The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. The Lord upholds us with His hand. These are statements of faith and trust. These come from Psalm 37, which sits among the poetry and hymnody God supplied for us. He gave these words to us through a variety of writers to help says the things that we are feeling. These words also serve to address our feelings.
For example, in Psalm 42 and 43, we read of a conversation that David has with his soul. He asked his soul a couple of important questions:
“Why are you cast down? Why are you disquieted within me?”
These are real things that we all feel. We become downcast. We live in the disquiet. There’s noise all about us. We hear so much. We read so much. Our smart phones, if we let them, can steal Sabbath from us. Rest becomes elusive. Our sleep is uneasy at best, nonexistent at worst.
What did David do? He prayed his despair. He spoke his doubts – out loud at some point for he turned this time of turmoil into song. He gave these lyric lines to the choirmaster. It is labeled as a “Maskil of the sons of Korah.” From what I understand, these words were turned into contemplative poem by these servants at the Temple. Another form of maskil speaks of how to serve with discretion.
Here, I see the way to handle despair, defeat, and doubt so that it does not swallow us down into full-blown depression. Sometimes you just have sing and sing things that are troublesome and unpleasant. There should be place in our lives for lament.
Pour Out the Pains
Jeremiah the prophet never would have survived if God had not allowed him to pour out his pain. Lamentations is book of funeral songs sung over the fall of Jerusalem and the captivity of the people of Israel. And, yet, what do we discover there at the heart of this wilderness of dirges?
Why, we read these very words:
“This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3:21-24).
There’s our answer. Speak things into your soul that form a frame of reference built upon the Rock and fortressed with towers from the Truth. Jeremiah did this, and he kept delivering the message of God to the people of God. So very few heeded what he preached, but he carried on. His life here on earth was one of little joy so it seems. Still, his soul held hope.
Please, don’t do damage to yourself by allowing your disappointment and discouragement to become an idol. This happens, and I know an idol is being formed when I hear this: “You could never understand because you have never been through what I have been through.”
True, so, so true. But what of Christ? Who do you say that He is? Do you believe in the records of His life and words? He was tempted in all ways in order to be our representative High Priest. He lived as a man, died as a man, and was resurrected as a man. Jesus Christ, our Redeemer is faithful and true, knows everything that we are about.
The Redeemer Lives
Job knew this and held fast to it. His series of trials befuddled and frustrated him. The strange and accusatory counsels from his “friends” added to the burden of pain he carried. He felt alone and forsaken at times. His integrity was all that he had.
Integrity is drawn from the word “integer” that is used in mathematics. An integer is a whole number. Job rested in the wholeness that he knew God had given to him by grace through his faith. Like Jeremiah in the middle of his laments, Job spoke truth to himself in the midst of his troubles:
“For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
“And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27)
Job’s expectation was that Christ would stand triumphant on earth, and that he would see this Day of the Lord. Still, he remained honest and confessed the weakness and heaviness upon his heart.
Let’s return to Psalms 42 and 43. We read of how David ordered his soul with what he had in his mind and spirit. His words mirror what Job and Jeremiah declared. They are full of hope and expectation.
“Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, my salvation and my God.”
This is what David said to the feelings. And, I am thinking that he said these things in a whisper, at least at the start. I am not sure he was so ready to shout them.
Assurance is a remarkable, wonderful, and elusive thing, even for the most spiritual among us. I imagine that Peter, John, Paul, Mary, Martha, and the others weathered crushing seasons of doubt. Like the man in Mark 9, all of us have had moments where we cast our cares upon Him with these words: ““I believe; help my unbelief!” (see Mark 9:24).
I think David was having this kind of doubtful moment in these psalms. But he knew his Redeemer and sought his comfort.
Darkness can suffocate us. In those hours, may we let His night song form our prayers to the God of our lives.