Contentment and Rest

“O LORD, My heart is not lifted up; My eyes are not raised to high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child on its mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 131

Anti-Psalm 31 Self, My heart is proud (I’m absorbed with myself), My eyes are haughty (I look down on other people) And I chase after things too great and too difficult for me. So of course I’m noisy and restless inside, it comes naturally, Like a hungry infant fussing on his mother’s lap, Like a hungry infant, I’m restless with my demands and worries. I scatter my hopes onto anything and everybody all the time.

The “Anti-Psalm 131” (written by David Powlison), when set next to the authentic Psalm 131, provides a helpful contrast to what the result of resting, hoping, and finding contentment in the fulfilled promises of God looks like. Instead of a heart not lifted up and eyes not raised too high and a calmed and quieted soul, we often find our hearts proud, eyes haughty, and lives chasing after things too great and difficult for us to withstand.

The psalmist names three things that result from “hoping in the LORD”:

“My heart is not lifted up”

  • You are not proud, self-absorbed, and consumed by how you are perceived at any moment.
  • The nagging questions of: How do I look? How much do I weigh? Do people like me? - don’t nag like they used to.
  • No longer obsessed with getting folks to pay attention to us and like us.

“My eyes are not raised too high”

  • You are not haughty, not looking down on others, not consumed with ambitious schemes of advancement, not stepping on others to get there, not looking past the person in front of you for others more interesting to talk to and more worthy of your time and energy.

“Calmed and quieted my soul”

  • The noise and restlessness within are finally put to rest.
  • You enjoy not merely absence of noise but presence of calm, composure, and satisfaction.

For some of us, this seems completely irrelevant because it is so completely different than what you experience in the course of your ordinary life. Yet, Psalm 131’s inner quiet comes in the midst of action, relationships, problems, conflicts, addictions, disappointments, responsibilities and not retreat from the troubles of life and messiness.

Psalm 131 is not telling you to quit trying so hard, to quit engaging real life. It isn’t prescribing a charmed life that is safe, manageable, and frictionless. It is inviting you not to a less busy life that is less engaged with lowered expectations, but rather a less busy, noisy, hectic heart.

The Gospel calms us so that we can love people, have power to help, to listen, to bear burdens, and to really care. If you have the power and resources to help others you will always have a busy life. But the Gospel and Psalm 131 enable a less busy heart – a heart that is calm, composed, and satisfied.

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