Psalms Devotional

Psalm 1:2

Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stand in the way of sinners,

nor sit in the seat of mockers,

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 

A blessed man is a delighted man, a man who is dwelling in the safety of his Refuge, relieved to be forgiven despite iniquity: he will enjoy God’s forever favor. He is full of satisfaction, because he is redeemed (Titus 2:14). 

Not getting caught up in sin brings joy. Sin is depressing. Instead of walking, standing, and sitting in sin, the blessed man can have happiness in the instruction (law) of the Lord, in the words of God. It is not joyous to get trapped and to go deeper into sin. This is a sneaky battle. Sin starts with words (counsel), moves to participation (way), and then a position (seat) at the table. The fighting, blessed man learns to walk, sit, and stand in holiness. But, this duel brings delight and freedom!

Delight is an activity of the heart, an internal state, where God is experienced. The blessed man wants to glorify God and devour His words. He is hungry, famished, starving. Delighting is devouring not duty. Devour is consistent contemplation, internalizing for direction. Not religiosity, but a need and a genuine desire for help or to be close to God. According to Martin Luther, “no prosperity, nor adversity, nor the world, nor the prince of it, can either take away or destroy” God’s Word; “for it victoriously burst its way through the poverty, evil report, the cross, death, and hell, and in the midst of adversities, shines the brightest.” Delight comes in knowing that though there is failure, there is forgiveness (Psalm 32:1-2). It is not a curse or duty to be in the law (God’s Word), but rather a delight, because of the immense mercy offered.

Meditating means to intently observe, to hunt, compare.  It means to chew the cud-like a cow. Swallow the Word, digest it, spit it back up, and do it again and again and again-getting the sweetness and nutritional value out of the Word. Sometimes I chew gum and get all the sweetness out of it. Chewing on God’s Word is similar. Each time you chew on a new piece, there can be a sweetness and a delight that satisfies. This sweetness helps cure the deeply hurting heart, the painful wounds, the aching of the soul, when nothing else works. Sometimes I chew one piece of gum, but it is not enough, it is too small of a treat, so I must get another and another. Same with God’s Word. Sometimes I just get a little hint of the healing or the truth being told to my tattered heart, but if I keep going a little longer, a little longer, my heart then gets a large dose of medicine, an epiphany, a catharsis.

Notice—truth is needed both in the day and in the darkness of night.

Loss-child · loss-suicide

Guilt

Grief consists of a tangled ball of emotions: sadness, anger, guilt, blame, rage, abandonment, trauma. It is not necessarily a neat predictable ordering of emotions. Each person can experience different emotions. Suicide grief has conflicting emotions and an intensity of emotions. Abandonment and rage, yet love and sorrow are felt.

I distinctly remember what I thought was a strong English writing assignment for Romeo and Juliet as a high school teacher. The assignment was called: “Who’s To Blame?” The essay prompt was asking who was to blame for the death of two teenagers who died by suicide. Was it Friar Lawrence and the Nurse who allowed them to marry? Was it the Capulets who had insisted that Juliet marry Paris? Was it the circumstances–including the killing of Mercutio? Was it fate? Was it timing? In none of these situations was abuse involved. Many movies are the same. The parents, antagonists, or others are typically to blame. The focus is on who is to blame instead of signs or suicide awareness or mental health awareness or the grief of the families/friends/communities afterward. 

Blaming others or self does not take away the piercing pain, it creates more pain: more anger, more bitterness, more hatred. Blame/guilt has been the hardest part of grief. Every action of parenting or relationship is analyzed. Maybe I tried too hard, maybe I didn’t do enough. The deepest sense of failure is felt.

But, this is the truth: you are not responsible for your loved one’s death in any way. Why do suicide survivors blame themselves: “Psychiatrists theorize that human nature…resists the idea that we cannot control all the events of our lives” so strongly that people would rather blame themselves than “accept the inability to prevent it” (SOS). The closer you are to the person, the more harshly you might blame, “I should have known or seen the signs.” However, we are human. We are not perfect people. We do not foresee perfectly. We do not have perfect discernment. Think of all of the things that you DID do to help your lost loved one. 

