Stronghold 3: Psalm 84 (Better is One Day With You).
“How lovely is Your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God…10 Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:1-2, 10)
My third Stronghold Verse is also in the psalms: Psalm 84. This stronghold is about God’s presence and closeness to God. It’s a stronghold about having the right priorities in life and remembering what’s really important.
I love this psalm, and the song by Matt Redman that was inspired by it: Better Is One Day. Time with God is so important. It refreshes us, renews us and re-energises us. God’s dwelling place is lovely (v. 1), and when the writer says that ‘My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God’ (v. 2) he’s showing us how deep our need for God’s presence is. We cannot do without it. If you’re struggling in life, chances are you’re not spending enough time with God. That doesn’t mean that when you’re spending time with God there aren’t any struggles, more that life away from God leaves us dangerously exposed. Time with God doesn’t remove the struggles, it makes them easier to deal with.
That same second verse also shows us that all of us benefits from intimacy with the Lord. He talks about ‘my soul’, ‘my heart’ and ‘my flesh’ – this is the whole package. All of us need God all the time. And when we spend time with Him it likewise benefits every aspect of us – spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally. Time with God will strengthen you for dealing with life. It won’t make life itself easier, but it will equip us to face what life throws at us.
This psalm challenges us to reset our priorities. ‘Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere’, says v. 10, but how many of us can truthfully say that? Even if we really enjoy reading the Bible or going to church, is time with God really our number one priority, the thing we prize above all else. A thousand days elsewhere could be spent in the pursuit of profit, power or pleasure, but even if we found all those things it still wouldn’t equal the value of one day with God. That’s quite a challenge to our way of thinking.
Let’s face it though, few of us can feasibly spend an entire day with God, so let’s make it manageable. Break down this principle into smaller chunks of time, and it’s still true. One minute of praying is better than a thousand minutes (over 16 hours) of doing anything else – however pressing. One hour of Bible reading will bring you more benefit than a thousand hours (over 41 days) of watching TV, playing games or scrolling your social media feeds. Or go really small – one second thinking about God and His plans for us will do more for our day than a thousand seconds (over 16 minutes) of worry or day-dreaming.
The truth is that when we prioritise other things above God, those very things will suffer along with our spiritual health. But when we put God first and seek His Kingdom above all else, everything else falls into place too (Matthew 6:33).
So this is a stronghold to come to when you’re feeling spiritually dry or just struggling in life. When things seem incomprehensibly hard and you feel like you’re struggling to make progress, maybe it’s time to stop striving and start seeking. Seeking God. Slow down, refocus, and remember how good His dwelling place is. The psalmist was talking about the Temple, the house of God in the Old Testament, but for us now God’s dwelling place is in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17). We don’t have to go anywhere, we just need to look inside and meet Him.
And this is a stronghold to remind us of our true priority in life. It’s a place to come any time you feel distracted or diverted from God, when other things come along to tempt you or try and take pride of place in your heart. Use this verse to stay focused and keep the truth front of mind that God’s presence is the best place for us to be.
Are you struggling, dry or empty? Are you distracted, over-worked or under pressure? Are you frazzled, stressed or burning out? Let Psalm 84 be your stronghold. Your heart is crying out for the living God and you’ve only just realised. So come to Him and rest in His presence. Come often, stay long.