Christian, God takes pleasure in you.
It’s such a simple claim but such a difficult thing to believe, isn’t it? Especially when it seems nobody else does.
Words sting. I have trouble to this day remembering encouragement given to me, even though I know I receive it regularly. I don’t think this problem is all that rare. You likely suffer from it too. I can list quite easily the words that still haunt me.
A female classmate in my elementary school days calling me a “stuttering wimp” on the playground. A bully demanding I meet him after school to fight. A ministerial superior who once suggested I wasn’t cut out for pastoral ministry. A worship leader at a conference where I was speaking informing me for some reason in the green room before I went out to preach that I wasn’t the first choice for speaker. I could list an entire catalog of insults, accusations, and false claims accumulated from my fifteen years of writing online.
And then there are the ones that really hurt. Some are too painful to share publicly. Some are too profane. Some are water under the bridge, and forgiveness in these instances means not reminding people who may be reading of the pain caused. Some are just none of your business. But there’s lots more, lots worse. And I’m sure you’ve been thinking of some things said to you too.
Some of the painful things said to us are malicious and some are not. Some are true things, some half-true, some not at all true. But they all hurt in their own ways, don’t they? And the devil does one thing with these words: he turns them into fear and shame. The devil can turn even constructive criticism into a false accusation.
And then comes along this simple declaration from the one whose voice ultimately and sovereignly matters:
"But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love." (Ps. 147:11)
The gospel clears the air. The gospel overturns the lies. The gospel wipes away the accusations. They may sting, but his word will endure forever.
The idea, in fact, that the holy God of the universe, the only one who has the absolute right to condemn us and dismiss us, declares his approval over us because of Jesus’s taking our sin and shame is so wonderful, so hope-giving, so steadying. The almighty God takes pleasure in me. And you too.
Let them come with their words, then. Let the devil come with his barrage of lies, even his truths turned lies. We rebuke him. We confound him. We throw Psalm 147:11 at his sniveling little face.
The enemy comes with his wounding, haunting words, and I stand behind my advocate Christ the Lord. He gives me more words, better words, truer words.
As Luther reminds us:
"The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him."
Christian, the Lord’s favor is on you. Ever and always. I won’t tell you that what others say doesn’t matter. You feel on the welts of your skin and the pain in your heart that they do. But we do know that ultimately, God’s word matters more. And he will have the final say. He takes pleasure in you.