A Compass for Navigating Tough Times

Delbert W. Baker, PhD

Three current social realities provide a backdrop for our times. The ongoing devastating conflicts around the world; the inhumanity of people against each other; and the cataclysmic natural disasters that result in widespread death and destruction. 

We know these events characterize the end-times we live in. We can try to ignore them or act like they don’t exist. We can converse about them as mere news items, or we can even reach out and try to help where we can. But what should be our underlying mindset to cope with and make sense of them?

How can we discern the awesomeness of God’s providence amid the awfulness of tragedies that confront us, publicly and personally? Such insight would provide us with a roadmap by which to navigate tough times. It would provide us with deeper confidence and a vibrant resilient faith, come what may.

Fortunately, there is counsel. But first, a disclaimer: the tragedies of life can’t be methodized or neatly packaged. However, the Bible does provide helpful tools that can help us to effectively frame the right answers and successfully respond when faced with catastrophic events (see 2 Corinthians 4:7-12). 

In Psalm 139, a meditation on God’s providence, David identifies four divine character dimensions. Like the points of a compass, they guide us to a better understanding of God’s nature and providential dealings, and how we may believe and cooperate. So, take your Bible and prayerfully consider the following principles and applications in this masterful passage.  

(N)—North (Wisdom): God is Omniscient or all-knowing (verses 1-6). God knows and loves everyone in the world. Further, David reminds us that God knows all things before they happen. Nothing catches Him off-guard, nothing baffles Him. While sin in the world is the cause of evil and destruction, if a destructive event happens, God allowed it for a greater providential end.

*Remember God knew of the event in advance. He could have prevented it and therefore will work it for the greater good. Believe it.

(E)—East (Access): God is Omnipresent or everywhere present (verses 7-12). God’s existence, influence, and power are in all places, all times—past, present, and future. David describes close and far-off obscure locations. Yet all people and places are within God’s reach. Nowhere, no place or person is outside the purview of God. This creates confidence that God is with us and helping us no matter what life brings.  

*Recall that you, and all believers, have a powerful partnership with the Holy Spirit and heavenly angels. Affirm it. 

(S)—South (Power): God is Omnipotent or all-powerful (verses 13-16). Staggering in scope and possibilities, God's power is all-inclusive and majestically effective. David uses the creation of the human body and the divine abilities to foreknow, foreordain and patiently accomplish all His plans, both on the micro and macro levels. Amazingly, it describes the divine attributes as universally supreme.

*Recollect the personal and biblical examples illustrating the mighty intervening power of God that is available now and in eternity to come. Claim it. 

(W)—West (Goodness): God is Omnibenevolent or all good (verses 17-24). David revels in the personal, compassionate, merciful, and generous nature of God. He markedly highlights the judgment and justice of God and the defeat of the enemies of righteousness. He vows to join with God and oppose evil wherever possible. He finally invites personal divine examination and redeeming mercy.

*Review the Micah 6:8 (i.e., justice, mercy, humility) principle, promote it where possible, and trust God for the ultimate triumph of righteousness.

I hope this Psalm 139 Providence Compass will be useful to you when navigating tough times. 

Delbert W. Baker, Ph.D., resides in Laurel, Maryland. He is director of Research and Development for the Regional Conference Retirement Plan/Office of Regional Conference Ministries. His wife, Dr. Susan Baker, is an educator and practicing physical therapist.