My wife has been hospitalized twice recently with a respiratory infection that makes it hard for her to breathe. How glad I was this week when she reported how much better she was feeling! She could breathe again. She could have taken a verse from this psalm and made it her own: “[W]e went through fire and through water, yet you [God] have brought us out to a spacious place.” A spacious place is a place where we can breathe.
There’s a difference, however, between my wife’s recent ordeal and the struggles alluded to in this psalm. The writer believes that God is testing the people; that God is behind their struggles. Some of us today might cringe to read this.
Though we might not believe that God sends us trouble, we can still view ordeals we endure as tests. How we face challenges—whether the nightly frustrations of washing dishes or more serious issues like illness or job loss—helps us to discover the truth of our character. Can we face challenges with patience and hope, or do we approach them with anger and insolence? How I face adversity can reveal or obscure my truth as a child of God.
As a seminary professor, I give students exams to test their learning. But the rest of their lives in ministry will also be a test—though not given by a professor or by God—to help them see whether they are living and loving in accordance with the truth of their deepest identity.
However we view the trying circumstances of our lives, one thing is certain: God walks with us through the fire and the water and longs to bring us to a place where we can breathe once again.
Gracious God, give me a spirit of gratitude for your presence in the difficult circumstances of my life, and help me to face my struggles with patience and hope. Amen.
In Acts, Paul visits Athens and finds the people worshiping various deities. He attempts to show them the one true God not by open confrontation but by understanding where they are in their own thinking and then engaging in conversation. This model is confirmed in First Peter: We should always be prepared to give reasons for our faith, but this should be done with gentleness and respect, not confrontation. The psalmist promises to make offerings in the Temple to the Lord because God has brought the people through a period of testing. The psalm thus also ties into First Peter, where the believers are being tested. Jesus tells his disciples in John that God will send the Spirit to empower them to demonstrate their faith by keeping his commands.
Read Acts 17:22-31. When have you searched for God? How did God’s nearness surprise you?
Read Psalm 66:8-20. What tests have you endured? How have you known God’s presence through times of difficulty?
Read 1 Peter 3:13-22. How does your faith help you determine what is right? How does it give you courage when doing what is right brings you suffering?
Read John 14:15-21. When have you felt encompassed by the Trinity? When has your identity as part of this family felt fragile?
Respond by posting a prayer.