Psalms of Ascent: Determined to Trust
How has God been a faithful traveling companion during your PCS seasons?
Think of the Psalms of Ascent as the ultimate road trip playlist for those traveling to worship in Jerusalem. The journey described is one that leads to the heart of God. Each holds a reminder of the goodness and help of God. This week we are reminded that God is our faithful traveling companion, and He watches over us in our coming and going.
About This Journey
Relocation is one of the top stressors in Military life. Learning to be content in our circumstances is hard, and too often we allow complaint and comparison to rob us of daily joy and peace. In “Determined to Thrive in Relocation”, we study how God’s presence and direction during times of relocation can bring peace in the midst of change.
This Week's Readings
A PCS Playlist
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
What is on your road trip playlist? Do you like to put the pedal to the metal with rock anthems? Maybe you choose to let the motor hum with classic country. Or, perhaps you prefer to navigate your way with a little road-trip worship. If you choose the latter, you are in good and ancient company. Jewish tradition holds that Psalms 120–134 were the “road-trip playlist” for those traveling to worship in Jerusalem. These songs, known as the Psalms of Ascent, prepared their hearts for worship at the temple as they made their way up to Mt. Zion.
If I created a playlist for my next PCS, it would be filled with songs that speak of God’s faithfulness. The songs would point my thoughts to the promise held in one of the songs sung by ancient travelers in Psalm 121:3, “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.”
I remember our PCS from Kansas to North Carolina. My husband was in a car with one son, and I was in a second car with another son. Of course, we were loaded down like the Beverly Hillbillies and my husband was guiding our two-vehicle caravan. Suddenly, the sprinkles of rain that were falling became a torrential downpour. I could not see anything in front of me. I did not have a cell phone to let my husband know I had stopped. The fear of sliding off the road or of missing a turn he might make was tangible.
At that moment, I did what any mom would do—I pulled off the road, grabbed my son’s hand, and desperately prayed for God’s help. After a while, the storm finally passed. I caught up with my husband who had been waiting for us a few miles down the road, and we were on our way again.
You know, I faced some other storms during that PCS—storms that did not bring rain—but tears. However, my experiences taught me that regardless of the nature of the storm, the nature of God is to keep me safe. He is a faithful traveling companion.
What are some songs that would be on your PCS playlist? How has God been a faithful traveling companion during your PCS seasons?
Lord, my help comes from you. Remind me that you will keep me in my going out and coming in. Make my trust in you strong and confident. Amen.
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
While finding the right church is high on my PCS checklist, it can sometimes be like finding the right dress for an important occasion. I can look in ALL the shops, try on as many as possible, narrow it down to a few, and finally take one home wondering if the one left in the store was really the best one for me. There must be a better way to find a church!
For those who sang this Psalm of Ascent (Psalm 122)—there was only one house of God, and getting there was a difficult task for many of them. Although the trip to Jerusalem was demanding, the spiritual meaning and personal significance of God’s house was so important that they joyfully made the journey. Jerusalem was where they experienced the joy shared as the community of God. At the house of the Lord, there was the special opportunity to worship the name of the Lord in his presence. Today as Christians who believe God is present everywhere, we can undervalue a moment of special encounter with God in corporate worship.
Quickly locating and connecting with a local church is important to our relationship with God. Spiritual development as an individual and as a family can flounder if you finally find a church about the same time you get your next set of PCS orders.
In your plan for finding a church or military chapel, you may want to consider the following suggestions:
Pray for guidance. God may want you at a specific congregation for a purpose.
Do a digital recon of church websites to find out what a church believes; learn about their structure of worship or type of liturgy, leadership, and programs to fit your family, and their community involvement.
If you are a member of a specific denomination, check with your denominational headquarters for churches in your area. Identifying a church’s denomination simply by the name on the sign is getting harder to do.
Remember there are many good churches, but there is no perfect church. You probably have heard the quip, “If I were to find a perfect church, it would lose that status when I joined.” Don’t just try to determine if the church is right for you, but also ask yourself: “Am I right for this church?”
What challenges have you had in finding a church home after a PCS? God created you with gifts meant to be shared within the body of Christ. How do you actively search for a place to share your unique gifts?
Lord, thank you for the body of Christ. Fulfill your purpose in me and may my acts of service be faith-filled through your power. Amen.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts!
When you receive PCS orders, some decisions are best made after you arrive at your new location. You should wait until you can measure the windows before you order new curtains. Do not order checks with a new address until you have moved into your home. However, there is one thing you can certainly decide before your new military unit welcomes your family: you can determine to do good.
