“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3 ESV
I grew up as an University of Illinois sports fan. My father graduated from the U of I, and the orange and blue have been a part of our family traditions ever since. I can remember watching the Illini, coached by Lou Henson, play on channel 3. My dad and I would get in front of the TV with our dinner and cheer them on. Usually, the cheering changed quickly to my dad shouting.. “I am never going to watch them again!” Well, we all knew that was a lie. In fact, when my wife hears me say it today, she just rolls her eyes. Like father like son. I recall memories of my dad and I driving from Decatur to Champaign on a Saturday morning to go watch Illinois Football. They were never really that good, but as a kid, I would dream about running out of that tunnel onto the field in front a half-filled stadium to play football when I went to college. On the trips back home before seatbelts were a law, my dad would drive, and I would curl up on the floorboard resting my head on the seat for a nice one-hour nap. My loyalty to Illinois sports started early and has been painful to watch year after year. If you are an Illinois fan, you know what I mean.
We have had glimmers of hope in both football and basketball over the years. Good teams that made it to bowl games and a few Big Ten Champion seasons in basketball. One year, was a fan favorite. The Illini were number one in the country in basketball. This was the season of Roger Powell, Dee Brown, Luther Head, James Augustine and Deron Williams. It was 2005, and the Illini were in the Elite Eight playing against Arizona. This was our year and to be an Illini fan felt safe this time. No let downs. That was until Arizona took a commanding lead with little time on the clock. I remember doing what my dad taught me. Scream at the TV and vow never to get my hopes up again. My wife sitting beside me looked at me and quietly said, “Don’t give up. They are going to win.” I looked back at her and said, “Are you crazy? Look at the score, the clock. This is over!” She just responded with a look like… “You quitter!” Sure enough, she was right. All of the sudden, it seemed like the clock stopped and the points started pouring in. Luther Head, Dee Brown and Deron Williams were hitting three pointers from everywhere. The momentum shifted, and what thought to be another season let down, turned around to be a sports miracle and my beloved Illini going to the Final Four. They won in spectacular fashion! They went on to win the first game in the Final Four but lost the heart breaker in the championship game to North Carolina.
David, the author of our Psalm in this devotion, was down and the clock was not in his favor. He was run out of town by his son Absalom, and his kingdom looked to be in jeopardy. His foes were big, and they seemed to surround him from every side. If you were watching this play out on TV, you would have been like me when it looked hopeless. No way that David is going to get out of this one. He made too many mistakes. He allowed division to set in. His family was a mess. He failed as a parent and now his own son is in the palace humiliating David with his actions. (2 Samuel 15) Even David wrote… “Many are saying of my soul, 'There is no salvation for him in God.'” That would be the equivalent of “I am never watching this team again!” Throw in the towel, David.
Psalm 3:3 changes the mood. It is like my wife looking at me and saying, “Don’t quit!”. David realizes there is still time on the clock and the game is not over. A turnaround is about to happen. Yes, it can be messy, but for David, God was about to do something, and David knew He could trust Him. David says, “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me; my glory, and lifter of my head.” That is a big “BUT” in a good place. No matter what it looks like, God is still my protector, my provider. He keeps me alive when everyone thinks I am dead. David says, God is the lifter of his head! What exactly does that mean?
This is the turnaround! This term means to be restored. Yes, you have been through a battle. You may even have been humiliated, but God is not done. He will restore you. Your future is not shame, doubt, or guilt. Your past does not need to be in control of your present or define your future. God is a restorer. That is what He did for David. It was a painful process and there was loss. Great loss that took David a little bit to endure. But in the end, God restored to David what the enemy tried to steal from him. David could do nothing but trust God. And then when given the opportunity, did the right things that brought about the great turnaround. The clock was ticking, but God sustained him, protected him, and restored him to his kingdom again.
Your life may be a bit like an Illini fan. Disappointment and setbacks seem to be far too commonplace. But do not give up. Be like David. Do not believe those who say you have no options. God is on your side. He is your shield, your glory, and the lifter of your head.