"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!" (Psalm 27:13).
A great sorrow was hurled into my life and made it seem that life was over. On the same day, I happened to read the verse above. I perceived that it was written by a man going through a grief like mine. On what basis was his confidence-his bold assertion-that he would see good in his future? After all, is it guaranteed to any of us that we will bounce back from tragedy?
Still, the king's faith statement excited me. I said, "I want that for myself! I will believe it for myself, just as David did!"
At once my hope clouded over with complicated theology: This verse is a particular word to a particular man who lived 3,000 years ago, I said. I must be careful not to apply it directly. Perhaps the man even had a vision. Or he was a type of Christ and in a special category. I must not be too happy.
But then I remembered:
"Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope" (Romans 15:4).
There was the legitimacy of my claim. Next, I thought about Scripture's calls to meditate on God's Word: "Blessed is the man [whose] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:1-2).
I got to thinking about what meditation is: It is an invitation to unbridled creativity; to make wild connections; to entertain variations on a theme; to leap boundaries of time and dispensations, to one's own circumstances. One enters into a Word on the page as into a secret doorway, and is led by the Spirit into many-chambered mansions. Meditation, by its very nature, is expansive; not linear but frolicking. It beckons personalization. Meditation is what gives me permission to embrace King David's confidence for a good future as my own confidence.
After all, we personalize with other Scriptures without even thinking about it: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1).
So, not content with simply reading the verse, I said boldly to the Lord, "Lord, I believe I will see Your goodness again, not only in heaven, but in the land of the living. I am embracing this favor as my favor, just as David did."
It was a new way to pray. Mark 9:23 was my warrant: "All things are possible for one who believes." And Mark 11:23: "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him."
I started thinking hard about the spiritual mechanics of all this. The promises of God are for those who believe them, above every other word or report: "For You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word" (Psalm 138:2). The promises must be "mixed with faith" to profit the hearer (Hebrews 4:2). For the rest, they are merely beautiful love songs (Ezekiel 33:32). Romans 15:4 and Psalm 1:1-2 beckon the reader to believe. They stand on the high places of the city crying, "Enter here only with faith."
The Word searches high and low for one who will stake all, who will regard God's Word as supreme, who puts out of mind all possibility of unfulfillment. It is childlike faith that astonishes Jesus: "When Jesus heard this, He marveled" (Matthew 8:10). Contrast with: "And He could do no mighty work there" (Mark 6:5).
Faith is the secret hermeneutical key we sought that opens David's hopes to us also. Only those who believe understand. Only those who believe receive (Revelation 1:3).
The Word of promise is activated in the presence of faith: "And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, 'Stand upright on your feet.' And he sprang up and began walking" (Acts 14:9-10).
"Lord," I said in my grief that was already fading, "I believe that I shall look upon Your goodness in the land of the living." "Child," He said, "if you believe it, it is yours."