The pain God allows, and doesn’t

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”–Psalm 37:23-24 (NASB)

I went through years of struggle with doubting that God really loved me. Now that that is settled,  I’m learning so much more. And in case anyone else is struggling, God not only loves you, he delights when you walk in the way he has established for you.

God does not delight in rebellion, of course. Doubts of God’s love come to people who think they’re doing all the right things, but troubles keep crashing in upon them. One thing we all need to learn is that we’re never as yielded to God as we think we are in our most self-approving moments and never as far from God as the think we are when we are most ashamed to ourselves over something.

David here tells us that God establishes our steps. Another psalm says that God’s word is a light to our feet and a light to our paths. Yet another scripture promises that God will speak to us about our path when we depart from it to the right or to the left. God cares very much about our steps, and it delights him when we move in the right direction.

Because of our participation in original sin, we can’t walk very well and it’s easy to stray from the path. Think of a toddler. I have no children, but I have taken enough delight in watching nieces, nephews, and children of friends learning to walk that I can well imagine the joy that their parents constantly experience.

I have also seen that delight disappear when toddlers get into something they know they are  not allowed to have. God, after all, is our Father, and the coming and going of an earthly parent’s delight reflects God’s.

David makes another important point when he says that a man will not be hurled headlong when he falls. That’s when he falls, not if he falls. It always takes me by surprise when I fall. I have no idea why, but I suspect I’m not alone. Particularly unpleasant consequences of falling offer plenty of opportunity to doubt God’s love.

“If God really loved me, he wouldn’t have allowed. . .” But David says that man trying to walk in the path God established will fall. A little reflection will remind us that we fall not because of anything God does or doesn’t do, but because of sin.

David also says that when a person falls, God holds his hand. That is, whatever pain God allows pales to insignificance in comparison to the pain he does not allow. When we fall, we will not be hurled headlong. Our pain is probably limited to the equivalent of scraping our knees on the path or our shoulder hurting as our Father breaks the fall. It’s a sign of his love, not a negation of it.


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