Putting My Eyes Where They Belong

Do you ever find yourself going to bed overwhelmed and anxious? Does the prospect of a new day, filled with new demands and new trials, cause fear to rise in your heart the minute your alarm goes off? Or maybe you have been living with a constant trial. The pain is relentless. There never seems to be any release. And just when there seems to be a little light at the end of the dark tunnel, fear and dread plague you. What if it never gets better? What if this prospective light is actually the beginning of another trial? It can be hard to hope when the cares of this fallen life are pressing in.

King David understood this predicament well. From early on in his life he faced persecution, abandonment, and scorn from people who were closest to him. For David, it would have been very easy to wallow in anxious thoughts in the midst of very trying times.

This is why Psalm 131 is so encouraging. We know from other passages of Scripture that David did not always have it easy, yet he reminds us of our place in God’s story. It reads:

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
I used to think that verse 1 was talking about arrogance and pride, as if David was admitting that he was not a prideful person. But a closer reading of the psalm, and a look at the surrounding verses, actually reveals something else. In verse 2 he explains that rather than concerning himself with things to high and lofty for him, he has instead calmed and quieted his soul “like a weaned child.” And it is a right understanding of this verse that gives helpful insight into both verses 1 and 3.
So how is a weaned child with his mother? What does this mean? A weaned child is content and secure in the arms of his mother. He is not pre-occupied with the weather, his finances, his job, or his circumstances. He feels safe in the tender protection of the one who has always cared for him, and this safety allows him to rest and not worry about anything else. David is saying that, like this weaned child, his soul is content and restful in the arms of his heavenly Father. God has promised to protect him and provide for him and that is his basis for his response.
So what does this have to do with verse 1? For David, to raise his eyes to high (as verse 1 says) would mean to ask God to explain things or to concern himself with things that are only for God to know and control. Many of the things of God are not all revealed to us. We are only given a small glimpse. Our inability to see all that God sees and knows is a reminder to us that we are not God. And isn’t this applicable for us today? When we attempt to be God by an overemphasis on control or demanding answers from the Almighty, we are doing the very thing David is talking about in verse 1. While it is not directly about pride alone, to attempt to put ourselves at the same level as God is a form of pride. And verse 1 is a subtle plea to step away from a sinful grasping for control that is not ours to have.
Focusing my gaze on things too marvelous for me takes my gaze off of the marvelous One. And it reveals my sinful desire for control and to be God. What is the hope for the psalmist in these verses? Hope in God. In verse 3, David gives us the way of escape. It is the way to quieting our souls and refraining from prideful grasping for idolatrous control. It is the point of the previous two verses, and the basis for our rest in trying circumstances. It is taking our gaze off of things that are not ours to control, and trusting in the One who controls all things by the power of his word.
There are a host of things that we face every day that tempt us to lift our eyes too high, or become preoccupied with things to marvelous for us. But this psalm reminds us that there is only one thing we must do in these moments. Run to the Savior, run to his word, and find rest for our souls in the promise that our great God is good, true, and keeps every promise he makes to us.