Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
- Psalm 42:11
It's been a really heavy week, both personally and professionally. There are times when the harsh realities of life crash down that send you down dark and difficult paths that you never want yourself or others to have to traverse. To love those who refuse to accept love, to want to say the right words of comfort when there is nothing that can be said, to want to turn back and undo that which cannot be undone.
My tears have been my food, day and night. - Psalm 42:3
I've long ago learned how helpless a minister truly is in how he shepherds and loves God's people. Yes, the Word of God is more than sufficient to speak to the most important aspects of daily life, and yes, the gospel is light in pitch black darkness, the exclamation of life that drowns out sirens of death. But there is an overwhelming weakness, helplessness, and brokenness that comes with being alongside those who hurt and not being able to help. I used to be scared of these moments, hesitant to step in because of fear that I wouldn't be able to handle it. And I can't. Yet it's precisely that posture that often matters most; being, dwelling, present side by side with others. Not speaking, not acting. So much of Christ is communicated in mere presence with others. It's in that weakness and vulnerability where God proves Himself strong.
I've been thinking a lot about how the best antidote for spiritual defeat is praise and this psalm highlights it. The psalmist addresses his own soul twice with the same question, both times answering it in the same way; hope in God and sing His praise. Before the first time he asks himself this question, he recounts the drought of his own soul and how the people have turned away from their God. The second time he points out how his enemies mock him and ponders if God has forgotten him. In both instances, the answer remains the same: hope in God, lift up praise.
There is a season for mourning, for tears, for anger, for sorrow, for doubt. Know that it is welcomed by our God, that He is not afraid of your emotions, your despair, your questions. However, also know that your Savior, Jesus Christ, knows the intimately morass of pain that you swim in too. That He has drunk every last drop of the cup of wrath and knows the suffering of the ravaged soul. Yet by God's power, He would overcome all this and spring forth in new resurrected life. And because our God is gracious, loving, and merciful, that same life is ours by His Spirit. It is not a pie in the sky dream but as real as Sunday morning bread and wine.
Wherever you heart may be, surround it with praise. Hope in God, sing to Him, know that He walks with you. He has not forgotten you nor forsaken you. In Jesus, His eternal love and pleasure rests upon you.