Psalm 107:27-28, "They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses."
This morning, we live in a world of confusion. As the moments of life tick by, people as a whole seem to fall further and further into the cavern of bewilderment. All the while confusion is on the rise, the true sources of comfort and peace either go unnoticed or are slandered by the very souls that stay confused. When considering the secular world around us, it is painfully obvious that people do not seem to genuinely know the truth and the right way to go on any number of moral and ethical subjects. Politicians debate over what is and is not right, while common citizens have divided opinions about what is genuinely right and moral today. Things frowned upon 50 years ago – and sometimes barely spoken of even in secret – are now promoted to be not only tolerated but also accepted. Is it any wonder that the world seems to fit the illustration above and stagger about like a drunken man and reeling to and fro?
Quite often in our daily toils and labours, we quickly forget what should persistently and constantly occupy our days. There are many things that we are required to do, but the Lord does not require them of us constantly. For example, God does not expect His children to never leave His house and be constantly engaged in public worship. Though He does expect us to attend faithfully and regularly, our place there is not unceasing. Other requirements of the Lord should be perpetually observed. One of them is prayer, while others are rejoicing and thanksgiving. (I Thessalonians 5:16-17, Philippians 4:4-6) The Lord in His word has required of us that we faithfully stay and consistently serve Him with heart always attuned in prayerful spirit, overflowing with rejoicing, and abounding in thanksgiving. There is never a time or season in our lives when we can truly say that it is not a good time in our lives for prayer, rejoicing, or thanksgiving.
One of the truly amazing things that I find upon personal reflection is that my seasons of despair and inner turmoil coincide with my seasons of little prayer and rejoicing. Even with such consistent revelations of this order, I still find myself – far more often than I would like to admit – lacking the persistence and constancy of those blessed items. Interestingly enough, it is this very subject matter that encapsulates the one occurrence of the term "perseverance" in Scripture. When Paul uses that word in Ephesians 6:18, he is closing a discussion on the armour of God in which he mentions watching and prayer last as the covering for the soldier's legs. When considering what the Scripture commands – as we have previously discussed – we see an interesting facet of the subject on perseverance that is rarely discussed in theological circles when this word comes up.
Quite often, proponents of some non-Biblical or un-Biblical version of perseverance will ultimately change the definition of it. They will not admit they have changed it, but by close examination, they have altered the basic meaning of the word. When proponents of the Calvinistic doctrine of perseverance start discussing their tenets, they will quite often define what they mean by perseverance in the child of God's life this way, "Though there may be dark seasons, and though we may stumble. If you are one of God's elect, you will come back." By framing their viewpoint in that light, they are trying to provide a safety net for not damning someone that goes astray, while still upholding their errant notion of assurance of salvation. Yet, by doing so, they are attributing a definition of perseverance to include "returning to the right way." Perseverance is never defined as having anything to do with "returning." Perseverance is always defined as "staying" in something.
Therefore, the word is rightfully employed in the discussion and subject matter of prayer as that is something we should be fervently staying in, though quite often we are often returning to it. Should the false promoters of perseverance in faith and holiness as connected to our eternal deliverance be correct, then no one will land in the shores of glory, because all of us have to return to the right way, but none of us stay in it without fail (thereby fulfilling the requirements that the word perseverance has) and would thereby be denied the glories of heaven. So, persevering (staying) in things like prayer, watching, rejoicing, and thanksgiving is something that it behooves us to do, but there are no guarantees that we and all of God's family will do these and other acts of goodness, faith, and holiness.
Getting back to the thoughts on our text, we see that calling upon the Lord (prayer and supplication) is something that the Psalmist sees as very lacking in the people under consideration. From the context in the opening verses of the Psalm, it seems that the primary context could be the children of Israel that came out of Egypt and into the wilderness. However, as the Psalm gets deeper, the writer seems to broaden the scope somewhat to include God's people in general, which is not only fitting but logical since Paul attributes those very Israelites from that time period as our examples. (I Corinthians 10:1-11)
The dire pattern that seems to emerge over and over in the Psalm – and sadly in our own lives as well – is that we stagger around on our own, try to fix our own problems, and when we have exhausted every natural resource at our disposal, we then end where we should begin: calling upon the Lord for help and guidance. Notice the descriptive and fitting language for this point. Like a drunkard staggers around to and fro, so we also seem to vacillate from pole to pole as we reel from the beatings of life. Now, while life will try to beat us down on a daily and regular basis, we shall stand firmly and resolutely if the Rock is the foundation point of each and every day. (Matthew 7:24-25) One of the most fitting descriptions to the lesson is being at "wits' end." That expression lines out for us the thought that someone is close to complete irrationality.
Have you ever considered how irrational drunkenness is? Someone willingly and voluntarily gets in a situation where there is loss of control. Quite irrational to willingly lose control of the senses and inhibitions. Have you ever considered how irrational it is to try to get through the arduous affairs of life without beseeching God to help and guide through them all? The patterns are akin to each other. Finally to conclude the illustration before tackling the heart of the lesson, have you ever considered what insanity truly is? Insanity is quite often described as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. How insane would it be to drink to excess over and over and expect not to become senseless and staggering about? How insane is it to think we can handle something without the Lord's help? Yet, we can act like chronic drunkards by consistently tackling things on our own and jumping out on things without asking the Lord's guidance. At our wits' end and complete insanity seem a fair description of the pattern.
However, the heart of the lesson is quite a comforting one. Notice the end of our study verses. Even though we repeatedly call upon Him last when we should call upon Him first, He does not deal with us as we so oftentimes deal with Him. Though we deal wrongly toward Him, He never behaves wrongly toward us. Indeed, He does chasten us for our wayward steps, but He is still patient to hear our petitions, cries, and He does still deliver us out of, through, and in our many distresses. Even though we do not persevere (stay in the right way) as we should, He has never failed to persevere in any of His promises or sublime characteristics of His being. In all things at all times, He is and will forever be the One whose character is unwavering in its uprightness, holiness, and verity.
We act insane sometimes by staggering about when we should not have to. Should we call upon the Lord perpetually and rejoice in Him at all times, we will find the answer(s) long before we are beaten to and fro by the things of this world. However, we also act insane sometimes when we expect the Lord to act differently than He has before. Sometimes we fear to come before Him as we wonder, "I just don't know if He'll hear me this time. I've been so bad." Yet, we are expecting a different outcome than we have ever received in the past. Therefore, let us come before Him often, consistently, and expecting that He will be true to His word in all things.
Brethren, our lives can always improve in many ways, but when I consider the aspects of calling upon our Lord in constant fashion, I realize how faulty I am in this subject particularly. Much of my staggering from the blows of the world and confusion of mind about what to think comes from failing to call upon Him nearly as often as I should on a daily basis. When I have these reflections of shortcomings in this regard – and surely you the reader have too – may our constant behaviour after this realization not be to fall into a hole of guilt and despondency. As humans, we are apt to do that quite often. May we – upon coming to these realizations of shortcoming – reflect that other behaviour that should be constant in our lives and rather than feel despair all over again, may we thank Him that He is so much better than we are. He upholds His promises to keep us, hear us, and be with us at all times. Then, going forward may we get back to the right way of constantly calling upon Him and persevere in that mindset and behaviour all our days.