What expectations do you have of the Christian life? Are those expectations any different now than they were when you were first converted? Austin Miles’s famous hymn portrays the expectations we would like to have:
I come to the garden alone,
while the dew is still on the roses;
and the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
the Son of God discloses.
Miles writes of Christ walking and talking with him and of unmatched joy as the two walk and talk together. It is an Edenic picture of utter serenity. It’s the kind of Christian walk we dearly wish we could all experience.
Even Miles, however, recognises that this serenity is not normative. He writes in the closing stanza:
I’d stay in the garden with him
though the night around me be falling;
but he bids me go; through the voice of woe,
his voice to me is calling.
As desperately as he wishes to stay all day with the Lord “in the garden” he knows he cannot. His devotional time must end and he must go out into the world where the serenity of the garden will be shattered. That is a reality we must all face.
In their commentary on Psalm 121, Tucker and Grant write, “The journey to God and the journey with God never occur in a vacuum, but rather in the context of a life that at times feels more like a tempest than a solitary walk down a quiet pathway.” The writer of Psalm 121 recognised this reality.
The writer acknowledges his need for “help” and the danger of his “foot” being “moved” (v. 3). He recognises the danger of “the sun” striking “by day” and “the moon by night” (v. 6). He knows that there will be “evil” from which the Lord must “keep” his people (vv. 7–8). Simply stated, he recognises that the Christian walk is not one of utter serenity but instead, as Tucker and Grant put it, a walk into a tempest. The psalmist obviously had a particular tempest in mind, but his writing is equally true more generally of the Christian walk. This reality sets the stage for the psalmist’s real burden.
The psalmist wants us to ask, where does your hope lie in the tempest? This is the very question with which he opens: “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” (v. 1). In the face of the tempest, where do we find our help? His answer is straightforward: “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (v. 2).
Saints throughout the ages have embraced this truth. How could Moses defy Pharaoh, and Daniel and his friends defy Nebuchadnezzar, unless they believed that their help came from the Lord? How could David confidently face Goliath unless he believed this truth? How could Matthew abandon his tax booth unless he believed in the Lord as his helper? How could Paul and Silas sing songs in a Philippian jail apart from this confidence?
As you head out into the world, know that you are heading into a tempest. You can’t stay in the serenity of the garden forever. But be assured that you do not walk into the tempest alone. Take heart in the fact that, even in the tempest, “the LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (v. 8).