Best of Daily Reflections: How to Keep Believing When Things Get Bad

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalms 51:1-12

You’ve heard of worst-case scenarios. Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht have written a book by that same title. It tells how to survive all sorts of disasters—landing a plane when the pilot is disabled, surviving a bear attack, wrestling an alligator.

David’s adultery, murder, and trail of lies must qualify as a worst-case scenario. How did he survive? David wrote. Specifically, David wrote Psalm 51 as a way to navigate the horrors of his guilt. The psalm presents a pattern that is more than just interesting and instructive. It is the essential pathway to forgiveness, healing, and restoration for every kind of sin from the trivial to the terrible. Every faithful person must learn to walk this path.

  1. Admit your sin. Make no excuses. Eliminate any and all forms of self-justification. Your sin was not a fluke, a mere misstep. Your sin goes to the very core of your rebellious nature. Don’t sugarcoat it!
  2. Honor God. God’s design for human behavior is flawless, and his judgments are universally justified. God cannot be second-guessed. God’s standards are the only way to true life. Tell God he has every right to judge you.
  3. Plead for mercy. This is not negotiation. It’s not a plea bargain. This is the plea of a person who has exhausted all other options. You have no backup plan—except the mercy of the court.
  4. Boldly ask for a do-over—a mulligan, a new beginning, the creation of a clean heart and a right and willing spirit.
  5. Seek to remain in God’s presence. None of us deserve God’s presence, but staying close to God is our only hope.

Piven and Borgenicht’s book on surviving worst-case scenarios includes some rather unusual situations—like jumping from a motorcycle to a car or surviving a sword fight. You will probably never have to jump from a five-story building into a dumpster, but you will have to face the damage done by your sins. There is only one means of survival—Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.


A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:1-12

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What makes it difficult to fully face your sins? If you don’t face up to your sins, what impact does it have on your life? On the other hand, if you confess, how does it change things?

PRAYER: Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I have sinned against others and against you. My sins are a heavy weight in my life. Give me courage to confess the whole truth to you and to others and then to accept with joyful relief the forgiveness you have promised to give me. Amen.