But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!” As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God! (Psalm 40:16-17)
I have often reflected on, and been asked about, the tension between acknowledging our sin and neediness before God and the reality of celebrating the grace, mercy and strength that we know in union with Him. There are times when I feel the drag of the first or the jolt of the second. But is it right to live in such tension? Should my experience as a child of God be different?
Well if Psalm 40, penned by David, has anything to say to us, then it seems the tension is real and to be expected in the life of the believer. David begins the Psalm by recounting his deliverance by God (vv. 1-3). He then shares his euphoria at being delivered by the Lord along with the delight that he has in knowing the Lord; giving testimony to it in the great congregation (vv. 4-11). Then in the very next breath David seemingly despairs of himself saying, "For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me. (v.12). The final stanza (printed above) again captures the tension — May all who seek you rejoice ... I am poor and needy.
Looking at the life of saints like David, like Paul, it seems that the tension is real, and even to be embraced. Identifying too much with either side of the equation could be unhealthy. If one has an over-awareness of sin and no sense of deliverance and new life in Christ, it is questionable whether one really knows the joy and life in the Spirit that we are promised in places like Romans 8. On the other hand if one’s life is a seeming uphill climb marked by victory after victory in Christ and there is no awareness of sin, weakness, or need — then I would be concerned about the ability to discern the heart and the inner life, for like David, a man after God’s own heart, we too struggle with remaining sin.
In all this we are encouraged to keep our eyes on Christ. As the author and finisher of our faith, he endured the depths of hell to give us the heights of glory. It is his life in us that keeps us from despair and brings us joy. It is the life of the already, but not yet. With John we say, “Lord Jesus, come quickly!"