As I was reading the Gospels during the Covid shutdown, I read about the disciples not being able to cast out demons when they went out on their own in Matthew 17. They were human and not God. They were imperfect people, and even with Jesus right there, they did not have perfect discernment and power!

So, who is responsible? Notice, I said responsible. Responsible simply means an acknowledgement of fact. Blame is accusatory. This is the tricky part of grieving a suicide: many times (90%) clinical depression or mental illness is involved. Therefore, one is suffering in a black, treacherous pit of despair. Never did I know how powerful depression could be: a power unto itself. Likely, the forces of evil assaulted more than intensely, a frenzy of attack and ambush. However, on some level, “there was a conscious choice made…even if made with a clouded mind” (SOS). This is tough to swallow and survivors find it easier to blame themselves many times. Acknowledging this does not mean that you do not love them or that this defines their eternity. Just as I should not blame people for my actions, I should not blame myself for others’ actions. Free yourself from guilt.

(SOS Handbook) For those who have lost someone to suicide: suicidology.org/resources/suicide-loss-survivors/

Contributor-Liana Vincent

Psalms Devotional

Psalm 1:1

I am a year out from losing my youngest son and over the past six months have realized that reading Psalms really helps with grief. I have long gone to the Psalms when I needed comfort or direction. Now, I see the authors lamenting and then seeking God. Both of these coexisting: being real with the pain, but then remembering the truth of who God is and what His Word says. Grief and Glory. The Psalmists use a lot of metaphors–this helps those who are depressed or grieving. So, I have decided to study them in depth.

Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 

Psalm 1:1

Psalm 1 was the very first Scripture I had ever studied. I had just become a believer and my friend, Lori, asked me to study the Word together. This became my life chapter.  I remember reading this Psalm and trying to figure out the meaning. I was 18. I read bits of  the Bible the summer before, but after praying to receive Christ as my Savior and Lord in December of 1988, I read the Word and it was different. Things made more sense. It was like blinders had come off. Now, 32 years later, I reread these same verses and there is still more digging to do and more wisdom to see.

Spurgeon reveals that this Psalm is called the “Christian’s Guide”–discovering the quicksand where the ungodly sink and the firm ground where believers stand. Augustine and Jerome claim that this Psalm is intended to describe the character of Jesus. Many see this Psalm as an introduction to the entire book of Psalms.

Blessed. This has been a very hard word for me to get my mind around while grieving. I have had a hard time understanding and believing that I am blessed now, because I am experiencing so much pain. But, the definition of this word helps-blessed means “deep-seated joy and contentment IN GOD”.  It may not be that I am feeling happy. But, I do know, even when I am angry with God (a normal part of grief), that I have a deep-seated joy and contentment–understanding His love for me and sacrifice for me. There is a core joy in my heart beneath all of the tears and hurt. Another definition is “redemptive favor”: the idea that He has redeemed me is what makes me “blessed.” His salvation is what makes me blessed.

This Psalm starts out similarly to the Sermon on the Mount: the first sermon that Jesus gives on the side of the Sea of Galilee to his disciples and listening Pharisees. It is a benediction-the utterance of a blessing upon a group of people.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or ungodly. Instead, he walks in the commandments of the Lord which brings the way of peace. Luke 1:79 encourages that the Lord can “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” His footsteps are ordered by God’s Word and he does not herd with those who do evil. It is important to remember, though, that hardship and suffering may come, even when we seek God wholeheartedly; however, obedience still brings peace.

The ungodly gives counsel.

The sinner has a way.

The scorner takes a seat.

What is the ungodly’s counsel? He doesn’t care about his salvation or the salvation of others. He advises: don’t trouble yourself with prayer or reading or repentance–thinking his ways are right, even appearing to live rightly. Maybe even taking the part of teacher, counselor, instructor but not being qualified as he does not humble himself to walk in the law of the Lord.

The sinner’s way? Pick your label. Pick your sin. Pick your vice. But, this verse says don’t STAND in it. Stand means to be “firm or fixed” like a column. Don’t stay in it like an ancient column in ruin. We all sin, but we can repent and seek restoration and forgiveness. We are all sinners. However, Christians are repentant sinners.

The scorner sits. Sits down. Makes themselves comfortable in the mocking of God and in believing all unbelief.

