Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. - Psalm 51:10
For most of my adult life, this has been one of my favorite verses. In fact, I often use it as a prayer. Unfortunately, I often find it necessary to pray for a clean heart and a right attitude. And until recently, that's all I really saw in this verse.
Create in me a clean heart - Lord, forgive me of my sins and wash my heart clean. It's simple. It's basic. It's to the point. I've done wrong. My heart is dirty. Please clean it.
Renew a right spirit within me - Lord, help my attitude. I'm having a lot of trouble with it right now. I'm angry and bitter. I'm jealous or covetous. My attitude is not right, and I want to get it right before I say something I'll regret. This attitude is not helpful, nor is it pleasing to You. Please renew a right attitude in my heart.
If that were all I ever gleaned from this verse, it would be enough. But through our recent trial with Mitch, God showed me another nugget to hold fast to. You see, throughout this entire ordeal, I've been struggling. Not with anger or bitterness. Not with discontentment. Not with discouragement. No, I've been struggling with fear. The "what if's" have been knocking at my door constantly. What if he starts bleeding again? What if the stitches don't hold? What if infection sets in? What if you have to start this process over. . . AGAIN? What if this? What if that? Day and night, my mind has been filled with nagging questions and suffocating doubts.
Now, when I say that I've been struggling with fear, let me elaborate. I haven't just been afraid. I've been downright terrified at times. I'm talking scared to the point of shaking so bad I could barely stand and being so sick to my stomach that I was sure I was going to lose my lunch. The gnawing sensation within me was paralyzing and sickening.
During one of my attacks, God brought to mind another powerful verse: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (II Timothy 1:7) At that moment, the two verses seemed to collide, and I saw something I'd never seen before. When I pray, "Renew a right spirit within me," it goes far beyond just fixing my attitude. It goes much deeper than that. It means fixing my entire spirit. Now, when I pray that prayer, instead of just thinking of an improved attitude, I realize that I am asking God to take away my fear and to replace it with power, love and a sound mind.
You see, God is not the author fear. It doesn't come from Him. It is not of Him. By allowing it to rule my thoughts and actions, I was allowing it to take the place of God in my life. I was allowing it to become my master. For me, this is unacceptable.
Am I still fearful? From time to time, yes. Is that fear still gripping? Most definitely. So, what's changed? The way I handle it. I now know how to pray. I know what to pray for. I know what kind of spirit I need. And above all, I know the One who can give me that spirit. It's up to me, however, to ask.