4. Being Enlarged Through Difficulties (Psalm 4)

Answer me when I call, my righteous God. You enlarged me when in distress. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer. O sons of men, until when shall My glory be for a reproach? Will you love vanity? Will you run after a lie? Selah. But know that Jehovah has set apart the godly for Himself. Jehovah hears when I call to Him. Tremble and do not sin. Speak within your own heart on your bed and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and trust in Jehovah. Many are saying, Who will make us see any good? O Jehovah, lift up the light of Your face on us. You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the time their grain and their wine grew. I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Jehovah, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:1-8)

…count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the proving of your faith works patience. But let patience have its perfective work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Jesus said, These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world ye have affliction; but have confidence I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
Here…”peace” means internal delight from being joined with the Lord, from which comes heaven and eternal joy. “Peace” is here opposed to “affliction,” because “affliction” signifies infestation by evils and falsities, which those have who are in Divine peace so long as they live in the world; for the flesh, which they then bear about them, lusts after the things of the world, from which comes affliction; therefore the Lord says, “that in Me you may have peace; in the world you have affliction;” and as the Lord in respect to His Human acquired to Himself power over the hells, thus over the evils and the falsities that with everyone rise up from the hells into the flesh and infest, He says, “have confidence, I have overcome the world.” (Apocalypse Explained 365)

How do we react when things don’t go our way? We often find ourselves in situations where we feel limited, restricted, or without any obvious way out with things closing in upon us. But part of committing to a spiritual approach to life means that we commit ourselves to living from principles that draw our focus within, which is where our focus has to be if we want our external circumstances to be transformed. You see what we think are the issues in our lives are more often than not simply the effects of something deeper that we are refusing to face up to or deal with. It is easier to blame others or our circumstances for our states of discomfort than to examine our own motivations in the light of spiritual principles and take responsibility before the Lord for our responses.

No one likes experiencing emotional states that bring discomfort and suffering into their lives. However, such states are a fact of life, discomfort and suffering are unavoidable aspects of living life in this world. Our plans don’t always work out the way we would have liked them to, our relationships often don’t run as smoothly or end up as fulfilling as we once hoped for. Or we may look at our lives at times and wonder how we got to where we are, what was it that brought us to make the choices we made in life?

The real question for us is not about how to avoid unwanted states of life, because these are going to present themselves whether we want them to or not, but rather what is our response when we find ourselves in such states of life?

The doctrines for Spiritual Christianity offer an approach to life that involves a perspective from which every event, relationship, situation or circumstance can be transformed into something that can serve in our spiritual growth and development. Basically, we always have a choice as far as our responses to things go. We can look to ourself as the centre of our universe and drown in our own efforts to keep at bay the things that we don’t want to face up to. Or we can look to connect with the Divine, who is the true centre of all that is, and work with Him through making the spiritual principles found in the Word the basis for our life so that our mind can be restructured from the inside out.

Genuine spiritual principles are transformative in nature; Spiritual Christianity is a transformative spirituality. It can transform any situation, circumstance or relationship into a positive spirit-led experience, the effects of which will reverberate to eternity. A conscious ongoing commitment to a spiritual life means that one can enter into the very mode of life that our whole being is created to live for and from. Our reason for being here is to realise our spiritual potential, to move beyond the confines of the illusionary world of our senses so that we can be reconnected with what is higher and become a vessel for the inflow of the love and wisdom of heaven.

Without spiritual principles to guide us we end up viewing the cause of our problems or difficulties as lying outside of ourselves. We become susceptible to falling into a victim mentality as we look at these things and regard them as forces over which we have no control. We may fall into the “if only syndrome”. If only my circumstances were different, if only I had more money, if only she or he would treat me differently all would be well, I would be happy. But wishful thinking can’t get us what we seek, it merely keeps us from facing up to the need to take responsibility for our spiritual lives. This responsibility involves taking hold of the spiritual principles that the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity offers us and using them to get our interior life in order.

These principles are the most valuable thing any human being can come to possess. They have the power to make all things new if we are willing to honestly and faithfully take them into our life and live from them. What we will find is that they have the power to open us up, expose our selfish patterns of thought, restructure our minds, and make us truly human. In a word, they have the power to make us whole. They do this because they give us a way of understanding the Word that brings us into contact with the Lord who is at the centre of it, and of all that is.

When we draw close to the Word we enter into the light of the Lord’s love and that light penetrates to the very depths of our soul. It asks of us the hard questions, it exposes our fears, our unwillingness to let go of the very things that wreak havoc in our lives, and it asks us to trust it, to allow it to do its work. It’s not an easy path, for we are attached to much that links us into the hellish things of the natural man, but if it’s true freedom we want, then this is the path we must be prepared to choose.

