In my last post, Words Matter, I shared some thoughts on what it says/reveals depending on where we place the word "but" in our sentences. I used the following hypothetical sentences, both about the same thing, as an example:
1. "God is good and powerful and loving, but I am dealing with x, and y, and z."
2. "I am dealing with x, and y, and z, but God is good and powerful and loving."
The two are dramatically different in where we are putting our final emphasis, hope, and view. In the first, our big picture is our problems and we've kind of inserted God like a slice into it. In the second sentence, our problems are a slice, but the big picture and backdrop is God.
Over the last many months I've been trying to read (admittedly, not too successfully) one section of Psalm 119 a day. When I finish, I go back to the start. It is a powerful Psalm, easily broken down into short daily readings. There is a tremendous theme of hope in it based on God and His words to us. We can't have that hope in His words/promises to us unless we ultimately have hope in Him (a promise given from a liar or someone with no means to fulfill it means little, but one given from a person with the ability and history and character to fulfill it means a lot). Faith always, ultimately, has an object. We never simply "don't have enough faith"—we must always finish it with, "I don't have enough faith in ______."
The other day, reading through Psalm 119, I was suddenly struck with the use of "but" in exactly the way I'd shared in my last post. I thought I would share a few of the many examples in that Psalm alone with you. Notice the power in the passages as they share about problems and then say, "but . . ." Notice what comes after the "but" and how that leaves you feeling (in some cases it is an reminder statement about God, putting it all into perspective—in other cases it is an affirming of a choice they will make in spite of the problems they face). I especially like verses 150–151. In the ones that are affirming statements about God (perspective) try reversing them in your mind and see the amazing difference.
Psalms 119:51 The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.
Psalms 119:87 They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.
Psalms 119:110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.
Psalms 119:143 Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.
Psalms 119:150–151 They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your law. But you are near, O LORD, and all your commandments are true.
Psalms 119:161 Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words.
There are many other examples in the Psalms, and another interesting reversal of this as well. Doing a search for the word "but" in the Psalms I found many, many that talk about the love and grace and protection of God and then say, "but . . ." and talk about the fate of those separated from God. It is a powerful reminder that while God is love and as Christians we treasure the grace He shows us, He is still holy and He still hates sin and there is still judgment coming for those outside of Christ. It is a powerful reminder and prompting to urgency for us.
And here's a couple wonderful and affirming examples of the use of "but" from other Psalms to leave you with.
Psalms 3:1–3 O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. — Selah. But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
Psalms 4:2–3 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? — Selah. But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.
God bless you, and may He and His promises and eternity always be the big picture in which you view everything else.