describes as puffed up. Our chest which we lift up above others, saying how great and mighty we are. We puff it up and lift our heads so that we do not even see those below us but only our own chest. In the center of this member is that great hard sinful rock of a heart, beating with the passions of this world. The heart, which Jeremiah describes as “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (17:9). Out of that flows a man’s life. Out of that?!? How awful! The heart which is desperately wicked pumps the blood to sustain a man’s life? The two do not make sense to consider together. The natural purpose of the heart was wholly corrupted. It no longer serves life, but destruction.

Finally we consider our arms/hands and our legs/feet. Scripture has much to say of these members. Towards the believer there is the warning which quickly comes to mind, “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee” (Matt. 5:30). Our hands are “stained with blood” and our “fingers with guilt” (Is. 59:3 NIV). I choose this translation carefully with the theme of this writing in mind. Being stained with blood and guilt strongly paints the picture of the corruption and helplessness of our members. Like sheep we used the strength of our legs and feet to walk astray and turn “every one to his own way” (Is. 53:6). 

To summarize and conclude this picture which Scripture draws of our total depravity, so total that all of are members are “wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness” we look at the picture leprosy paints of our sinfulness (Heidelberg Catechism, L.D 3  Q.A. 8). It is such a horrible disease, one which gnaws away all of the flesh. It corrupts every member. It is so bad that “both male and female shall [be] put out…that they defile not their camps” (Num. 5:3). The leprosy (my sin, your sin) defiled our members “from [the] head even to [the] foot” (Lev. 13:12).  

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“This is our miserable state of ourselves without Christ. Selah.”

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Meditating on this instruction of Scripture, we are driven to come with humble hearts knowing our dependence upon God. The Lord intends for us to see our sin, and then to recognize the depth of our depravity, not so that we succumb to despair, but rather, so that we flee to Christ who alone provides salvation from our sin and depravity. Without Christ we would be most miserable and we would not even know why we are in misery. We could not identify the sin that was the root cause of our emptiness. All our members are given to sin yet we would not know that one is wrong. We must realize this state of sinfulness as who we were without Christ. Acknowledging our sins we will cry to God with the humility of David confessing our “foolishness” and the “shame [which covers our faces]” (Ps. 69:5,7).

This knowledge of our depravity does not cause us to wallow in pity for ourselves and become overtaken with shame for all of our lives. David does not conclude by resting hopelessly in shame in Psalm 69, nor may we. God does humble him, however. In this standpoint of humility, we look to Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sins. With confidence in our Saviour, David continues to say later in this Psalm that he will “praise the name of God with a song” and that, seeing this, the humble will “be glad” (vv. 30, 32). How can David say both these things in the same Psalm? In humility, we acknowledge the sinfulness we still exhibit within ourselves both passively and actively. We pray, as David does throughout this Psalm, that God takes away the shame and removes our enemies from us. In “confidence by the faith of Him” that is very God and truth, we are assured that He has taken away that misery as He has promised us and delivered us entirely from not only our debt, but from our shame and guilt as well (Eph. 3:12). We have joy in the multitude of Scripture passages which reveal the purifying work of Christ and His Spirit within these members to make us His holy children. As long as we live in this world we still have our depraved old man of sin. That old man rises against us daily. But our old man has been crucified and his power broken by the work of Christ. God has regenerated us and given us a new man and new life in Christ. The regenerated child of God is a new creature in Christ, dead to sin, and alive unto God, able, by the power of grace, to think, will, and do the good. Challenge yourselves to find the passages which speak of the saving work in each of these members. Out of such comforting confidence given by that Scripture comes the joyful praises of our grateful hearts.

Luke Christian Potjer

WHERE?

Read Psalm 42

We return to the despairing Psalmist for the second question asked in Psalm 42, “Where?” Not the psalmist, but his enemies do the asking in verse 3 and 10. “My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?” (Psalm 42:3,10).

In these two verses we are confronted with an enemy, and he is wielding a sword. So as we consider the question “Where?” see the psalmist and yourself, clad in armor, sword and shield in hand, facing an enemy likewise armed for battle.

