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1st September: Doctor, be still: God's Large Place

He brought me forth also into a large place. Psalm 18:19 (AV)

In my student days long ago, the Rector of our parish church used regularly to read his eleven-minute sermons. He wrote them in little books, so that over a period of time we heard them more than once, exactly as before and always read with a quiet serenity. We used to smile when the repeats came up. We knew them all and so perhaps failed to appreciate how thoughtful they were. We even timed them.

Looking back now I realise that those sermons had that quality of detailed care, even a certain perfection, which one expects of miniatures, whether painted or written. Evidence of their value lies in the fact that time has still left some of them in my memory.

In particular, I recall a sermon on Psalm 18:19 (AV, of course, in those days) 'He brought me forth also into a large place'. The detail I forget, but my memory of the man sums up what he would have said. He was a quiet serene man, kindly and understanding. I can never recall seeing him flustered. This, I feel sure, was not just because of a phlegmatic disposition. He knew for himself the secret of God's large place.

It is a place worth knowing about and getting to know. We should be grateful to David for sharing his knowledge of it with us. It must have meant much to him, hard-pressed as he so often was. The 'note to the choirmaster' which prefaces the psalm, says that 'David ... addressed the words to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul'.

The pressures on us will rarely be of the same kind as the pressures on David. But we can equally well know the value of God's large place. When there seems just too much to do, when an urgent diagnosis baffles us, when skills and judgment are tested at a critical point in a surgical operation, when things are going all wrong -- it is possible then to go for just a moment into God's large place and regain calm and perspective. This is not to be something overt, something apparent to those about us. If that happens, they may well think we are having an attack of petit mal! It is essentially a matter of being still in our hearts, as we lift them to God in a special moment of what I imagine Paul meant when he urged the Thessalonians to 'pray without ceasing' (1 Thes 5:17).

Help us, Lord, to be calm when the pressure is on,
and if the pressure seems to be closing in on us,
lead us forth into a large place.

Further reading: Ps 18.


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