Psalm 138 (Psalms on the Trail)

Psalm 138

“You will fulfill your purpose for me;

your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.”  Psalm 138:8

I use to think God had a plan for my life, and it was my job to figure it out.  I wasn’t too sure about what would happen if I veered too far in the wrong direction.  Would I then get the second best plan? Or worse?  I abandoned that way of thinking a long time ago.  Talking about God’s purpose, as the psalmist does, makes so much more sense.

But then I discovered that part of God’s purpose (instead of a grand, road-mapped “plan”) works itself out in things I said I would never do. “I will never go to grad school” “I will never teach piano lessons.” “I will never preach.” “Women can never be pastors—certainly not me.”  “Okay, God, I’ll be a pastor but never the sole pastor in a congregation.”  “I am sure I would never want to go on a silent retreat in a Benedictine monastery.”  “No, I will never be able to backpack the Appalachian Trail.”  So I’ve learned that God’s purpose is bigger than my expectations of myself.

But going a step further, I am sure that God’s purpose is less about what I do and more about who I am.  I humbly believe God called me to do what I am doing as a pastor, but I  think if I had remained a church musician and piano teacher God could have worked God’s purpose out through me anyway.  And I know that I have learned much about trust and fear and perseverance on the trail, but God could have taught me those learnings other ways.  I am convinced God is more adaptable and creative than we humans are.

But here’s what’s most important about this verse to me.  Notice how the psalmist has connected God’s purpose with God’s steadfast love.   So what is God’s purpose according to Jesus?  Love God and love my neighbor as myself.  That purpose of God carries me a lifetime.  I can never retire from that.  Even if I am confined in a chair in a nursing care facility, I can still by God’s grace fulfill God’s purpose: love God and love everyone who walks into my room even if I can’t remember their name.  And if in the aging process I get crabby and can’t even manage loving my neighbor, well, God’s steadfast love endures forever.   God’s loving purpose will still carry me through my diminishments and fadings as the neighbors who walk into my room bring God’s love to me.


1. Read the verses and reflect on its meaning for you.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder?  How do you describe God’s purpose for you?

2. Or read all of Psalm 138 and see how this verse fits into the whole.

3. Or comment with a photo of your own that is a window of this psalm’s meaning for you.

The next post will be on Psalm 139.

Starting January 1, 2016, for 150 days I am posting a daily psalm verse with a photo that is a visual meditation on the text for me.  Each day a verse from the next psalm is chosen until all 150 psalms have been featured.   To participate you may subscribe to my blog at or “friend” me on Facebook and watch for the daily links to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am not a photographer and most of the photos are from a cell phone or small camera while hiking the Appalachian Trail or the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trail.


  1. This understanding of life with God gives such a joyful freedom! Thanks for the focus for the day.

  2. I especially appreciate your message today. Thank you!

  3. I so LOVE this reflection…because you KNOW how I have struggled with ” DOES MY LIFE HAVE ANY PURPOSE???!!!!”

    • Elaine Dent says:

      Well, you do an amazing job at loving this and all your many neighbors. That’s an amazing purpose in itself.