I, and it seems, a number of people this week, have been drawn to a scripture laden with powerful imagery.
‘When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.’
Psalm 61: 2
There are so very many reasons for our hearts to be overwhelmed on any given day—responsibilities, activities, to-do lists, projects, relationships to maintain, even the desire to draw near to God amidst what seems like an endless barrage of distractions.
And I find this verse strangely conflicting, because a heart only gets overwhelmed when everything seems to big or too much. We get overwhelmed when trouble, or situations or the details of our lives, or the sadness of the world, loom big, and us finite human beings can’t take it anymore.
But now I’m left wondering—why, when someone is overwhelmed, would they ask to be led to something even more overwhelming?
I mean, which of us need yet another thing that’s bigger than us, another thing to make us feel small, or inadequate? What we really long for is a smooth pathway, for everything to ease off. We want the overwhelm to diminish, to lessen.
And then, I see it: Ayers Rock, that great monolith in the Australian desert, and though I’ve never scaled it, I know one thing for sure: Even big things seem small at the foot of Ayers Rock.
There’s not a thing you can bring to Ayers Rock that isn't overwhelmed by it's height.
And I realise that in my state of overwhelm, what I’m really doing is crying out to be overwhelmed by something greater. I don’t want to drown in the small stuff. I want to be overshadowed by something solid and safe and bigger than it all.
Do you hear the cry of David’s heart? He’s been fighting his battles, learning to rule, shepherding a nation – but now he feels a long way from the center of things—and the further he finds himself, the fainter grows his heart.
Some of us are literally at the end of the earth – us New Zealanders know all about that – but it’s possible to be right in the mix and yet, when it comes to the presence of God and to the center of His purposes and plans, to feel like you’re dropping off the periphery.
And then David recalls a beautiful word, spoken in bygone days, one that all us Scripture Union camp kids sang with gusto, and maybe today’s the day to sing it once again:
And the word on my heart is this: GOD IS THE ROCK THAT IS HIGHER. Therefore,
When I feel insignificant, I can pray, 'Lead me to the One who is great.’
When I stuff up or people disappoint, 'Lead me to the One who is perfect.’
When situations frustrate me and justice fails, 'Lead me to Him whose ways are just.'
When I have done wrong, or been wronged, when I struggle to stay true, or when others turn their back, 'Lead me to Him who is faithful and true.’
Interestingly, the prayer is not a prayer that we would make our way back to the Rock - if that were the case, there's a chance we could lose our way, or end up too tired or too busy to make the trek. And so we pray, not, ‘help me find the rock,’ or ‘help me get back to the Rock,’ but, ‘Lead me to the Rock.’
The Holy Spirit responds to such a prayer, and sure enough, He comes alongside us; gently and purposefully He plots the path and clears the way and keep us company until He brings us right into the presence of the One who is above all – the One who is higher than I.
And then, as we linger there in the shadow of the Almighty, something incredible shifts.
We become the very people that a weary, overwhelmed world, seeks out!
As we take our place in a Kingdom not of this world, we become like Him - in the words of Isaiah 32:2, ‘like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like . . . the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.’