The Hermitage Lent retreat theme was “Holding On, Letting Go” which invites us to ask: “What am I holding on to? What do I need to let go?” As I mulled over these questions, I unconsciously switched the questions to, “What I do I need to let go of in order to hold on to God?” I turned to the Psalms to explore my switched question as they remind me of the Israelite story of holding on and letting go and returning to God’s trustworthiness when they—and me—hold on to God.
Lent 1: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
This is a wisdom psalm addressed to the one who enters the sanctuary—the place of refuge and shelter. The psalmist uses many images to highlight that God’s protection from harm and danger is reliable and truthful, including the word “shadow” (v. 1) to suggest an image of God protecting its young.
However, vss. 14-16 reminds me that God’s protection does not mean I am promised complete immunity from danger or evil or even tragedy. Instead, I am promised God’s presence when I am in the midst of trouble as God promises to not abandon me and I will survive. By vs. 15, I am encouraged to call to God in times of trouble for calling upon God is to let release my stubborn self-reliance and admit that I need God’s protection as I hold on to God’s comforting presence through challenging times.
Lent 2: Psalm 27
This is a psalm of trust in the first six verses which turns into a prayer for help against false accusation in vss. 7-14.
In the first 6 verses, the psalmist confesses who God is—”my light, my salvation, my stronghold.” In the following verses the psalmist admits he is a man under duress who pleads with God to be his light and salvation.
The verses 7-13 become prayers for delivery from distress and oppression because someone has brought false charges against the psalmist. Nevertheless, the psalmist proclaims his confidence that God will ultimately deliver the psalmist from the false accusations. The psalmist releases his need to justify himself to his slanderers and holds instead onto God as his deliverer.
Lent 3: Psalm 63:1-8
The psalmist expresses my deepest longings for God’s presence in my life and my desire to hold on to God in vss. 1-2: “…my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you … I behold your power and glory.”
The entire passage is a moving description of holding on to God. The psalmist describes how to hold on to God and the result of my clinging to God. While the NRSV begins verse 8 “My soul clings to you …” the King James Version reads, “Following hard after God,” which is a beautiful expression of holding onto God.
Lent 4: Psalm 32
A celebration of forgiveness is described by the psalmist: “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” vs. 1. This is a psalm of joy but with a little confession and exhortation for the listeners.
In vss. 3-5, the psalmist confesses how he held tightly onto sine and fear until he acknowledged the sin to God. In vss. 6-7, the psalmist exhorts others to pray to God when they too are in distress. It is as if the psalmist tells the listeners to let go of their distress over their sins and hold on to God’s forgiveness. He continues his instruction in vss. 8-9, pointing toward wisdom as God’s desire for his life and all of our lives. By the end of the psalm, he proclaims that the forgiven, trusting soul finds only steadfast love!
Lent 5: Psalm 126
This psalm reminds me to not only to let go of fears and sin, but in good times I am invited to laugh and delight in God. I am encouraged to remember that in challenging times—even in calamities and natural disasters—God is good and is present to me. I am to release my despair and hold on to the memories of God’s past goodness.
What do you need to let go of in order to hold onto God?