It’s a psalm about help — asking for and receiving help.
We all need help from time to time. Although most of us, being independent American types, would much rather do it ourselves than ask someone else.
I was having a conversation the other day with my 90-year-old aunt. She had fallen, broken her hip and, much to her consternation, she now needs help getting around. She has a walker and that helps a bit, but she is lamenting the fact that it will never be the same. She is dreading the looming possibility that she may never get back to her home again. “I need help,” she confides to me, and that may mean going to a care facility.”
No one wants to be in a situation like that where you are dependent on other people. The fact is, you know you need help, but would much rather be able to do it yourself.
Bible scholars believe that the writer of Psalm 121 was on a journey or pilgrimage of some sort, and as he traveled along he came smack-dab into a treacherous mountain area. “What do I do now? How will I get over and through these mountains? I will need help. But who will help me?” The sun is hot, the footing is treacherous and the path is steep. “Help!”
That word, “help,” takes me back to my junior high days when the Beatles sang their songs. “Help!” was one of them. I liked that song. The words were sung in an almost shrieking manner: “Help! I need someone. Help! Not just anyone! Help! You know I need someone — Help!”
The rest of the words of that Beatles’ song speak about how sometimes we need another person’s help when we’re “feeling down,” and how we “do appreciate their being ‘round.” John Lennon, who wrote the words of the song actually said later that, at the time, he was “eating like a pig, drinking too much and smoking marijuana for breakfast.” “Subconsciously,” he said, “I was crying out for help.”
It’s great when friends help us. It’s great when we can feel the love and support of those who care about us. But, as we all know, there are some problems in life that just seem so big! Try as we might, we can’t help ourselves, nor can others adequately provide us with the help we need. It’s times like that that we need the help of the One the psalm writer called upon: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
The great thing about God’s help is that it is always available. No matter where we are, no matter how enormous the problem, God can help. In fact, not only is He available to help, He is eager to help. Time and again the Bible tells us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
God wants us to ask for his help: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you.” (Matthew 7:7) And there is one other thought the Bible has on this subject: “You do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2) In other words, it doesn’t happen automatically. We have to ask!
I don’t know where you are at today or what issues you are struggling with. But I do know that it would be a foolish thing to try to solve all our problems by ourselves — especially when we have such a loving and caring God who is willing to help.
Psalm 46 puts it very well: “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” Where do you go for help? I think you know what my recommendation is!
About the writer: The Rev. John Koedyker is pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church of Grand Haven.