“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 121: 1-2, 8
It has been a difficult few weeks for us. I injured my foot during a soccer game (a stress fracture of the second metatarsal) and the recovery includes no weight-bearing for two weeks (aka crutches and being stuck on the couch), followed by several more weeks in a walking boot. Our kids have also gotten several different viruses back to back and have just been feeling really crummy. Marcos is working his full-time job hours and then coming home to cook, do the dishes, and generally keep the house from a state of disaster. I keep catching myself thinking, “How are we going to make this work?!”
But as I was looking back through my quiet time journal, I came across this little word study I had done on Psalm 121 and it was so encouraging to me that I thought I would share it with all of you. First of all, even just the first two verses get my thoughts headed back the right direction. Where does my help come from? Not the housekeeper showing up extra days, or Marcos getting time off to run the kids to the doctor, although those things are obviously helpful. No, my true help comes from the Lord. And as a reminder from the Psalmist, he’s the one who made heaven and earth. Remember him? Yeah, he’s the one helping you.
And not just helping either. He is also keeping us. That word “keep” shows up seven times in this Psalm that is only eight verses long. “The Lord is your keeper,” “The Lord will keep you,” “He will keep your life,” over and over the Psalmist uses that word. Interestingly, it is also what Jesus prays for us in his High Priestly prayer in John 17, that God would keep us in his name. But what does it mean?
Keep can mean to preserve, maintain, to watch over and defend, to take care of, to support. It can also mean to hold back or restrain (ie: keep you from evil) or to maintain a course, direction or progress.
So here is my paraphrase of God’s promises to me in this Psalm: The Lord is my Keeper, the one who watches over me and defends me without ever failing, the one who takes care of me and has me in his power and control. He holds me back from evil and causes me to maintain the right course. He will preserve my life and he will watch over my coming and going every day of my life.
Doesn’t that so beautifully show the character of God? He knows what is happening in our day-to-day life, even when our circumstances seem so difficult, and he is there helping and keeping us.
Does that mean that nothing bad ever happens? Nope. My foot is still broken and my kids are still sick. But even in these difficulties we see the ways that he is watching over and defending us.
We had a wonderful conversation about this with the kids over dinner the other night and they came up with so many examples of how God can be our protector and watch over us, even when bad things happen. For example, the night that I injured my foot, I “just so happened” to have invited my doctor friend to the game who could advise me on what care to seek and could also drive me in my stick-shift car to the hospital. The Lord kept me.
His protection over us doesn’t look like a magic bubble of rosy-colored days. It does mean that even in the mess and challenge of life in this broken world, we are not outside of his loving care. It’s not just a trite saying, it is the solid truth – the Lord is my Keeper!