A psalm that has been a guidepost to me is Psalm 73. The whole psalm does not mince words with regard to the hopelessness we may feel when confronted with fierce opposition. It also addresses the difficulty of feeling unable to confront this opposition properly.
It’s been good for me to remember that, as Paul alludes to in the New Testament, this opposition has to do with the imaginings of the human mind. And he helps us see the way to counter it: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5).
The opposition we encounter is mental—a bunch of degrading, demoralizing, dispiriting mental suggestions aiming for acceptance and insisting on failure—but they have no actual power. For example, as I’ve looked at Psalm 73, the struggle to overcome mental darkness is seen. Verse 21 of the psalm speaks of this state of thought, “Thus my heart was grieved.” The Psalmist goes on, “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee” (verse 22). But after this elegy of many verses filled with despair, the tide begins to turn, the light of Truth shines brightly, and we read: “Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (verses 23, 24). My eyes fell on those two verses when I was in need of assurance during the writing of my master’s thesis on musicology and Italian.
I was convinced of failing and being no good at all, and although I was a successful student, I sometimes referred to my work as not good enough—often as a reply to a positive comment or compliment.
After weeks of letting these feelings erode my confidence, while the clock was ticking on my master’s thesis deadline, I was exhausted and so tired of the fear. And I was ready to listen to God even more deeply; I was too tired to complain more. That’s when I opened my little pocket Bible, which I’ve carried around with me since I was 14, and found those verses I mentioned above: “Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”
I learned this: Fear or despair cannot make the fact disappear that we coexist with God as God’s own expression; therefore, we continue in our Father-Mother God’s care. God is our divine Parent, always. Thoughts of failure don’t make failure real.
We are not only held by God but also led, because God is holding us by our right hand, inspiring in us right motives, leading our activities and actions. In my case this applied directly to my ability to write my thesis capably. God’s ideas are with us as precise counsel. We don’t walk even the tiniest step alone, and we don’t need to. God’s counsel accompanies and supports and guides and leads. We can expect this guidance to result in glory—in the ability to praise God, express gratitude, and be prolific. This is possible to all of us through the understanding that we are God’s reflection. Our true selfhood is spiritual, and our intelligence and ability are the result of reflecting God.
Divine Love is guaranteeing accomplishment and success in the path in which Love leads us. We don’t need to fear we will be brought into a position of helplessness when we pray and listen.
And so I threw my entire heavy mental bag of worries down and prayed with this psalm. I copied its words and stuck them on a note on my desk. The fear was gone, trust replaced self-doubt, and humility became a permanent guideline. I passed the master’s thesis and the other oral and written exams with highest honors and continued with a doctoral program.
This psalm changed once and for all how I’ve approached any exam or job interview since then. And it hasn’t let me down. I’ve also been able to share its inspiration and shining glory with others, who have been helped by it as much as I’ve been.
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