Letting God Lead: The Unlikely Psalm that Helped me Deal with Disappointment

At the beginning of the year, I was wrapping ornaments in tissue paper, putting away Christmas and feeling sorry for myself.  Something I had looked forward to fell through. It shouldn’t have been a big deal, but the tears that popped into my eyes told me that what I desired was more important to me than I wanted to admit. 

The emotion I was experiencing was really a combination of several disappointments stacked up over time, most of them “first world problems.” In the moment, it was tempting to play the victim and to act as if God was holding out on me. Why couldn’t this one little thing work out? I had an uneasy feeling about taking that stance. I considered I might be acting like a baby, but the thought didn’t keep me from crying. The irony is not lost on me.

I dried my tears before Jeff came home from work. He sat down in his recliner and pulled out his phone for one more “appointment” before flipping on the DVR for his nightly wind down in front of the television.



The doc’s favorite part of his job is caring for babies and teaching mothers how to feed and care for them. He thumbed his way through a texting conversation with a young mother we both knew well, a friend who lives out of town and had some questions regarding feeding her little one. Jeff looked up from the text with a puzzled look on his face---

“Baby-led weaning? She’s asking about baby-led weaning? I’ve never heard of that.” 

“It’s probably something from a new mommy book or something in the social feeds,” I replied.

My interest was peaked. I wanted to know what he had to say about “baby-led weaning” after 26 years of practicing pediatrics. Let's just say, he’s not up on the latest trends that aren’t in medical journals. 

Jeff explained to the young mother that he hadn’t heard of it, but he advised that any time a baby is expected to lead, the parents are in trouble. Parents are to care for and train their babies. If it were up to babies, they would stay on milk---which, of course, would not be a good long-term plan for their health and maturity.

Fast-forward to the middle of the night, the time when menopausal women everywhere are found in the glow of screens or are reading books. I was up dealing with a hot flash and with my heartsickness. I was still wrestling with my disappointment from earlier in the day.



There is something about the silence of the night that opens me to the Holy Spirit’s leading. I prayed for a while before grabbing my Kindle and opening to a book I had read a few weeks before. I had a niggling it might have insight into dealing with disappointment. I put the word in the search bar and soon came upon these words:

“The soul desires a life that is more than the satisfaction of desire. In other words, you will never achieve satisfaction if you make the goal of your life achieving satisfaction...

The psalmist echoes this paradox when he wrote, “My heart is not proud, O LORD. My eyes are not haughty . . . I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” This is a striking picture of my relationship with my soul. How do you wean a child? You do it by strategic disappointment. You deliberately withhold from the child what she wants so the child learns she can be master and not a slave of her appetites. This metaphor suggests your soul is becoming like that weaned child. It’s not constantly troubling you with unsatisfied desires all the time. You are learning that your soul can be satisfied with God, even if all the appetites of your body or the desires floating around in your mind are not being gratified every moment…

Whenever you’re disappointed, whenever you don’t get your way, take that disappointment as a chance to practice soul-satisfaction in God.” (John Ortberg, Soul Keeping)

I immediately thought of Jeff’s text advice from earlier. I turned in my Bible to Psalm 131:

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
        my eyes are not raised too high;
    I do not occupy myself with things
        too great and too marvelous for me.
    But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
        like a weaned child with its mother;
        like a weaned child is my soul within me.
    
    O Israel, hope in the LORD
        from this time forth and forevermore. (Ps. 131 ESV)

As I’ve begun to look back on the year, I realize this short Psalm of Ascent has come back to my mind over and over. God has shown me that to grow up in him means to live in His presence without being needy all the time. I am learning to be content, to receive from Him so that I grow in the area of trust---even when it’s not what I personally would have chosen. By God’s grace, I have grown in my understanding of how great God’s love is for me and for others. And as I have, I've also found my soul has quieted in ways I hadn’t expected. I am more content. I can wait. I can be in God’s presence knowing He is tending to my heart with care. 

He wants me to grow up to be healthy and mature in the same way as those mothers who come to the clinic to seek Jeff’s advice in caring for their treasures. 

“Prayer is the soul’s pilgrimage from self to God,” wrote E. Hermann. I agree and would add that prayer that leads to transformation begins with a quiet soul. We won’t grow in the ways that please our Father if we insist on leading the process. 



I do believe God has great and marvelous things for us, but He alone knows when we are ready to handle them. Those things come with time and maturity. Will we trust him to lead us in love as the One who knows what we need and when we need it?

Let us submit to His leading, trust His goodness, and “hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.”

Comments

  1. Hi Dea, this is something I needed to read today! Thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. I'm so glad, Mary. God bless you this day.

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  2. "Prayer that leads to transformation begins with a quiet soul." Love that! So true. I'm leaning in and listening a lot these days. It's the best place to be and sometimes the most uncomfortable. Your words carry a lot of freedom, thank you.

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    1. Yes, there is freedom when we are in God's care. Eugene Peterson says it's presumptuous to pray without first listening. I'm still learning.

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  3. You've found a gold nugget, a treasure in the darkness, Dea!
    Thank you for sharing it with us, that we might also yield to God's training of us, knowing with certainty that He is allowing/doing things for our BEST good.

    Loved this: “Prayer is the soul’s pilgrimage from self to God,”

    Yes.

    At a retreat recently the speaker gave me a similar gold nugget:
    God only prunes those who are fruitful.

    May the suffering we endure remind us that these light afflictions will seem like just for a moment, but are working for us an exceeding weight of glory.

    Blessings to you, Dea. Please keep sharing from your heart as this is where the deep learning occurs.

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    1. God is amazingly on target---giving us just what we need. Thanks for sharing your "gold nugget," Mary..

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