Coaching the Big Questions
Psalms of Hope in Times of Trouble

Living from the Gut and Other Reflections on Scripture

Lamenting over the magnitude of injustice, oppression, and wickedness was leading the troubadour to despair. He recounts the agonizing moments that were not left to dangle in meaningless resignation and then, he declares ...
"...But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end." -
- Psalm 73:15-17 ESV
"When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you."
"Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
-Psalm 73:21-26 ESV
We live from our guts. Ancient peoples believed that the gut was the seat of emotion so that to love from the heart indicated intention but "bowels of mercy" spoke of warmth and compassion - emotional responses to humanity. We make lots of choices from the gut and we believe our "gut feelings." The psalmist prayed from the gut - tough, agonizing prayer - engaged and real:
"Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God."
-Psalm 69:1-3 ESV
We have taken the law, written once on stone, and broken it. But if we will provide the stones, God will rewrite it so that we will understand. However, if we will bring our stony hearts to the mountain. He will write His covenant and law there and our hearts will become softened and enlightened and we shall be transformed through truer, deeper knowledge and understanding of His ways.
"At that time the LORD said to me, ‘Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me on the mountain and make an ark of wood. And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets that you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.’ So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments that the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And the LORD gave them to me. Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark that I had made. And there they are, as the LORD commanded me.”" - Deuteronomy 10:1-5 ESV
It is how we learn, grow, and are transformed from what we were to what we are becoming. Hard times bring us to our senses and awaken our dissatisfaction. We see an invitation to come to God for help. We come and are delivered --- again and again.

" You have made your people see hard things;
you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger."

"You have set up a banner for those who fear you,
that they may flee to it from the bow. Selah
That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer us!" 

-Psalm 60:3-5 ESV 

If it feels good, we so it. If it seems true, to us, we say it. Such is the unrestrained life. Such is not the disciple life. It walks over people and offends God. If that does not bother you; go ahead and live that way. There will be consequences, but that is your choice. It is just good to be reminded that we are making that choice lest we feel righteous in our slander and consider it something other than sin. I like to know I am sinning before sinning. It makes the choice clearer. Sometimes I kid myself.
“You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother's son.
These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you."
-Psalm 50:19-21 ESV

Oh God, who sees me, knows me, and loves me while seeing through my pretensions.

There is nothing I can tell you about myself that you do not already know.

I am laid bare by your penetrating gaze and your Word divides by thoughts and attitudes, sorting them out in ways I cannot even comprehend.

You know all about me and still I have the urge to hide and cover myself with the leaves of shame.

Crack my façade, dissolve the masks I wear.

Give me the grace to be real today, real and vulnerable, and open and compassionate with myself and others.

Your love validates my existence and your mercy gives me courage to embrace the ugliness I see in myself, the impurity of my motives, the haughtiness of my words, the impulsiveness of my poor choices.

They are a part of all I have been and am becoming and I am not stuck in them, nor do they define me.

You define me and in freeing me to be me and become more, Your message from Jesus to me and through me that there is a possibility of joyous repentance and kingdom purpose ring true.

You know me and yet you choose me, in love, to be one of yours! I cannot wrap my mind around the grace of it, but I receive it that I may give it.

Make me, like Francis, an instrument of your peace today. I am not worthy, but I am available.

Because I follow Jesus, I ask this in His Name. Amen.