Early in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Justin Taylor blogged about Psalm 131 and linked to Christian counselor David Powlison’s article in the Journal of Biblical Counseling. I was already scheduled to teach Psalm 131 so I devoured the article by Powlison and threw myself into the Psalm – which has been so good for my soul. The first five months of 2020 have been extremely tumultuous and I have needed and benefited from this Psalm.
Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I do not get involved with things too great or too wondrous for me. Instead, I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like a weaned child. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forever. (Psalm 131)
Charles Spurgeon said this Psalm is one of the shortest Psalms to read but the longest to learn. Powlison wrote of the person who lives Psalm 131: “This person is quiet on the inside. He is not noisy. Not obsessed. Not on the edge. The to-do list and pressures to achieve don’t consume him. Ambition doesn’t churn inside of him. Failure and despair don’t haunt him. Regrets don’t corrode his inner experience. Irritation and dissatisfaction don’t devour him. He’s quiet.”
I want that for my life! Here is what we can learn in these three verses, Here are three ways to quiet our souls from Psalm 131:
1. Get off the ladder.
I am taking the first point from David Powlison. He described a life in turmoil as living on a ladder where you are constantly climbing and comparing yourself to others – to see if you are above them or beneath them. There is constant inner turmoil on the ladder, and verse one describes life off the ladder. David says his “heart is not proud.” He does not believe he can climb his way to the top. Instead he trusts God. The Christian faith drives a stake into the heart of pride because our faith is not built on our ability to ascend to God. Christ descended to us. The result of a humble heart is “eyes that are not haughty,” which is liberty from looking to others in comparison on the ladder, and not believing we can do all things because some things “are too great or wondrous” for all of us.
2. Live as a weaned child.
In verse two, David compares his soul to that of a weaned child. Before the child is weaned, the child believes he is in charge. He wants to eat when he wants to eat, and he will scream to get his way. In frustration, he roots around. A weaned child is different. Instead of crying and frantically thinking that everything revolves around him, the weaned child is calm and content in his mother’s lap. The weaned child is still dependent on his mother, but calmly so. He is not getting up from his mother’s lap, going outside and smoking a brisket for the family. The weaned child trusts his mother to feed him. As we must be with God – content and trusting Him to feed us.
3. Put your hope in God.
The last verse in the Psalm is a challenge to put our hope in the One who is calm. Whenever I am on a flight, and there is turbulence on the flight, which I hate – I look for the flight attendants. They have felt the turbulence before, and their calm helps me be calm. We can put our hope in the ultimate One who is calm. Our God is not frantic, worried, or out of control. Before going to the cross, Christ calmed his soul in the Garden of Gethsemane by placing His hope in the Father’s plan. The only way to calm my soul is to remind myself that the Father has some plan I can trust.
Because of Jesus we can have calm and quiet souls. The gospel does not command us to “be calm!” The gospel calms us. There is no ladder to climb and we can rest in the arms of God. The good news of Jesus quiets our hearts and eases our minds because we can remind ourselves that we are already loved and approved.