Friday, March 20, 2015

Wasted from Grief: Lament Straight from Psalms

Life is hard. Anxiety, depression, physical illness, death, loss, relational unfaithfulness, broken relationships, heartbreak, murder, persecution, suicide, cancer, car accidents, debt, job loss, divorce, eating disorders, doubts, family tensions, school failures, regrets, hurtful words, insecurities, loneliness... If we are honest with ourselves, any one of us can admit to experiencing suffering from pains like these. What do we do with them? "Grin and bear it," "Look up," "Think positively," "Think of those who have it worse than you and you'll feel better." These are all things that I have heard spoken in some of my times of hurt and pain. None of these things have made me "feel better" during times of deep suffering. I decided to take a look at the Psalms and compile a prayer "lament" based on words straight from these Scriptures. I hope that these words are as encouraging to you as they have been to me. They are honest expressions of suffering taken right out of various chapters of Psalms (3, 31, 44, 57, 90, 139; if you want the specific references, feel free to ask me).

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eye is wasted from grief;
    my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
    and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
    and my bones waste away.

Awake, Lord! Why do You sleep?
    Rouse Yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Why do You hide Your face
    and forget our misery and oppression?
We are brought down to the dust;
    our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us;
    rescue us because of Your unfailing love.

Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on Your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let Your work be shown to Your servants,
    and Your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in You my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge,
    till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills His purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
     He will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out His steadfast love and His faithfulness!

Where shall I go from Your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there Your hand shall lead me,
    and Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to You;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with You.

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and He answered me from His holy hill. 

It's okay to express your pain. It's okay and good to admit your feelings of despair and depression, of deep hurt and suffering. We have a God who redeems suffering, who heals suffering, who desires to draw us close to Him within the suffering. There's hope in Him - real and eternal and unchanging hope. "I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill." Have you cried out to the Lord in your suffering?