Now, call me un-American, but I am not a huge fan of baseball nor do I know precisely how difficult it is to hit a curveball. But something I do know is that the term “curveball” has come to mean much, much more than a pitch thrown to stump the batter, falling to one side or the other when least expected. We use the term to describe the ways we experience difficulty in life: Life throws us curveballs. I had a bad day—Life-1; Me-0. I hurt my knee. Life-2; Me-Still 0.
The words quoted moments ago were the last words written on a pink sticky note by Katherine, a graduate of my local church’s youth group only three short years ago, to a friend in the midst of a difficult time only hours before Katherine was struck and killed in a car accident. The accident occurred not long after Katherine had learned of her boyfriend’s cancer, hence the hurried decision to drive home from college.
I watched as the family, friends, and busloads (literally) of college friends and sorority sisters sat in ashes last week as they wept and mourned and grieved, trying to understand why life would throw such a curveball. I didn’t know Katherine, and yet I felt the weight of loss, of striking out, through conversations with her loved ones.
We might read our psalm this week and think, the Lord, and certainly life, is not on our side
One does not need to be a genius to know that Israel experienced numerous curveballs—too numerous to count. Sometimes they struck out (much of the time, really), and other times they gracefully—perhaps with a few obstacles—moved forward to the next base.
Israel’s experience of God followed somewhat of a pendulum pattern—sometimes Israel understood and lived into their covenant relationship with God and other times Israel failed miserably. Often, Israel’s capacity to know God and obey God was contingent upon Israel’s leader at the time, upon whether that person had their eyes set on God or on power and fame. Our psalm this week is considered a song of ascent, sometimes called a pilgrimage song. We know, then, it is a song of praise during a festival wherein Israel offers thanksgiving and worship for God’s faithfulness and protection. The leader at the time this psalm was written may have been David who may be the psalm’s author. Regardless of authorship, however, we know this time Israel got it.
Israel recognized God’s hand in the midst of their hardship. A nation that once blamed God for how difficult life had been is now acknowledging the truth that all good things come from God, even if those good things come in the form of protection from bad things. Ellen Davis writes, “through the language of faithful worship, we come to see the world as it really is: the work of God’s hand, the object of God’s endlessly patient love.” She continues, “what is more, through praise we come to a new perception of our own situation.”
No longer is Israel’s focus on the pain and the hurt that is, without a doubt, part of her story, but on God the Father who is making a way for God’s people by coming alongside them on their journey, delivering them from their enemies.
Here is the crux of it all: Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. Israel’s perception has shifted.
Hard times will come. The raging waters will try to overtake us. Our enemies will attempt to hurt us. The snare will indeed try to trap us. But God is on our side. Israel escaped the raging waters as they fled from the Egyptian army which was swept away with the sea. Israel consistently escaped from her enemies, weak though she may have been, with God’s help. Many times, God’s people were deceived and distracted by the snares of idolatry, by things that drew their attention away from their Creator, yet God remained at Israel’s side and ushered her back into the fold.
Again we are reminded of that good news: Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
If the Lord had not been on our side—let God’s people say—if the Lord had not been on our side, the reality of sin would draw us nearer and nearer to itself. Addiction would overcome our bodies and minds, leaving us wanting. Sickness would take us into its grip and drain us of all hope and strength. There would be no hope for those who weep, mourn, and grieve. Death would win.
So, let life throw the curveballs. Life, that is, in God, the Creator of heaven and earth from whom our help comes. Death does not win because God is on our side. Sin is confronted by holiness, the sanctified life. Addiction comes face to face with the promise of healing and reconciliation. Sickness is dealt the blow of the hope of the resurrection. Grief is no competition against the peace and comfort of God. We may sit in the ashes, but we will not stay there with God’s help.
Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by our enemies’ teeth. Praise be to God for delivering us from death so that we might live abundantly. God is on our side. We don’t have to bat alone.
Life throws us curveballs when we least expect them, but we overcome them with God’s help. May we trust in the name of the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth who is at our side, and may we not forget where our help comes from. Thanks be to God.
 Ellen F. Davis, Getting Involved with God, 38.
 Davis, 38.