It was like swimming in a liquid jewel, I finally decided. When I swam in the pure, gem-toned waters surrounding the U.S. Virgin Islands, it felt like a feast for the senses. The bays that sculpt the coastlines of those islands are glorious places to find yourself swimming — something I never imagined doing while growing up in Maryland.
As a young missionary, I lived in the Virgin Islands. After chugging over the steep hills of St. Thomas, I was always glad to see the Charlotte Amalie harbor come into view. Its aquamarine waters are breathtaking, and the harbor is wide and deep, capable of safely accommodating several cruise ships at a time, along with many other boats.
I like to compare this lovely harbor with the rest God has designed for us, His children, when we pray. When we make our requests known to Him, we can relax and float in the safe, clear, refreshing waters of His love. We can marvel at the unfathomable peace that guards our hearts and minds when we leave our concerns with Him.
Or, if we really want to, we can choose to do the opposite. As a hymn I learned as a girl says:
“O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”¹
Pride or peace?
To “forfeit” can mean to give up or lose something you have the right to. Because God wants to give His children peace, it’s ours if we want it. So why do we worry and lose our tempers rather than pray and let Him carry our burdens?
I thought about one likely answer to this question recently when I noticed the connection between these verses:
“God gives grace to the humble but is opposed to the proud. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, having cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you (1 Peter 5:6-7, emphases mine).
Proud people don’t cast their anxiety, their cares, on the Lord. They don’t need God. They can run their lives on their own, thank you.
The king’s heart
Most of us think we are supposed to be confident, in charge, always sure of the best way to get things done, never betraying any weakness. But David, king of Israel, painted a different picture. He wrote:
“Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me” (Psalm 131:1-2).
With many pressing demands upon him as the ruler of a nation, King David chose the surprising image of a weaned, resting child to depict his heart-attitude toward God. For “weaned,” David used the Hebrew word gamal. Gamal can also mean “fully dealt with” or “dealt bountifully with,” as it does in Psalm 13:6: “I will sing to the Lord, for He has dealt bountifully with me.”
After reading the definition of gamal, I had a better idea why David might have described his soul like a “weaned” child. A weaned child has already been “fully dealt with.” He doesn’t come to his mother for nourishment, as he used to. Now he comes for the sheer joy of being with her, or for comfort or protection, or all three. He relaxes completely in her arms, knowing she can be trusted to take care of all his needs. He has no need to worry. He is with his mother.
Though he was a king, David was not proud. He trusted God with his needs. He obeyed and honored Him. God honored David in return, giving him “rest on every side from all his enemies” (2 Samuel 7:1). No wonder David urged: “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever!” (Psalm 131:3).
Better than Jesus?
Through this word picture, God is telling us: Don’t be proud and self-sufficient. Let Me take care of you! Compose and quiet your soul. I know how to bless you, and I am able to do it. You are with your Father. You can depend on Me.
Can we handle life better than David, who chose to let God handle his concerns? Or better than Jesus, who “would often slip away to the wilderness and pray” (Luke 5:16)?
Maybe thinking we are wise enough to run our own lives is keeping us from realizing the importance of prayer. Maybe our pride is keeping us from peace.
In A Praying Life, which offers some of the best advice I’ve ever read on prayer, Paul E. Miller writes, “If we think we can do life on our own, we will not take prayer seriously. Our failure to pray will always feel like something else — a lack of discipline or too many obligations. But when something is important to us we make room for it.”²
Miller states, “Prayer is where I do my best work as a husband, dad, worker, and friend…I’m actually managing my life through my daily prayer time. I’m shaping my heart, my work, my family — in fact, everything that is dear to me — through prayer in fellowship with my heavenly Father. I’m doing that because I don’t have control over my heart and life or the hearts and lives of those around me. But God does.”³
The safest harbor
Many people pray. Our faith is not in praying, but in our faithful God. When we are resting in His care, surrendered to His will, we can experience His peace that passes all understanding when we pray (Philippians 4:6-7). His peace is a gift for those who humble themselves and give Him their concerns. What an exchange!
God cares, and He is our mighty Father. He is working in ways we can’t even imagine when we pray — in our loved ones, our world and everything we pray about.
Let’s run into the peace and comfort of our Father’s arms. Let’s relax in the cool, clear waters of His love. This harbor couldn’t be deeper, safer or more beautiful. I can’t think of a better place to wait and see what He will do.
46 years of learning
I celebrate 46 years today since I asked Jesus to take over my life — the best decision I’ve ever made. Over the years I have learned more and more to rest in His love and to make my requests known to Him. I don’t want to forfeit a moment of His peace, do you? Join me! Let us pray!
O what peace we’ll then experience, O our pain He’ll always bear,
All because we’ve learned to carry everything to God in prayer.
You might enjoy learning a melody I made up to memorize Psalm 131:
¹ What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Joseph Scriven, 1855; ² A Praying Life, Paul E. Miller, NavPress, c2009, 2017, p. 47-48; ³ Miller, p. 263.
Photo at top by Josh Duncan on Unsplash; Harbor photo by Colin Chong on Unsplash
If you haven’t discovered life in Christ, don’t hesitate to check it out. Life is too short to miss His love and perfect plan for you. Read About “The Nearness of God” or see everyperson.com for more information. You can also read my story of coming to faith in Christ: How My Song Began.
8 thoughts on “O What Peace We Often Forfeit, O What Needless Pain We Bear”
Happy Spiritual Birthday!!! Praise to the Lord.
Thank you, Ginny! How we can rejoice together!!!!
Aww Judy, thank you for sharing this with me. God bless you and your beautiful family.
You’re welcome, Tara! Glad to! God bless you and yours! 🙂
Thank you, Judy!
What you shared was very thoughtful and I appreciate how presented.
Give my love to Edward!
You’re so very welcome, Janet! Thank you! I certainly will. Love to Paul, your Dad and all there too!
Your blog is very encouraging and thoughtful. I’ll save it for times when I need to focus on God as my refuge. Thank you so much!
You’re very welcome, Brenda. I am so glad you would like to refer to it again. Many blessings!