I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
There comes a time when all of us must realize we need help. Perhaps really macho men exist who have enough “true grit” never to shed a tear or cry out in fear. But I suspect that image has far more to do with fantasy than with reality. Of course there have been great men and women who’ve shown us the extent to which the human spirit can face adversity and come through on the other side, but when you read the biographies of many great men and women, it isn’t so much that they didn’t need help, but that when they needed help they found it.
Where do you go when you need help? Perhaps you harbor a secret suspicion it’s not quite Christian or mature to admit you even need help. It was Ben Franklin who said, “God helps those who help themselves.” But the psalmist is crying out, “Help!” This psalm is meant to show us how to find help when we need it. It’s been called The Traveler’s Psalm because it’s often been used to bless those who are going on a journey to assure them of God’s watching care.
One of the pitfalls that often comes on our spiritual journey is being unwilling to ask for help. I love the determination in Franklin’s quote about God helping those who help themselves. But the reality is God doesn’t help those who help themselves. God helps those who know they need help. That’s what the psalmist does — he looks up for help. Counselors tell us this is the most important step to take — to acknowledge there’s something beyond our personal resources that we need help with. The idea we can always fix everything ourself has caused the breakdown of more marriages, the heartbreak of more people, and the disaster of more businesses than any other idea on the face of the planet. Pride might be the first casualty of failure, but pride is also failure’s common cause. “Pride goes before destruction…”
But if it’s important to admit we all need help from time to time, then it’s also important we go to the right place to find help. The psalmist lifts up his eyes to the mountains and asks, “Where does my help come from?” There’s a natural tendency for all of us to glance skyward when we need assistance. The psalmist looks up to the mountains. But he doesn’t stop at the mountains. The mountains don’t offer the solution; they point to the solution. The help isn’t in the mountains; it is found in God, who made the mountains; in fact, he’s the maker of heaven and earth.
In one sense you may think this is just saying, when you need help, ask God. But telling someone to “just trust God,” can be painfully trite; like a plaster applied to a hemorrhage. This psalm does far more than offer simplistic answers. It says this God is the maker of everything. So when you say, “Trust God,” you’re referencing the rock-solid Creator of heaven and earth, of all reality.
The psalm goes on to say he’s not only our Creator, but he’s the one who watches over us in every circumstance. The psalmist draws a vivid picture. Often our imagination needs to be reframed when we need help; we need to be able to see how God can help and picture that real help is possible. So the psalm says, “God is your watcher.” The word for “watch over” runs through the rest of the psalm. The idea is God is keeping you, he’s watching over you, he’s looking after you. The picture is of God standing guard, eyes open, never sleeping — a powerful image.
One of the difficulties of trusting God enough to ask him for help is we can’t see him. But what if he sees us? We must live by faith, not by sight. But not God; he sees. Like a parent who says to a child who’s afraid to go to sleep, “Don’t worry. I’ll stay in the room tonight and watch over you.” God says, “I’m watching over you. I’m keeping you.” We can sleep because God does not. We can travel because God knows the way. We can take another step forward because God will not let our foot slip. He’s constantly watching, caring, keeping.