They say knowledge is power, but language has its own particular potency.
After all, when you can finally cram all of your emotion, thoughts, and need into one or two perfect words, it helps relieve the pressure.
It was true for my oldest daughter when she was still wobbling between baby and toddler. My job as a mom was to help harness some of her passion, help her direct some of that God-given strength—all by showing her how to put into words what she needed and how she was feeling.
But at little more than one years old, what is there to say?
When you can’t figure out the puzzle, when the toy isn’t working, when you can’t reach, when your buttons won’t fasten….. when life is difficult and you just can’t do it on your own and you’re collapsing into rage and tears of frustration and failure….”Help!” is all you need say.
It quickly became the favorite, most oft-used word in her vocabulary. “Help, Mommy” I’d hear all through the day.
What I failed to teach her, though, was how to gauge the seriousness of the situation and adjust the volume and tone of her “help” accordingly.
Thus, friends on the phone would hear my little one screaming “Help! Help!” at the top of her lungs when all she needed was the top yanked off a marker or a new outfit buttoned on her baby doll.
I can’t say I’ve figured it out any more than she did, when to scream out “help” in desperation and when to quietly lift my hands high for assistance, when to whisper hushed pleas for intervention and when to just sob and let the Holy Spirit intercede for me.
But I know that sometimes, maybe lots of the time, what I need is help. It’s not any more complicated than that. I can pray at God (or nag at Him) for hours; I can explain and complain, whine and appeal.
Really, though, “Help” would do just fine.
The Psalmist knew this. He asked, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?” (Psalm 121).
It’s a traveler’s Psalm, a song of ascension sung by the Israelite pilgrims on their journey to Jerusalem to worship. The Psalmist literally lifts his eyes higher and higher along the skyline, a reminder of just how small he really is—just a regular guy on a valley trail beside the vastness of a mountain’s peak.
So, where to look for help? To nature, to fellow travelers, to the material goods he’s packed neatly into his bags for the journey? To false gods who weren’t even mighty enough to create the very mountains in his view?
No, he declares, “my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).
God formed these very mountains. He’s so grand, so magnificent, so creative, so capable. All of these other idols I’ve been looking to are weak, helpless, disappointing, and distracting.
And if I’m screaming out for “help” or dropping to my knees in a confession of weakness, it’s a God that mighty I need to answer.
And He does answer. That one word, “help,” always gets His attention.
The pilgrims explain it in metaphors from their journey. How does God help?
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
Protection from scorching heat and the coolness of night, the rocks along the path and the obstacles in the road; this is what God gives them. This is what He gives us.
In the original Hebrew, the Psalmist pushes His point in verses 7 and 8, saying essentially: “The Lord is your protector! The Lord will protect you from all harm! The Lord will protect your life! The Lord will protect your coming and going now and always!” (Beth Moore, Stepping Up).
Our translations soften the repetition, saying instead
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
But the intent of the repetition is to say it so clearly and so often, to repeat it so much that even a forgetful, wayward, worrier of a soul like me can’t miss this promise:
The Lord Will Protect You.
We only need lift our eyes to His face and ask for His help.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2012 Heather King