Cross-section of thoughts during a typical workday. Twenty-first century. Thousands of years after David wrote Psalm 56, following his capture by the Philistines.
1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
I don’t know why the argument broke out in that meeting. And then, just as it heated up, we all stepped back. We don’t want to be that way with each other, that harsh way. So we stifled it. But it’ll come back. It feels very territorial. Where are you, God? Where were you in that conference room a few minutes ago?
3 When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
During lunch at my desk, I reach for my headset. You Are My Hiding Place, by Selah. “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you.”
5 All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
7 For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
You know I keep trying, Lord. You strengthen me, and then someone tempts me to go the other way. It’s like they know I’m struggling, and they have just the perfect persuasive word when I’m weak. Walk before me, Lord, in this next conversation, this next meeting. Shield me from temptations that others present to me in destructively beautiful ways. Strengthen me to be a light to them. Your light.
8 You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
When things are going really well, we get caught up in positive energy of work. Teamwork! Look what we did! We’re winning! We’re awesome! At work, we give ourselves the credit. A lot of I and we and team. Privately, I know that I am nothing without God. To know that He is for me … I don’t know how else I could live. God is for me! Sometimes I share this with others, and sometimes not. And always: God is for me! My strength.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
Annual performance appraisal. Budget presentation. Conflict resolution meeting. Difficult conversations when differing opinions are unresolved. That one co-worker who won’t stop talking. That one individual who never talks, and none of my attempts to communicate seem successful. Calm my thoughts, God. Calm my heart.
12 I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
Driving to work. Driving home. Sunrise, sunset. Walk with me, O God. Never leave my side. You are my deliverance in a world that seems as far removed from David’s Psalm 56 as possible, and yet perhaps David wrote it yesterday. For me. For everyone. All praise to you, O God.
Stay with me, Lord. In my head and in my soul, I hear Taize’s Stay with Me as my car makes the last few turns toward home:
Image by Ib Aarmo (used by permission via Creative Commons).