Advent 5: Psalm 9,10 & 1 Corinthians 1.3-9

From Ashley Gray

Psalms 9 and 10 praise the Lord as the “stronghold for the oppressed” and exhort him to remind the world of his sovereignty and to help those who seek him, to “break the arm of the wicked and the evildoer” and “strengthen the hearts” of the afflicted. This Advent, I find myself deeply conscious that I am in need of both breaking and strengthening.

I am something of a hypochondriac. I'll regularly text some symptom to a med school friend, call my mother in a panic, or lose hours of sleep diagnosing myself on WebMD (pro tip: don't do it). I've twice had a physician strive valiantly to tell me with a straight face that stress, not a rare disease or infection, was the cause of whatever was ailing me. The real affliction, it turns out, is my deep-seated propensity to nurture fear and give it power. 

For that reason and many others, I resonate with the psalmist’s cries for deliverance in Psalm 10 as one beleaguered and helpless. I think of David, who certainly had a lot of enemies hounding him throughout his life, but like me, like all of us, he also had himself to contend with—his own sinful, forgetful, fearful self. I take great encouragement from the way that this “man after God’s own heart” struggled under his burdens, repeatedly went before the Lord in trouble or despair, and came up rejoicing.

I want, I need, God’s victory. The crippling roots of my anxiety reside within my own muddled head and fickle heart, and sometimes the battle for freedom is really hard. My nebulous fears often don't have names, but as verse 10 of Psalm 9 reminds me, God does, and it is a name I know, a name I can put my trust in. In “times of trouble,” we can say with the psalmist that the God’s reign is eternal—and especially during Advent, we are called to remember that this was demonstrated in no uncertain terms in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

I was reminded while writing this of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” so I’ll leave you with its text, my prayer this season:

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart. 

 Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne. 

I’m privileged to spend my days entrenched in history as an archivist for two Boston performing arts organizations. My nights usually revolve around food, fellowship with my CotC family, and an enormous pile of unread books.