It is so easy to get sad. Just pay attention to what mankind is doing in and to the world. From the anemic economy to the chemical weapons in Syria, to the toddler tantrum in Washington, to the gray skies and the fact that I burned my toast this morning.
Sometimes it seems that we look for reasons to get our heads down and when we don’t see a reason right away, we create a reason.
But what will help me with the ugliness all around? In a word: Beauty.
Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time. ~~Albert Camus
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.~~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The earliest European cave paintings date some 32,000 years ago. The purpose of the paleolithic cave paintings is not known. The evidence suggests that they were not merely decorations of living areas, since the caves in which they have been found do not have signs of ongoing habitation. Also, they are often in areas of caves that are not easily accessed. Some theories hold that they may have been a way of communicating with others, while other theories ascribe them a religious or ceremonial purpose.
May I suggest another reason for the art? Man was created in the image of a Creator-God. And our Creator-God is an artist. 32,000 years ago man was imitating his Creator.
He still is.
King David was an artist and penned these words…
One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
Why do We need beauty?
The answer to that question is found in the setting of this Psalm 27.
“For in the time of trouble…”
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me… Vs. 2-3
David is an ancient king and armies muster all the time to try to dethrone rival kings. There was very little national security for David and his people. We know very little of the insecurity that many nations feel all the time as they are surrounded by their enemies. The closest to national insecurity we might know is the aftermath immediately after Pearl Harbor and 911.
My mother told me that this Psalm is special to her because as a young mother of three toddlers, while my dad was working nights and going to school during the day, she would feel vulnerable because of the unsafe neighborhood in which we lived. This Psalm comforted a young mother alone in a dangerous place.
Maybe these days your insecurities have to do with health, or your job or a shaky relationship. Any problem—can be an enemy of your life and soul.
What I like about the Bible in general and this Psalm in particular is that it doesn’t play silly mind games with believers about the difficulty of living in this sin-filled world. I agree with the quote from the Pulitzer award-winning author that wrote:
“I think that taking life seriously means something such as this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false. ~Ernest Becker
In other words, to pretend that all of life is puppy breath, cotton candy and Hallmark movies are NOT living in the real world. We are not taking life seriously unless we admit “the rumble of panic that lies underneath everything.”
That is what this Psalm does. David is saying that whatever beholding the beauty of God means must include living with eyes wide open to the evil and falleness of this dark world.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me…” Vs. 5-6a
Beholding the beauty of God was able to strengthen him to keep his head up even though he was surrounded by enemies. David is not hiding, masking or medicating his pain and trouble—his enemies are all around him and yet because he is beholding the beauty of God—his head is up.
And this isn’t about just coping—sort of a grit your teeth and bear it—it is a way of having victory over them! He says my head shall be lifted above my enemies.
So, beholding the beauty of God enables you and I to face “the rumble of panic underneath everything.” The evil and terror of life in this dark world will not go away but you will be able to live with our heads held high.
It may be easy to get sad, but we are not bereft of a way to live.
…behold the beauty of the Lord.