“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . .” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities).
Although Dickens introduced his novel with these words in 1859, their relevance mirrors the 21st century world with striking parallels. During the past year, we have found ourselves leaning more and more toward the worst of times, the age of foolishness, incredulity, darkness . . . all leading to the winter of despair.
Every morning we wake up to a world we couldn’t have dreamed of . . . a divisive pandemic, political unrest, shifting culture, and economic instability. All this and more, lead us to wrestle with fear, isolation, anxiety, and tumultuous changes to our basic way of life. Uncharted waters leave us wondering how to navigate it all. We worry we’ll be swept away in the current of uncertainty where the whirlpools of despair threaten to suck us under.
In the midst of the chaos, a tiny phrase penned by an ancient poet began to echo in my mind, a soft whisper at first, and then with increasing intensity.
“My times are in your hand . . .” (Psalm 31:15).
From the context, David breathes these words as part of a chapter-long prayer, a prayer begging God to listen to his distress and rescue him. He tells God about his affliction and distress of soul (verse 7), his grief (verse 9), his sorrow, sighing, and failing strength (verse 10), and how he is treated by his adversaries (verses 11-13).
God invites us to express our trials and feelings to Him. Like David, we draw courage from rehearsing the truth of God’s character. He sees our affliction, knows our distress (verse 7), and hears our pleas (verse 22). His goodness (verse 19), faithfulness (verse 5), and steadfast love (verses 7, 21) carry us. No matter what, He is still our rock, our fortress, and our refuge (verses 3-4). He’s also our kind Shepherd who graciously and gently leads and guides us (verse 3). He is trustworthy (verse 14).
We may outwardly find ourselves in the worst of times, but these times—our times— are in God’s hands. Our peaks and valleys, our health, our finances, our families, our country, our future . . . all of it . . . are in the hands of our loving, caring, Almighty God. As David concludes His psalm, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”
“A spring of hope” in the “winter of despair.”