We know who the enemy is. A triumvirate of foes face us: the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. But where they attack us can be a much harder question. Will they slash at our legs? Will they thrust for our hearts? Or will they swing down on our heads? No longer do the wicked openly set up gods of silver and gold against the one true God. At least in the western world, there is no open persecution of Christians. But is there peace?

No.

The war rages as fiercely as ever, not “against flesh and blood,” but “against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). We must stand in the office of all believer, as prophets, priests, and kings of our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that we face false prophets, unrighteous priests, and corrupt kings.

First, as the prophets of the Great Deceiver, the world continually says, “Where is thy God?” by attacking truth. Consider evolution, or transgenderism, or the very idea of truth itself as relative to each individual’s feelings. They spare no opportunity to inject these worldviews into every area of study and in every medium. Open your ears when you turn on the television, or attend your college class, or spend a minute online. You will hear the same mocking cry the psalmist heard so many years ago. “Where is thy God?”

Second, the wicked as priests of the devil consecrate themselves to sin, daily offering up sacrifices on the altars of iniquity. They murder thousands of unborn children for their own god of selfish convenience, all the while mocking us for following a God who requires self-sacrifice. They come as Satan in the garden, offering us the pleasures of sin and saying, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). Don’t you see how this comes as a terrible blow to the struggling saint? Just listen to Psalm 73. When considering “the ungodly, who prosper in the world,” the Psalmist says, “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me” (Ps. 73:12,16). From their life of pleasure and excess, our enemies call to us, “Where is thy God?”

Third, as kings under the prince of this world, they rule all of creation for the glory of man and the destruction of the church. Don’t they appear to be winning? You can take a moment to look up the Equality Act, awaiting passage in Congress. The Bible makes it clear that we will only become more familiar with this perverted office, when it is wielded by “the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God” (II Thess. 2:3,4). What shall we say in that day when they boast in their might, “Where is thy God?”

Look again at the Psalmist. He’s beaten down, bearing three grievous wounds. Though the Psalmist’s righteous anger can be bold in other psalms, not here. Though we have moments of great faith, there are times when, day and night, our meat is only tears, and there is a sword in our bones. Then the question becomes our own. “Where is my God?”

So vividly we see it. The Psalmist, nigh to death. The triumphant enemy. A sword thrust for his heart. The killing blow. But so suddenly the shield of faith is lifted up! Look through this Psalm and so many others, and you will see it, time and time again. Beautiful confessions of faith suddenly appear in the middle of the most despairing Psalms. I draw your attention to only one.

“O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.” Psalm 42:6

“Therefore will I remember thee.” No matter the place, the land of Jordan or of the Hermonites, the Psalmist looks to God in faith even in the depths of despair. It is not faith in his own strength to swing his sword. It is not even faith in his own ability to lift the shield of faith. Faith has only one object. So when they ask, “Where is thy God?” remember:

He is there. In the Bible, Jesus Christ performs the office of prophet by revealing God to us through himself. He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). In the Bible he comes “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (Isa. 61:2). If we do not know our Bible, we have no answer to give our enemies, and we will be “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6). Are you “ready always to give an answer” (I Pet. 3:15)? Heed the command to “lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deut. 11:18).

He is there. On the cross and as our high priest, Jesus made that once for all sacrifice by which we have eternal life. He took upon himself our flesh, being “touched with the feeling of our infirmities”  (Hebrews 4:15). All his life, he fully consecrated himself to God, being made the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Forever he will perform the work of mediation, so that for all eternity we have access to our God through him. We never have to wonder if God has abandoned us on account of our sins. “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).

He is there. In heaven and at God’s right hand, our Lord Jesus Christ rules as king so that all things work together for our good. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord” (Prov. 21:1), and even elections bring about nothing but the advancement of God’s kingdom. He rules so that even a pandemic which utterly evades the control of any government is directed by his almighty hand. And one day, Christ our King shall make complete his victory. He shall return on the clouds of glory and there will be no more questioning, for “every eye shall see him” (Rev. 1:7). Judgement will he execute on the enemies which mock us, but our tears will he wipe away. Then, we shall not have to point to shadows or look through a dark glass. Until then we say, “Even so come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

Bruce Feenstra