What gets your attention? Lent prompts us to refocus our attention on the Lord. Psalm 34 starts with a full-hearted, full-throated focus on God: “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” But in spite of our best intentions, there are many things that catch our attention and pull us out of the orbit of grace and gratitude.
David, the psalmist, first mentions fears. Fear is looking into the future and anticipating pain or trouble. Some fears are reasonable and they prompt us to take some evasive action or make some provision. However, many of our fears become obsessive. The poet recognizes the need to be “rescued” from them. How? By re-orienting to the Lord: “Look to him,” says David. The result: Instead of a pinched, worried face, a radiant face reflecting the One who holds our gaze.
Sometimes we don’t just fear trouble—we actually have trouble. It becomes double trouble when it absorbs us and eclipses our view of God. Then it’s all we think about and talk about; we become blaming, complaining people. The antidote is to turn back to God: “This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.”
Sometimes we live with the ache of unfulfilled desires and needs. David thinks of the lion cubs which he heard when living in the wilderness. Like most babies, they whine and cry and yelp when they are hungry. Life narrows to just getting needs met. When we have the ache or pain of unmet desires, we can become consumed by our suffering. Instead, “taste and see that the Lord is good,” says the psalmist. “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
We are reminded that this attention is reciprocal. The psalm closes with the assurance that, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their cry…the Lord is near…he redeems.” The Lord is watching us, listening to us, present to us, and ready to rescue us. Today, notice when your attention is captured by fears, troubles, and longings and instead, “Turn your eyes about Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace” (Helen H. Lemmel, 1922).