Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me. – Psalms 86:17
Many burdens upon my heart and mind this week and I was praying earlier for God to bring relief. These burdens are too great and I’m tired of the load, the stress of my job, the anxiety that always keeps invading my mind and having to fight and wrestle against it. I’ve been working for months at my job to get things ready for an upcoming inspection and so much has been out of my control with each week having disaster after disaster happening. Then to just top it all off, my boss gets an anonymous email from one of the tenants in the mobile home park literally dragging my name through the mud.
I was just done. I wish I could do more and have everything perfect and when I can’t, I feel like a failure with no hope of recovery. So not only do I get the attacks from outside, but then I also experience the attacks that come from within my mind. As I prayed for relief, I started reading verses all dealing with promises during hard times, oh how timely. But the phrase, “token for good,” kept repeating to me. And really it’s the whole of Psalm 86.
“Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me; For I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am holy; You are my God; Save Your servant who trusts in You! Be merciful to me, O Lord, For I cry to You all day long. Rejoice the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; And attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, For You will answer me.” – Psalm 86:1-5
God I’m overwhelmed with my troubles and burdens of this life; they are too big for me to carry or fix on my own. I sense my own sin and failings in everything. This is the God we cry out to, the one who hears us, forgives us, and who delivers us in the day of trouble.
"O God, the proud have risen against me, And a mob of violent men have sought my life, And have not set You before them." - Psalm 86:14
Attack, attack – I hate it. When my boss has to hear somebody trash me, I feel ashamed because I am portrayed as a terrible employee and I fear my boss will believe that about me too. That all of my previous efforts have been in vain, because this is all he will ever see in me now. Fears and anxiety grow because of the unknown consequences that may come as a result of this. It could be loss of trust, loss of responsibilities or even loss of job and income. My natural instinct is to defend myself, but that doesn’t solve the real problem.
Because the real problem is how we deal with shame. A book I read a few years ago, The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender, defines shame as “an awful experience to be aware that we are seen as deficient and undesirable by someone whom we hope will deeply enjoy us. Shame is experienced before the one I’ve entitled or given the right to judge me. Ultimately, that is the prerogative of God alone. To give that privilege – in essence, the opportunity to bestow or retract life – anyone other than God is idolatry.”
Now we are getting somewhere. Who do you or I let determine my value and worth and shame? Is it my employer, my friends, a potential spouse? Can I be real and say, I think I fall into this trap too much of others instead of God alone. Could it be that the Lord allowed this whole situation to reveal the idolatry in my heart? And so He can also free me from this bondage.
When I feel shame, it’s because I care about what others think of me. It’s even more painful, when others reject us in the areas that we believe are our strengths. Because if they reject us in the areas we think we are good in, what do we have left to count on? In all reality, I want my boss to think I am a great employee and do my job well and that I am valuable because of that. Do you see why that’s a problem? Because God has determined my value and no one else gets to do that, not even me. He made me in His image and sent His Son to die in my place to save me. He has placed that value and it had nothing to do with what I did well or any of my strengths, but everything to do with His love. So when God reveals the idolatry in our hearts of allowing anything or anyone to determine our value and bring shame upon us, the only response is repentance and asking for God’s forgiveness.
Sometimes I fear the words of others, because I’m afraid that they are speaking for God in their condemnation or criticism. I already struggle with my own doubts and second guessing the actions I take. So when someone else speaks out loud what I already fear, it feels like it's from the Lord. And that’s what really can crush us, a perceived rejection from our Father. That He has turned from us in rejection for our sin and failings and that’s the blow we just cannot endure.
But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me! Give Your strength to Your servant, And save the son of Your maidservant. Show me a sign (token) for good, That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed, Because You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
- Psalm 86:15-17
When I feel overwhelmed by my own failings or doubts, it is The Lord who reminds me of who He is, full of compassion, gracious, merciful, and longsuffering towards me. He will not abandon me in my time of need. I can continue to cry out as David did for God to turn to me and show me a token for good. Token – a thing serving as a visible or tangible representative of a fact. When I feel ashamed, I need a visible thing of God’s love and heart towards me. And eventually that those who attack me will be ashamed, because God Himself gives vindication and helped and comforted me in this trial.
Spurgeon talked about some of the tokens for good we experience from the Lord. God hears our prayers and we are not cast away from His Presence. God delivers us in our troubles over and over again. He preserves us from sin when we are tempted. He gives us the sense of pardoned sin. His strength is our support when we are under trials. God gives us comfort and fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we will get to see a great sign and wonder that all others will get to witness to remove our present shame. And sometimes the token for good will be what He gives to us in our prayer closet, alone and hidden - to have His strength to continue on in the work God has entrusted to us. As the Lord reminds me that it is His opinion alone that matters, I truly demonstrate my faith, when I entrust my case to the Lord alone when I must experience shame in this life. And I remember my Lord Jesus who also had to experience shame and yet felt no true shame from anyone, since He knew He pleased the Father.
“For the Lord God will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed. He is near who justifies Me; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand together. Who is My adversary? Let him come near Me.
– Isaiah 50:7-8