When we're under stress, when we're weighed down by responsibilities, and when we feel like nobody cares and no one can help us, we run to God. We ask God to send us a preacher to remind us of his promises. We ask God, like a child asks his father, that he focus our attention on his baptismal grace and on Jesus body and blood that is given and shed to forgive our sin. We ask God to speak Jesus to us so we may know quiet and peace.
In Psalm 6, for example, David talks about his stress, the weight of responsibility, and lack of help. And for these reasons, he runs to God because he accepts that what's happening to him comes from God. David accepts that whatever comes at him is intended to discipline him, to teach him patience and to fear God.
But, if we look to ourself for relief, or try to find someone to lift the weight off us, if we would rather God not discipline us, that God not teach us patience and to fear his wrath, we'll become more and more impatient with God and eventually grow to despise him.
Now, God disciplines those whom he loves in two ways: He disciplines in the way of grace, like a kind and loving Father. At other times, God disciplines in wrath, like an impartial Judge.
When God gets ahold of us, it's easy to lose hope because we don't know whether God is gripping us in anger or grace. When we feel God grip us in anger we scream: "O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath... don't be a Judge, be my loving Father."
In Psalm 6, David prays that God will discipline him in grace, like a father disciplines his child. He asks God to show him grace, to give him strength, to help him, and to drive away all the terrible thoughts and selfish, self-serving feelings that push David to think of God as a bone crusher and heart breaker. David prays that God will save him from guilt about his past, present disasters, and the pain of a future death.
But, God's strength and comfort aren't given to anyone who isn't horrified by sin and who doesn't feel like he has been abandoned by God. That's why, when we're under stress, when we're weighed down by responsibilities, and when we feel like God doesn't care, and nobody can help us, we run to Jesus.
When God disciplines us in grace, he takes away everything that takes Jesus' place in our life. Everything we depend on for help and comfort that isn't Jesus must be stripped away so that all that's left for us to depend on is Jesus' goodness, kindness, and strength.
This is also why David says in Psalm 51 that the only sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken and contrite heart. God hates everything else we offer to him. He despises all our sacrifices, except a humble and broken heart that runs to him for everything.
Then, instead of offering God something that we hope will get him to help us, we'll give nothing to him, but only take everything from him for Jesus' sake. That's what God wants. That's the good news we need. That God wants us to take everything from him so that he can be our God and Savior. Jesus only gives; he never asks anything from us.
Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'. He is pastor of Saint John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN. A graduate of Concordia Universities in St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, Pastor Riley received his seminary and post-graduate education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He colloquized into the LC-MS from the ELCA in 2008. He is married to Annie, and is the father of four children: Owen, Alma, Hoshea, and Hallel.