What Can Man Do to Me?

As a general rule, people feel sorry for themselves far too much. Self-pity fills social media when people take a break from arguing about mostly meaningless matters. Rather than seeing the challenges of life as regular occurrences and difficult circumstances as the nature of life, people behave as if they have some inherent right to a perfect life free from adversity. We have convinced ourselves that we can rid the world of warfare, eliminate all disease, and quash bad behavior with the wave of a wand. We have turned every possible negative into some kind of cause as if we possess the ability to eradicate all sadness. As a result, rather than accepting the reality of problems in life and rising to meet the challenge with courage, character, and commitment, many respond with an insufferable case of the “Why me?’s.” Modern society has become so soft that people believe they can encourage competition while outlawing losing, challenge children to be their best while complaining when anyone pushes them to improve, and enjoy freedom of speech while maintaining the imaginary right to be free from ever being offended. Ironically, this deplorable state of humanity exists primarily due to placing so much focus on…humanity.

When the psalmist penned Psalm 118, by inspiration he looked far beyond even his own society to describe an attitude regarding life that expresses a perspective that transcends self even in the midst of great hardship to embrace faith to such a degree that it redefined life. From this perspective, challenges and adversity do not dominate but rather the mercy of God, because it demonstrates His care throughout life so consistently for good that the negatives stand out by comparison (Psa. 118:1-4). Therefore, accepting the reality of danger in this life, even under duress (Psa. 118:5) faith remains strong (Psa. 118:7-9) because “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psa. 118:6). Thus, rather than allowing life’s challenges to overwhelm, faith makes it possible to remain strong and confident even when under attack (Psa. 118:10-12). Life upon this earth faces the ugly reality of death on a daily basis—and sometimes with a fury that demands attention every moment (Psa. 118:13-16), but even then faith conquers fear because, come what may, “I shall not die, but live, And declare the works of the Lord” (Psa. 118:17). God does allow suffering in this life (Psa. 118:18), but He does not abandon us to it (Psa. 118:19) because He has made it possible to deliver the righteous even from the most tragic circumstances, which is why, even when facing death, we can offer Him praise (Psa. 118:20-21).

If such faith and perspective seems impossible, what follows in the psalm should help tremendously. “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psa. 118:22-24). The perspective offered throughout the psalm is Christ’s. Despite the rejection of the Jews, the humiliation of the trial, and the excruciating pain of crucifixion, Jesus never asked, “Why me?” He understood. And when we not only appreciate His attitude but also adopt it, it makes it possible for us to see life in terms of God’s mercy and goodness too, for even through our suffering and death, He has not abandoned us (Psa. 118:25-27). He is still our God, and He still deserves our praise (Psa. 118:28).  Therefore, whatever adversity, whatever hardship, whatever pain, whatever grief, let us also respond with eternity in view and cry out to heaven, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psa. 118:29).

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