I remember it like it was yesterday. My little league soccer team had advanced through the post-season tournament and made it to the championship game. We had the opportunity to play teams from all around the state and were able to make it to the finals. We were as excited as little boys could get about a sporting event.
The game ended in a tie and so we went to a shoot-out. Each team selected five players to do a penalty kick. Whoever scored the most goals won the trophy. It all came down to the final kick. Sadly for us, it did not go our way. We lost.
Our team hurriedly huddled together for a final word from our coach. We were so disappointed. We listened as best we could. Each young player attempted to fight back tears, mostly without success.
What I remember most about that day is the very brief conversation I had with my dad immediately after the team huddle broke. My teammates were crying and walked off the field with their heads hung down. My dad walked over to me and told me he was proud of me. Then, he quietly said, "Hold your head up." It was not simply a metaphorical statement intended to tell me to be proud of my effort. It was literal. He instructed me to physically hold my head up.
I can tell you in that moment I did not want to hold my head up. I was disappointed, sad, discouraged, and just wanted to walk with my head hanging down. I remember looking around in that moment and seeing all my friends with their heads down. I just wanted to do the same.
"Hold your head up." I obeyed.
That posture changed a lot of things in just a moment. It did not change the final score and it did not alleviate my sadness. However, the physical act of lifting my head did affect so much. I noticed people around me instead of just staring at my feet. I was able to acknowledge those who had come to watch me play instead of ignoring them. It is easy to be filled with self-pity when you allow yourself to only look down -- it is hard to be filled with self-pity when you are looking straight ahead and see other people.
The psalmist said, "But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head" (Psalm 3:3).
David's life was falling apart. His son, Absalom, was leading a group intent on overthrowing David. King David and his supporters were forced to flee. David is pictured as a man weeping, walking barefoot, with his head covered in shame.
David cries out to the Lord. Using the imagery of the battlefield, he declares that the LORD is his shield. Knowing God is his defense, he can now proclaim that the LORD is also the lifter of his head. This was a Hebrew expression for helping someone who was downcast and in sorrow. David may have real enemies, true pressure, and painful moments still ahead, but his head is lifted by the LORD. In other words, he is not without hope. He need not despair. No need to sulk in self-pity.
So, whether you are a young child who has lost the most important sporting event of your very young life, or a king whose throne is threatened, lift up your head. Take the focus off of yourself and open your eyes to the world around you. There are people to serve and there is a God who is faithful. As Psalm 3 reminds us in closing, "Salvation belongs to the LORD." And because it does, we lift up our heads. And as Psalm 121:1-2 declares, "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth."
Are you defeated, discouraged, disappointed, or in despair? Lift up your head. Seek the Lord. He is faithful and a defender of those who trust in Him.
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