So, here we see the contrast between the unrighteous and the righteous. Both sin, but the godly person cares about salvation and the salvation of others. They repent and resist sin. This may be a huge battle, with many defeats, but it is a battle nonetheless; the believer is not comfortable in the sin and in mocking God.

The Psalmist, David, puts this in the negative: walks not… nor stands…nor sits. There is no room for having BOTH: Don’t listen to the godly and ungodly, don’t follow the sinner and the righteous, don’t sit with the scorner and the humble as to the way you should go. Sometimes we listen to both. This passage is saying don’t. Instead, go to the law of the Lord to instruct and teach and show you.

Contributor-Liana Vincent

loss-suicide

Preserve

All three of my kids worked as lifeguards in the summers. More than a year ago, driving him home from work, my youngest son, shared with me that he had rescued a little girl from the lake. She had fallen from a zipline into the water and was unconscious. Another lifeguard alerted him, and he picked her up out of the water. She awoke in his arms. 

Helping to save a life is a big deal. This is National Suicide Prevention Week. Over the years, as a teacher and counselor, I have aided many students through suicidal ideation/self-harm and assisted them in finding help in the deep water of depression. I had never lost anyone. This year, after losing my son, I have received many requests about helping people through suicidal thoughts. 

I picture being ready for this, much like CPR training, it is essential to stay fresh and updated. There is a QPR training at qprinstitute.com/individual-training that I find very insightful. It takes 60 minutes and costs $30. It is WELL worth the investment. Most suicidal people “tend not to self-refer, resist treatment, self-medicate, hide their level of despair, go undetected, and go untreated” (QPR).

Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR). This training gives strong questions to ask-indirectly-Have you been unhappy lately? And direct questions-Are you suicidal? It dispels myths such as—asking someone increases the risk. It teaches you how to be brave, listen well, and become a better listener. This is huge. Then, persuading the person to get help. “I want you to live. Will you go with me to see…?” If no, then refer, there are numbers to call 1-800-SUICIDE, hospitals to go, 911 to call. Relevant warning signs are covered. This small paragraph is no replacement for the training.

There are no guarantees. But, we can try hard and try to be as prepared as humanly possible. John Locke philosophized-we have the right to LIFE, liberty, and property. Jefferson wrote about LIFE, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. They called these natural rights. Locke believed our function was to create a society with others to work and PRESERVE both oneself and the community. We long deeply to help and preserve and love those who are suffering and sinking in this way. When the jailer…was about to kill himself…Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself!” (Acts 16: 27-28). This is the cry and prayer of my heart!

Contributor-Liana Vincent

Art-Lana Ngo

Loss-child · loss-suicide

Tapestry

My life changed one year ago. Today I wake up to a warm early morning dawn, but I remember the nightmare of a year ago. The darkness of the night, driving to the dawn of a new day. A completely new day. A completely changed life. In shock-laying there in the crisp white bed sheets, clinging to one another. Feeling a pain so deep your body shuts down. Not knowing what to do. Just waiting and numb. Waiting for family and friends to face this reality with us.

This weekend with the While We’re Waiting (https://whilewerewaiting.org/) ministry, our leaders shared that losing a child to suicide is on par with a concentration camp experience according to the American Psychiatric Assoc. Corrie ten Boom survived the Holocaust, after a grueling experience with her sister Betsie. She writes her story in my favorite book The Hiding Place. I viewed this play last year, feeling the connection of pain yet hope. After WWII was over, Corrie traveled, speaking of her experiences and survival. She would show the audience the underside of a tapestry: there was a tangled, ugly mess. No rhyme or reason, just a bunch of threads going every which way, and lots and lots of big and small knots. The beauty of the tapestry could not be seen. On the front side-a beautifully embroidered crown.

God works through the very messiest of situations. In the midst of the worst, He can still be found, the Master Weaver. Betsie, Corrie’s sister, has one of the most abiding lives I have ever read about. Some of her words are some of the most gentle, insightful, focused perspectives in the midst of extreme evil: “The center of His will is our only safety. Let us pray that we may always know it.”

My missions pastor read Corrie’s poem to me as a comfort during this past year. It can be found in the home where she and her family hid people from the Nazis:

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

Contributor-Liana Vincent

Art-Lana Ngo