We can get a sense of what’s involved from this Psalm. Firstly, there needs to be an acknowledgement on our part that we are in need of the Lord if we want to become spiritual. This acknowledgement, from the perspective of Spiritual Christianity, is to acknowledge that the Word is Divine, not with the lips, but in our willingness to put aside our self-devised ideas about what’s best for us and look to the Word to hear what the spirit of truth is saying. Taking hold of the Word and living from it, is what it means to believe in Jesus Christ. To say we believe in the Lord but not be in the Word or to believe it’s Divine is to delude ourselves. We have to be in the Word for the Word to be in us, and it is only through the Word being in us that we can awaken to opportunities for real positive spiritual transformation in our life.

In all the Psalms there is this unqualified acceptance of the Lord and a looking to Him for our life. Psalm 4 opens with the Psalmist looking to God asking to be heard. When we are struggling in life we tend to believe that God is somehow distant from us but we know from teachings of Spiritual Christianity, that God is never distant from anyone and that any sense of distance which we feel is a reflection of our own state of life and not a comment on God’s apparent indifference. We distance ourselves from having a closer sense of the Lord’s presence when we allow negative or selfish states to grip our lives. These states reflect a narrowness in our perception that centres on ourselves and when we are self-centred, our perspective alters and we lose sight of the truth that God is ever with us waiting for us to open up to Him so that He can help us.

Those who are in a spiritual practice know this is true, and they know that times of struggle and temptation are times of opportunity to gain further insight into the negative states of belief and life that exists in the proprium or egoic side of their life. If they approach such insights with openness and a willingness to work to have what is constricting their life removed, they find that the times of restriction offer opportunities for enlargement. Therefore, the Psalm says in verse 1…

…you enlarged me in my restriction…

When we look to the Word as the Lord in times when we feel constrained and are able to see our negative states of mind and take responsibility for them, then the conditions which we find ourselves in are able to be transformed – they become the means by which the Lord is able to teach us something about ourselves. In these moments of clarity in which we see what stands in the way of our spiritual progress, we find that the restrictions we experience in life are transformed into something that can lead us into seeing what needs changing in our lives. What was against us actually makes us stronger if we are willing to engage consciously in the spiritual practice of examining our heart and taking action to make the changes which we see need to be made. What we find is that we develop an attitude to restriction that is able to recognise that such states open up the possibility for our enlargement. In this attitude, we are able to see the mercy of God in the difficulties we have to face.

But if we don’t look to make a habit of incorporating a spiritual practice into our lives, we will not see how we are bound by restrictive beliefs and habits and will remain locked up in the thoughts and feelings that tell us that our external conditions and relationships seem to be against us. We will not look to learn what our reactions to situations and circumstances in life say about ourselves and what needs changing in us, we will remain trapped in the idea that others need to change. Such a view is not a spiritual one but a natural one and those who are living a spiritual life know that remaining in a natural perspective and approach to life leads to despair and frustration. Fulfilment in life can only be found through being reconnected to the source of life – this is the purpose for being here – to find that reconnection. Therefore in the Psalm, in verse 4 we are admonished to:

Tremble and do not sin. Speak within your own heart on your bed and be still.

and in verse 5 we are told to

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and trust in Jehovah.

All things in the Word correspond to spiritual realities, so when it speaks of the speaking within our own heart on our bed it means that we are to take time out to consider our life and motivation. The spiritual life involves the purification of our motives through the application of truths from the Word. Just as the physical body rests on a physical bed so each of our minds have structures of thought on which our inner sense of ourselves rests. These thought structures that we rest in constitute our philosophy of life. We all have beliefs about ourselves, our world, and about God that define our sense of who we are. These beliefs are tied to what we value and if we have a spiritual level to our life, our core values will be those that are concerned with loving the Lord and loving our neighbour. Therefore, the spiritual person looks to weigh their heart in the light of those truths that teach what is involved in loving the Lord and the neighbour for it is in these truths that their mind rests as its bed or foundation.

Those who offer the sacrifices of righteousness and trust in the Jehovah are those who take spiritual truths and live from them for no other reason than that they consider this kind of life as being the right kind of life to be lived. They engage in a spiritual practice because it’s what the Word asks of them. They don’t do it for any particular reward or outcome but are content to trust that the Lord will direct and guide all things to what is good, loving and true despite what presents itself in external life. They know that in times of struggle, thoughts will arise from within that will cause them to question the path they have chosen. They know the many doubts within that are voiced in the words of verse 6…

There are many who say, Who will make us see any good?

But they are not easily shaken for they know that their God is in full control of all that happens to them, they know the truth of verse 8 that says…

I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Jehovah, make me dwell in safety.

They have learnt that happiness is not about having things go their own way, its not about ease of life, or a life without difficulties. They know that suffering is an opportunity for the mercy and goodness of God to reveal itself. They have learnt the invaluable lesson that happiness is found in trusting in the Lord whatever the situations or circumstances they find themselves in. For spiritual happiness comes with being able to accept whatever is presenting itself, knowing that every event is an opportunity for inner transformation when viewed from what truths, from what the Word who is the Lord, teach.

For You alone, O Jehovah, make me dwell in safety.

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