I once survived a season of life when three of my daughters were ages three and under. It was nonstop sippy cups and naptimes and potty training and diaper changes and “Hey, that’s mine!” and “Share that toy right now or Mommy is going to take it away” My husband was pastoring a community of young adults at the time; he was gone almost every night. My best friend’s husband was a youth pastor and he also was gone almost every night. Her three kids were each two years ahead of mine. So nearly every evening was spent at the park, where two moms wrangled a total of six kids, running the children into exhaustion until we moms crossed the bedtime finish line.
Because my best friend was just ahead of me in the parenting marathon, I had the benefit of watching from behind how she handled the ages ahead. Each evening at the park I saw how she dealt with the fours and fives and sixes of her own kids.
As I watched her interact with her kids at the park, here’s what I heard her say over and over and over: “God will help you.” It was their family’s refrain, her motherly chorus.
A PARENTAL REFRAIN
“But, it's my turn!” God will help you.
“She pushed me!” God will help you.
“No! I don’t want to go home!” God will help you.
It probably sounds a little silly out of context like that. Of course she said many other instructive and helpful words. Of course she gave commands, doled out discipline, lavished warm hugs, and physically removed her children from harm.
“God will help you” wasn’t all she said. But she always said it.
I heard this truth so often that I began picking it up, too. It stuck in my mouth and sunk into my heart because nothing is truer. It’s no pithy, “Be nice . . .” or, “You can do it!” or, “Just obey, kid.” It’s real, robust truth.
There’s nothing I could say to my child, age one or twenty-one, that would be truer than the statement, “God will help you.” It turns out my friend was following the example of the Israelites.
Where Israel’s Help Came From
“God will help you” is the banner of Psalm 121, a Psalm of Ascent, which was corporately rehearsed by the Israelite pilgrims as they ascended the hill to the temple mount in Jerusalem for feasts three times a year.
Together, they sang, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2).
As they climbed, they confessed. The Lord—and the Lord alone—was the source of their help. He was there, in the temple above, and they looked up, seeking him, and remembering how he made heaven and earth and that he would help them, too.
Their confession of need and call for help morphed into a reminder of truth to each other. They moved from speaking in the first person to the second person, and proclaiming to each another,
“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day nor the moon by night” (Ps. 121: 3-6).
It’s as if the pilgrims were first reminding themselves, and then one another, this is who our God is! He is our helper. He made the earth. He keeps our feet on the path. He never sleeps. Day and night he keeps us. God will help you.
The benediction is future-focused: “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Ps. 121:7-8).
Those ascending the hill were rehearsing these truths truth to one another. The Lord has kept you. He is keeping you. He will continue to keep you. He’s not changing. God will help you.
Where Does Our Help Come From?
My friend knew that her children needed the Lord’s help. She knew they were like the Israelites, helpless on their own. She knew that they most centrally needed help from God above, their maker, sustainer, and redeemer.
She knew that if she only demanded good, achievable behavior, then she would raise pharisaical children—children who would become adults who would rely on their own efforts to produce outward results rather than inner change. She knew their human efforts would eventually ring hollow, that they would be unable to do more or try harder. She rehearsed to them from a young age the truth that they would need God’s help. She taught them their help must come from the Lord.
We live in an age of self. Self-help, self-empowerment, do-it-yourself. We want to be self-made men and women who reach down and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.
In this self-absorbed and self-reliant age, we need to be reminded that this same reality applies to us. You and I need to return to the truth of Psalm 121. It is God who made us. It is God who made heaven and earth. It is God who keeps us. It is God who will help us.
Self-esteem psychology says look within. The psalmist says look up.
Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28-30). He harkens back to the psalm. The Son’s offer of rest reminds us that he is God saying to us, “I am the maker of heaven and earth. I hold your feet to the path. I keep your life. I never sleep. Come to me.”
Good News for a Weary Age
What do we need help with right now? Where are we striving after with our own efforts and energy? Where have we run dry, come to the end of ourselves? Where do we need to stop looking within and start looking up?
God, through his Son and by his Spirit, will help you.
The words “God will help you” never grow old and never fall short. They are true and they are able.
To the woman in my church whose husband is unfaithful: God will help you heal. To the young man oppressed by addiction: God will help you be free. To the adult daughter whose mother is dying: God will help you let go. To the pastor whose faith feels burnt-out and dry: God will help you be refreshed. To the lonely single: God will help you rejoice. To the poor, the sick, the needy, the sad, the desperate: God will help you.
As you and I ascend, as we climb, as we journey like pilgrims in this life, let’s remember Israel and her song. Let’s lift our eyes to the hills. Let’s remember that God made heaven and earth. He holds our feet to the path. He does not sleep. He will keep us. He delights to help his children.
In this age of self, let’s return to the rhythms of the covenant community ascending the temple mount. Let’s confess that we are not enough on our own, but the Lord is. Let’s remind ourselves and each other, God will help you.
Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters and has served as a missionary for 17 years on three continents. She currently resides in Colorado where she and her husband serve with Pioneers International, and she encourages her church-planting husband at Redemption Parker. Her passion is leading women to a deeper faith and fostering a biblical worldview. She writes at www.jenoshman.com.
[i]I am indebted to Jared Wilson’s book The Imperfect Disciple for this phrase.