Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God…My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies. (Psalm 31:5, 15)
Our Father’s Hands
I still remember my dad’s hands. It’s been almost four years since he died on Good Friday last year. He was 87, and he had lived a good life…a full life. But I still remember his hands. I remember his strong hands building a cottage by himself from the foundation up when I was a kid. I remember his gentle hands, reverently holding his old Bible. I remember comforting hands that could rest on my shoulder and seem to say, “I know what you’re going through.” I remember stern hands on my shoulder sending a very different message as well several times!
Hands are an amazing tool of human communication—often just as loud and just as articulate as the words we speak. And often more memorable and meaningful.
In Psalm 31 David once again finds himself in dire straits. Once again he is asking God for “deliverance,” and “rescue” (vs. 1-2). He wants God to “lead and guide” him through his troubled times (vs. 3). He is physically afflicted (vs. 10), threatened by his enemies (vs. 15), scorned by his neighbors and abandoned by his “closest friends” (vs. 11). He is wondering if his life is worth living…if it even matters anymore (vs. 12).
Yeah, it’s pretty bad.
I don’t know if any of us could be struggling with all of threats and problems that are consuming David in this song…but I do think all of us can identify with the isolation, fear, anxiety and shame that often creeps in and sometimes even camps out in our lives. This is a song for all of us.
So, what words could we hear that would make it all better? What wisdom can we offer a friend who is in the midst of the mess? Whenever things get bad, it seems like words begin to lose their power to comfort and heal. What David needs right now isn’t friendly advice; it’s the strong, comforting hands of his Father.
“Into your hands I commit my spirit…my times are in your hands…”
When he’s in trouble, David knows and remembers the hands of his loving Father. Not his father Jesse of Bethlehem, who didn’t even remember his youngest son when the prophet Samuel came looking to anoint a new king (1 Samuel 16), but his Father in heaven. David remembers God’s strong hands that are able to rescue him in trouble; he remembers God’s gentle hands that have led and guided him in the past; he remembers God’s comforting hands that communicate acceptance and understanding when his closest friends have forgotten him. And yes, David has felt the stern hands of God on his shoulders as well. But even then, they have been the same loving hands of a loving Father.
And so, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that these words from Psalm 31 are the very last words Jesus speaks before he dies (Luke 23:46). Luke tells us that Jesus “calls out in a loud voice.” Even in his physical weakness and emotional abandonment he manages to cry out. Not because God wasn’t listening, but because people like you and I needed to hear. In the face of death, he declares his intimacy with God, “Father.” He proclaims his trust in God, “I commit my spirit.” And Jesus offers his complete surrender to God, “into Your hands.”
I take comfort knowing that my own earthly father felt those same hands, years later, on another “not so Good Friday.” I know his family felt them.
When things get bad, our natural tendency is to become withdrawn, self-reliant, or defiant. That’s just as true for me in this season of Lent as it is at any time of year. But Jesus…and David…would encourage us in the opposite direction. When the going gets tough…don’t simply “get tough” and “get going.” Remember that your Father’s hands are always reaching out to you. Remember that Jesus’ hands were stretched out on the cross for you. Look to Him when the going gets tough—as your greatest example and your only hope—and then give in, give way, give over…to your Father’s hands. Stay Thirsty for Him.