At the heart of biblical change is a relational transaction: the real you engages the real God in the midst of real trouble. When someone seeks my pastoral counsel, this is one key principle that I try to help the person understand in the early stages of the counseling process.

Of course, grasping this concept is one thing; putting it into practice is another. Inevitably, a counselee will ask me, “How do I do this?” Great question! I think the answer is more easily “caught” than “taught,” which is why I love taking people to the Book of Psalms to eavesdrop on the prayers of God’s troubled people. When we slow down and watch closely, we see this relational, heart-to-heart transaction happening before our eyes.

Take up and read Psalm 25, for example. One morning, I pondered this prayer of David through the lens of three questions. Here’s a sampling of my takeaways:

1. What action does David ascribe to God? “You are the God of my salvation” (v. 5); “You are good and upright; therefore, you instruct sinners in the way” (8); “You will pluck my feet out of the net” (v. 15). David knows who God is and what God does, because David has already spent lots of time soaking in Scripture, taking to heart what God has revealed about himself.

2. What action does David request from God? “Let me not be put to shame” (v. 2); “Make me to know your ways” (v. 4); “Remember your mercy” (v. 6); “Pardon my guilt” (v. 11); “Turn to me and be gracious to me” (v. 16); “Bring me out of my distresses” (v. 17); “Guard my soul, and deliver me!” (v. 20). David petitions God to rescue him from both his sufferings and his sins, because David knows that the situational evils that come against him and the moral evils that lurk within him are “enemies” too strong to overcome by himself (v. 2).

3. What action captures how David relates to God? “To you I lift up my soul” (v. 1); “In you I trust” (v. 2); “My eyes are ever toward you” (v. 15); “I take refuge in you” (v. 20); “I wait for you” (v. 22). David does not turn inward on himself, chasing his tail in futile, “I-Me” monologue; David turns upward to God, escaping the self-referential orbit by wakeful, “You-I” dialogue: “You seek after me, so I come to you. This is my struggle, so I plead with you. You promise to help me, so I bank on you.” This is living faith transacting with the living God in the raging battle. And this is what is so radically and wonderfully unique about the dynamics of biblical, Christ-powered change: streams of grace fill hearts of faith to comfort sufferers and transform sinners in the deserts of life.

Later that evening, the question came up again: “How do I engage God when trouble strikes?” a couple asked me. With Psalm 25 still fresh in my soul, I decided to “show” them rather than “tell” them. So, we read David’s prayer together, and probed its riches by posing the same questions I had put to the text that morning. At the end of our discussion, I asked, “What do you make of how David engages God in his time of trouble?” “It’s beautiful,” they said. “Yes, indeed,” I responded. “And these words will map how you engage God in your time of trouble, so let’s give it a try this week.”

And you? Psalm 25 locates and reroutes you in your time of trouble. As Scripture, it “re-scripts” how you engage with God. So, how about you give it a try this week, too?


Book Recommendation: The Holy Spirit by Sinclair B. Ferguson

In the wake of the sermon I preached last Sunday evening, several of you have said how helpful it was to trace the story of Holy Spirit’s ministry to Jesus as the doorway to understanding the Holy Spirit’s ministry to you. As I said at the outset, one of my former professors, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, is the one from whom I’ve learned so much about this exceedingly rich theme. So, here’s commending his book The Holy Spirit generally, and its second chapter on “The Spirit of Christ” specifically. Pure gold!