Monday, November 2, 2009

In a pickle

I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. – Psalm 118:13–14 (NIV)

Have you ever been in a pickle?

I’m sure you have. There isn’t a human being on this earth that’s never been in a difficult situation with seemingly no way out.

Now, that’s funny expression—“in a pickle.” Not funny in a humorous way, but in a strange way. Where did these sayings come from, anyway?

Shakespeare coined the phrase “in a pickle” in 1611 in his play The Tempest when Alonso asked Trincolo, “How camest thou in this pickle?” To which Trincolo replied, “I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last.”

Sometimes we get ourselves in pickles of our own makings (which probably birthed still another expression, “You made your bed, so lie on it.”). Other times our pickles are caused by situations over which we have no control.

Take David, for example. Plucked out of the peaceful pasture, where he watched over his father’s sheep, he was plopped down in a plush palace, where he strummed his harp to soothe a distraught king. All too soon, however, he found himself huddling in a cave, hiding from a jealous, insecure, power-hungry monarch who wanted to kill him.

This pickle David found himself in was not of his own making. He didn’t ask to be anointed king of Israel, and he didn’t plan to wrest the kingship from Saul.

Yet God called him from the sheepfold to the palace, then led him to the caves of Palestine for a reason.

A young lad was anointed king. By the time Saul was killed in battle, David was a man, known for his strength of character and honor. His courage in battle, shrewdness with his enemies, loyalty to his men (and to the man who was trying to kill him), kindness to the displaced, and faithfulness to God marked him as a man worthy to lead a country. The qualities strengthened while he was a fugitive in the wilderness sustained him throughout his reign.

His pickle done him good.

I’ve been in a few pickles myself over the course of my life, some of my own making, some not. Like David, I’ve learned that this isn’t always a bad place to be.

Pickling is a process during which something is transformed from the outside in by soaking it for a period of time in vinegar and salt. Flavor and texture are changed by the brine, and those qualities are preserved.

My pickles done me good. Even the ones I got myself into.

That’s because I learned to turn my pickles over to God and let Him do the work of the brine.

And when the brine’s the strongest, I find myself turning to the psalms David wrote. They chronicle his transformation from green cucumber to tasty pickle and give us a glimpse into a heart that God called after His own. In the first part of the psalm, David pours out his troubles to God. Then, about halfway through, his tone changes—with one little word, “but.” I call it “The But Factor.” (Read them—you’ll see what I mean.)

In spite of the pickles he found himself in, David affirmed his faith and trust in a God who would answer him when he called, who would make certain that good won over evil.

Are you in a pickle?

Remember the words of someone who found himself in pickle after pickle after pickle, even after he became king: “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears” (Psalm 18:6).

Still in a pickle after you’ve prayed?

Think of the years David spent as a fugitive before he became king, and don’t fret about it. You still need more time in the brine.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God (Psalm 42:5). Thank you, God, for the pickles I find myself in because I know they are what You use to transform me from the outside in. Amen.

Special-Tea: Psalm 118

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