The travelers journeying to Jerusalem used this Psalm of Ascent (Psalm 125) to remind themselves that God blesses those who do good. Jesus taught on the virtues of doing good, even to those who do not deserve it (Luke 6:27–32). The apostle Paul emphasized that God created us in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). The Bible affirms that doing good brings glory to God (1 Peter 2:12). Doing good is so powerful it can even be the reason someone decides to become a Christian (1 Peter 3:1).
As a new person in town, you may be tempted to hide away and lay low until someone invites (or drags) you to a spouses’ meeting or chapel event. However, doing good normally cannot be done in a social vacuum; it requires someone on the receiving end. Set a goal to do good in your new community as quickly as you can. You can get ready to do good at your new location before you arrive by practicing the following phrases to be used when you arrive:
“How can I help?”
“Is there anything you need?”
“When can I start?”
Doing good begins with the right frame of mind—having an upright heart, as the psalmist notes. The status of the heart clarifies that God is looking for more than just good deeds. Our good deeds are to originate in a good heart. We do not earn our salvation by doing good, but we validate the good work the Lord has done in our hearts by the good work of our hands.
What does it mean for you to do good? What strategies have you used to help you get involved quickly at a new military assignment?
Lord, remind me to do good today. Keep me focused on others and not on myself. Help me to meet people wherever they have a need, just as you have met me. Amen.
Twenty-eight Years in Rehab
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
Hello, my name is Brenda and I am a recovering control freak.
I spent twenty-eight years in rehab, otherwise known as “military life.” God used military life to teach me the importance of relinquishing control. The most intense lesson always came when PCS orders arrived. Uncle Sam did not allow me to have any control over when those orders would arrive or where they would take our family.
When my husband received orders for Korea, I wondered whom he had angered. Korea was not on my list of places to visit, let alone live. The order to report within thirty days only increased the tension of the situation. Thirty days! He went to the military housing office to schedule the move, but there were no appointments available for several weeks. What did he do? My resourceful (i.e., desperate) soldier planted himself in the office and waited for an appointment no-show so he could get the ball rolling for our international move.
My husband’s desire to calmly take care of his family was tossed in the air due to a hurried report date. Military life teaches you (if you are willing to learn) that when you do not have control of a situation, you respond the best way you can.
As a Christ follower, the best way I can would not mean trusting in my ability to control my circumstances, but would mean trusting in God who is over all circumstances. I long to learn the “tranquility of mature rest” described in Psalm 131.
The message of Psalm 131 is the call to give less attention to my desires and efforts, and more to God’s ordering of the issues of my life. The psalm refers to the immature child who wants control. She wants to nurse when she wants to nurse. If you are a mom, you know that weaning a child is difficult. Crying and feelings of abandonment accompany the process, but the process is necessary for the child to mature. The process yields a weaned child who is content to rest beside mother, knowing mother will meet and provide for the needs.
Psalm 131:2 in The Message reads:
I’ve kept my feet on the ground,
I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,
My soul is a baby content.
What does being content look like for you? What are ways you can cultivate “a quiet heart?”
Lord, help me learn in whatever situation I am to be content. In any and every circumstance, help me learn the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need (Philippians 4:11–12). Amen.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
When asked to share their best PCS advice, my friend Malinda reported her husband’s response: “Deferred travel!”
Deferred travel means the service member travels to the next duty station, and the family follows later. My friend’s response was probably a tongue-in-cheek one. Malinda’s husband could make the argument that he would go to the next duty station ahead of her in order to scope out the living conditions, get comfortable in his new assignment, and learn his way around their new town to better introduce it to his family. The unsaid argument of course is, “I will go ahead and let you take care of moving with the kids.”
Deferred travel actually worked for us for several PCS moves. When we moved to Germany, traveling alone with two preschool children to meet my confident soldier on the other side of the ocean was best. Our delayed arrival gave him the opportunity to acclimate to his job and the new culture without worrying about his family. Our transition overseas was much easier. The plan worked well enough that we did it again when we moved to Korea years later.
A PCS move is a prime opportunity to challenge the concept of dwelling together in unity. The pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem needed the reminder as they journeyed together. In the context of Psalm 133, traveling in a group would generate plenty of opportunity for tensions to simmer. Competition for resources, supplies, and dwelling en route provided potential for conflict among families and tribes. The song they sang reminded them of the importance of traveling in harmony with one another. The unity they displayed as families would positively affect the entire nation.
My sister in Christ, unity is a testimony to the world of the reality of Christ and will convince people that you have something they do not. Jesus spoke of this unity in a prayer for his followers—“I in them and you in me. So that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23 NIV).
What are the triggers that cause disunity in your family during a PCS move? How can you prepare to combat disunity during a PCS move?
Lord, I pray our family would treat each other “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2–3). Amen.
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- Small Group Resource: Directed 1 - Leader's Guide
- Small Group Resource: Directed 1 - Participant's Guide