Providence Church Blog A gospel-centered church in Austin, Tx

Reflections on Psalm 121

*This summer at Providence Church we are spending time in the psalms together. Each week during June and July we will be posting written responses by a member of our community from their time meditating on a particular psalm. Go here to read others in the series. This week’s reflection is from Kristina Baehr:

“I lift my eyes up to the mountains—where does my help come from?”

It was October of 2001, and I was sitting in Firestone Library, checking my email on the library computers. An older man next to me was breathing heavily. Suddenly, he fell out of his chair. I shouted to the librarian, “Call 911!” I got down on the floor, leaned over the man, and put my ear next to his mouth to listen. He had stopped breathing altogether. I lifted his chin up, held his nose, opened his mouth and breathed two breaths. Then I started chest compressions. A security guard came and took over the compressions while I did the breaths. I told him, “His airway is blocked. The air is not going in.” When the paramedics finally got to the scene, the man was pronounced dead.

Psalm 121 is full of paradoxes. Where is God in these moments? An all-powerful God – the Creator of heaven and earth who watches over us and keeps us from all harm – surely could have used me to save this man’s life. He also could have stopped those planes from hitting those buildings in my hometown a month earlier on September 11. But He chose not to. And at the time, I was angry. I wrestled with God’s alleged goodness for years afterwards, as I lived in places where I saw the real suffering that God allowed—from Namibia to South Africa, Uganda to Liberia. I worked at an AIDS clinic where I walked past a sea of dying patients on my way to my office every day.

After reading Scripture and good books, including Gary Haugen’s The Good News About Injustice, I came to the conclusion that God is present in the suffering. He weeps for his children. And as Todd preached in his recent sermon: “he joins us in righteous lament.”

“My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.”

The conclusion that God is present in suffering went from an intellectual truth to an experienced reality much later. When Cooper was born, he had colic, which meant that every night from two weeks to twelve weeks old, he consistently cried for three straight hours. He also cried off and on all day long. I was a new mom and an emotional wreck. I loved my new baby, and yet there was nothing I could do to calm him. I wanted whatever was making him cry to stop. All I could do was be present: I held him and rocked him and sang to him as he cried and cried. And when he finally fell asleep in my arms, I cried myself. In my helplessness, I reached out to the Lord. And lo and behold, I found that God was right there with me. He did not make the colic go away, just as I could not make it go away for my own child. But he was present.

I love Psalm 121 in all of the mystery that I have yet to understand. What I do know is that just as I know my child and what he needs, God know us and what we need even more. And my help, our help, comes from the Maker of heaven and earth.

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