God, my help and hiding place, rescue me from shame. Be my strength as I grow old; come and clear my name. False accusers seek my life, thinking You have left, Leaving me with no defense, helpless and bereft.
2 From my youth I praised Your name, trusting You to save. Now that I am turning gray, lift me from the grave. God, my refuge and my rock, hide me now. Make haste! Deal with those who wish me harm; may they be disgraced.
3 Let me live to teach the young what Your love can do, So may people yet to come place their trust in You. Show once more that You are God: raise me from despair! Then my soul will sing Your name, praise Your steadfast care.
‘From my youth I praised Your name’ – perhaps praise is easier when we are younger. Wonder comes more naturally to children and young people. With age, the Psalm suggests, it is God’s steadfast care we crave.
I learned today that Dr Betty Wood, the tutor who offered me a place at university, had died. She taught me something about seeing potential in unlikely people and providing opportunities for deep learning through asking provocative questions whilst not avoiding the complexities of life.
‘Let me live to teach the young what Your love can do’ – how do we teach anyone of another generation what God’s love can do? The Psalm gives us some clues. Firstly, we live. We live with, among, alongside other generations. It is that living together, the transparent flesh and blood window into a life built on God’s love, that provides the classroom. Sharing our doubts, our pain, our desperate need of God. The times we just want to run away and hide. The times we despair – and cry out to God, like the Psalmist.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but research has repeatedly shown that a significant difference between those who stick with faith growing up, and those who don’t, is having Christian adults in their life who share doubts and difficulties as part of the journey. When they in turn encounter their own, they don’t assume God has failed them, or they have failed God, but know to seek God within the tough times themselves.
We often want to shelter the younger generations from pain and hardship, and whilst we certainly do not wish it upon them, we need to remember that God is our ‘refuge and rock’ through the troubles and worries Jesus warned us each day would have. We teach this by showing it to be real in our own lives – sharing the messy confusion of trying to find God, like the Psalmist.
For the only way ‘people yet to come’ may place their trust in God is if we share a living faith with those we are blessed to live with, among and alongside now. Then we can whole-heartedly sing God praises together.
Prayer God, my help and hiding – be my strength. God, my refuge and rock – make haste! Let me live to teach the young what Your love can do, So may people yet to come place their trust in You. Together may we know once more You are God, And praise Your name and steadfast care. Amen.
Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work , member of mayBe community, Oxford.