Psalm 131:2 ‘But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.'
For a Christian, everything comes down to these two simple statements: God loves me and, by His grace, I love Him. Read Psalm 131 - three short verses that contain profound truth.
There is a wonderful interplay in the Psalm between letting God be God and our response to the fact that He is God. David says, ‘I do not need to worry, I do not need a proud heart or haughty eyes as if I must do God’s job for him. I know my place as a human being dependent on my Creator. I can put my hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.
In the light of all that, there are two things that I can do. Firstly, I can refuse to let my mind work out things that do not need to be worked out. Secondly, I can choose to calm and quiet my heart and be like a contented, weaned child with its mother. I can do that because my hope is in the Lord - and not in me’. Let us unpick those two statements. Firstly, God loves you. The source of our security is in Him, in His nature. It takes it all away from us and our shortcomings. We can linger with that truth until it begins to settle our hearts.
Secondly, when we say, ‘I love Him,’ it is important to add, ‘by His grace.’ This demonstrates that a work of grace has been performed in our hearts by His Spirit to bring us from being sinners, far away from God (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:13), to a place where our hearts respond deeply and naturally in love for Him. Have you experienced those moments when, quite involuntarily, you have felt that surge of love and appreciation for the Lord and what he has done? That is not present naturally but planted there by His Spirit. Be encouraged. You know in your heart that you love him however much you might have wandered - and that is God’s work of grace.
How do we make these truths work for us?
David says that his heart is not proud and that his eyes are not haughty. He went through many dangerous and fear-producing situations. He could have allowed his experiences to make him bitter. Instead, he allowed those circumstances that God took him through to search out his heart, to purify him to the point where he learnt what mattered most. As you push through the mental levels and even down into the weaknesses and struggles of a troubled heart, you understand what matters and what does not. You discover what you have control over and what to trust to God. You learn to go more quickly to those two simple foundational truths and to rest there.
When your thoughts seem to be endlessly driven round in circles, draw an imaginary line in your mind and refuse to cross it. When you know your troubled heart is like the gas hob that keeps the pot on the boil, choose to turn the gas off and settle your heart and mind in the truth that He loves you and you love Him.
David got things wrong, and he got things right. His attitude was right, and therefore he was known as a man after God’s own heart. Through the painful experiences of life, he learnt that God loves him and that by God’s grace, he loved God. This is not about how well I am doing but rather about my inner attitude.
Some obvious natural benefits flow from establishing these foundations. For example, it profoundly affects our relationships with each other. We are all on level ground with these two statements, mutually submitted to Christ (e.g., Ephesians 5:21 - 6:9). We may be hearing a truth that makes us uncomfortable, but if we know we are secure in His love and the work of grace He has done in our lives, we can be open and not stuck in our ways. We can hear God's voice and feel His heart.
Problems cease to be problems amongst God's people but become opportunities to discover what is within us that is causing our vision and love to be restricted.
We also quickly discern true priorities. If we begin to allow peripherals to nudge these foundational truths out of the central position in our hearts, then we can make the adjustments and get back to what matters most.
Another natural benefit is that if we learn to discipline our hearts and minds to be at peace in God’s truth, we will be more successful in avoiding many mental and emotional struggles that can so easily beset us. The apostle John puts it so well in his first letter when he acknowledges that there will be times when our hearts will condemn us. Here is the great apostle who lived with Jesus and experienced his power and yet knew the strength of the emotions to bring condemnation. He says that we can do something about it. We can, ‘set our hearts at rest in his presence. If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything’ (1 John 3:19-20). We truly can be at rest.