Safety & Guidance

Psalm 32:7-8

For you are my hiding place;
    you protect me from trouble.
    You surround me with songs of victory. 

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.”

As humans, we have various needs, some are fundamental from a physiological point of view – like water, food, and air, and others are fundamental from an emotional or psychological point of view – like connectedness, love, or a sense of self-worth.

Perhaps you’ve seen Maslow’s famous chart of the “hierarchy of human needs”. Abraham Maslow was an American scholar and scientist who proposed these findings in a famous journal article in 1943… and then went on to further develop its basic concepts over subsequent years.

In simplified form, Maslow stated that humans first of all have fundamental physiological needs such as water and food. Without these, there is no survival. However, once these most basic needs are met, humans then have the margin to think about…. or reach for other needs. In this hierarchy, physiological needs are then followed by needs such as safety, love / belonging (need for community), esteem and respect from others, and so on. At the top of this hierarchy is a human need for self-actualization. Of course, worrying about self-actualization would seem absurd to the person who did not know where their next meal was coming from. Thus, the kind of graduating hierarchy….and changing motivations.

As I look at these various needs and how they’re placed in this scheme, I am reminded of words from scripture and teachings from Jesus. One that comes to mind is the portion of scripture at the end of Matthew 6 – part of the famous “sermon on the mount”.

“And why do you worry about what you will eat, or what you will drink…. or what you will wear? Look at the birds of the air…. and the flowers of the field. They don’t worry and struggle…. and yet their heavenly father knows all about their needs, and takes loving care of them. Won’t he do the same for you?”

In Jesus’ words there is the recognition that basic physiological needs are important – and will need to be met. But there is also a hint that we are not alone…. that our heavenly father is able to help us meet those needs. Jesus also points to fundamental spiritual needs as well as these physical ones.

“So seek first of all the kingdom of God (a relationship with God), and you’ll find that all of these other physical needs that you worry about will be provided for you.”

Another text that may relate to these thoughts is found in Matthew 4:4, where Jesus responds to Satan’s temptation about food – Satan’s challenge for Jesus to turn stones into bread.

“For man cannot live by bread alone… but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Jesus quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3) Here Jesus seems to be indicating that even if our bellies are full, even if we have met all of these most basic physiological needs – we still cannot survive in a truly complete way, because we are created with spiritual needs as well. So while Maslow’s research is fascinating, and worth considering, I love the way that Jesus pushed us to look at both our physical needs – as well as our spiritual needs, and to always prioritize the latter.

Which leads us to our beautiful text for this morning – these two wonderful verses in Psalm 32. In verse 7, it appears to be the psalmist addressing God: “Lord, you have been my hiding place – you’ve provided both safety… and songs of victory!” – such encouraging words! You’ll notice that the psalmist has not said that God has helped him avoid all troubles – only that when the trials came, God was always his shelter and safety in the midst of the storms.

Verse 8 then appears to be God responding to the psalmist: “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Again, what encouraging words these are! Promises of guidance and direction. When I was younger these words seemed excellent and obvious – I was inexperienced, knew little about life, and felt a great need for wisdom from God. I somehow imagined that once I was much older, perhaps I wouldn’t need guidance as much. Yet, even now, in my 60s – I feel more than ever the desire for clarity, for direction, for God to take my hand and lead me through what lies ahead.

Today is our church’s annual meeting. Can we apply these two short verses to our experience as a church? For over 115 years the Lord has been both our hiding place… and safety – as well as our guide. Won’t he do the same for us as we move ahead and consider our tomorrows?

Lord, thank you for being our hiding place…. our safety.

Thank you for the promise to show us the best pathway for tomorrow.

(the above is a summary of the message shared during worship on February 6, 2022.)