“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. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore” (Ps. 131:1–3, ESV).
My God Knows Me
The Lord knows all my days — even the dark and troubled ones. Each day was written in his book before one of them came to be.
I don’t know my days.
I don’t know how to prepare, or what to bring.
But my Shepherd, my Father — he knows my days and he has been watching over me from the beginning.
And my Shepherd leads me. Proverbs 4:18 says that following in his righteous ways is like walking into the dawn: the path in front of me becomes brighter and brighter as the sun rises with the dawn and shines on the trail in front of me. I can see where to walk. I am a dawn-treader.
My God Cares for Me
The weaned child rests with the mother because the child knows satisfaction. A weaned child has had many days of sustenance from the mother’s breast. A weaned child has learned by experience to trust the mother’s presence and her supply. The attachment between mother and child is secure. The child cannot ensure the mother’s presence, cannot compel the parent to come when needed, but the mother keeps the child, and does not forget the child and the child’s needs. The mother gives her very self to feed the child.
My Father says that even if a nursing mother could forget her child, he will never forget his children (Isaiah 49). We are engraved on the palm of his hand, we are before his face continually. He intently attends to all our ways with steadfast love and mercy. It is a property of his very character to always have mercy on us.
My response then, as a beloved and nurtured child, is to settle my soul. I do not run after things too high or great — I reject haughty eyes or arrogant planning for my future. I do not aggrandize myself or exalt myself. I have given up dreams of being acclaimed or being the top dog. All of this is rejected by me. I know that I cannot predict my needs, nor can I guarantee that I can supply my needs myself.
A weaned child is aware of their own limitations; the weaned child has not procured their own provision or nurture. And so we are encouraged here to “still and quiet our souls.”
This is a right response on our part. I remember that I am weak and he is strong. I remember that the Lord Jesus, when he was here, was insistent that the “little ones” have unrestricted access to him. The entryway into the kingdom of God, Jesus said, is to receive it as a little child. And so I relax into my youngness.
Within my quiet soul, I concentrate on my experience as a weaned child cuddling with my mom. I am satisfied and replete in the “right now.” I stay in my awareness of the present moment. I am a growing child, a toddler with my Heavenly Parent. I am right-sized here, and beloved (and ignorant!).
I trust God’s provision. And I am satisfied in his nurturing presence.
We trust our Father because of our past history with him. A weaned child has a long history with the nursing mother, having had hours and hours of the best food when hungry. Day and night, the child has been held and rocked, has been sung to and prayed over. The child is replete with eye contact and closeness.
My God Gives Me Hope
A weaned child has had enough: enough for now and hope for the future — now and forevermore.
And therefore, when I look into the future, I have hope. Not hope in me and my plans and solutions (I don’t know my way forward, but he does), but hope in him and his plans. He knows the way that I take, my road ahead. The psalm ends in hope because of the steadfastness of the Lord, who has kept us in the land of the living from our first spark of life until this very day, and who will surely carry us Home when our days here are completed. We are his, from first to last. And he is a good parent.
I wrote much of this in the Radiation Oncology Waiting Room while my husband of 48 years was receiving radiation treatment for extensive brain cancer.*
This is my prayer and meditation in hard times.
*Steve Barber went home to be with the Lord on August 17, 2021, after a long battle with cancer. He spent several years teaching in Biola’s Cook School of Intercultural Studies after he and Betsy joined Biola after working with SIL in NWT, Canada as Bible translators.