Day 162: June 11, 2014

Today's Reading(s)

Psalm 13
1  Lord , how long will You forget me? Forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day? How long will my enemy dominate me? 3 Consider me and answer, Lord my God. Restore brightness to my eyes; otherwise, I will sleep in death. 4 My enemy will say, “I have triumphed over him,” and my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. 5 But I have trusted in Your faithful love; my heart will rejoice in Your deliverance. 6 I will sing to the Lord because He has treated me generously.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.



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Psalm of Lament
by Denise Hildreth Jones, Member of Brentwood Baptist, Brentwood Campus

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David is lamenting. "How long?" This cry comes from the weariest of hearts. "Will You forget me forever?" The feeling of being forgotten roars to the surface.

Maybe it's the residual pain that runs deep and long. After all, when the prophet Samuel went to anoint the next king of Israel, he had to ask David's father Jesse, after he had looked at all of Jesse's other sons, if he had any more. It was as if the question caused Jesse to remember, "Oh, yea, there's the kid out there with the sheep."

And then there is the vexer: David has an enemy—one that pursues him and seemingly holds the power to overtake him. At least David wonders this at times. So here he is, tired, feeling forgotten, desperate to be rid of this enemy, and wondering if the entire weight of it all may be too much for him.

But as with a flicker of remembrance to the elderly patient in an Alzheimer’s unit, in the middle of this soul-swallowing grief, David pulls from the deepest place of knowing in his knower.

"But I have trusted in Your mercy." And he has.

"My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation." And it does.

"I will sing to the Lord." And he did. Over and over again.

"Because He has dealt bountifully with me." And God had.

In this lamenting song of David's individual grief, the beautiful gift of remembering affords him the freedom from the weight of the pain that would swallow a better man whole. Today would have been my 20th wedding anniversary. When I got the request to write this devotional and saw the date, title, and Psalm of Lament, I knew the kindness of God.

I married in my early twenties like so many do. I married a man who I believed God had joined me with. I had all intentions of watching 60 years tick by where we’d one day be on the front porch watching the grandchildren play in the yard.

But seven years ago, when the fractured pieces of our broken lives collided in front of a judge who declared our marriage over, my body groaned and wailed and broke with cries of: "How long?" and "Will you forget me forever?" and "Will I have sorrow in my heart daily?" and "Will this grief swallow me whole?" and "Will I ever know joy again?"

"Grief has no etiquette. It is slobbery, and mean, ugly and rude." And it doesn’t. I wrote this in the first few lines of my book Flying Solo.

Pain has no playbook. One size pain doesn't fit all. One way to grieve doesn't fit all. One question doesn't fit all. But the thing that doesn't change—no matter the scale, scope, breadth or width of our pain—is the unchangeable mercy, salvation, or bountiful love of our Heavenly Father. No, my friend, that never changes. And wise is the man who allows his heart, in the middle of its pain, to remember it.

Do you know the beauty of the Psalms of Lament in the Bible? They give such affirmation to our pain, questions, doubts, fears, and humanness. They take us by the hand, in the most painful seasons and chapters of our stories, and say, "I got you. I understand. I've been there. It's ugly. It's painful. It's real. It's okay to feel all of those things you are feeling."

How gracious is our God who loves us enough to validate our pain! And if you have yet to read a Psalm of Lament and understand the pain of the author, I say to you in the words of Charles H. Spurgeon regarding Psalm 13, "If the reader has never yet found occasion to use the language of this brief ode, he will do so ere, long, if he be a man after the Lord's own heart."

God's people suffer pain. God's people endure persecution. God's people at times feel forgotten.

So know a few things.

  • It is okay to wonder how long something will last. Because some things last a long time. I believe that is why God says in Joel 2:25, "So, I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has devoured." Because He knew for some of us our pain would last a long time. Years in fact.
  • It is okay at times to think you have been forgotten, missed, not seen. The world can miss us. Our hearts. Our dreams. Our gifts. Our families can miss us. Our serving. Our needs. Our desires. We can even think God has missed us when life doesn't turn out like our picture.
  • And it is okay, when it seems that our enemies—whether those in the natural or in the supernatural realm—are gaining the upper hand, to question if they will be the victor.

Every single one of these emotions and questions is natural and real. And if the Psalms of Lament teach us anything, it is that God can handle our questions.

But what David offers us in this Psalm and what keeps our hearts from going from the pain of our questions to a shut-down place of anger, or disappointment, or criticalness, or unforgiveness, or weariness, is remembering. There is not one person reading this who has not at some point in your life enjoyed the bountiful dealings of your Heavenly Father. You may have not seen it, but trust me, He deals bountifully with us, far more often than we may recognize or be willing to own.

But David remembers. He calls to mind God's promises written in His Word. That He is merciful. That He saves. Then David pulls out his spiritual weapon: his praise. Some battles we face will never be won by our words or our self-pity. But they will be won by our praise! And David knew this. And he used it. And he brought his own weary soul back to life by that remembering and that praise.

No matter what place of pain you may be in today, I want to remind you that self-pity will never lift your heart up from its place of pain. The only thing that restores a broken heart is remembering, and praising. Remember all the countless times God has protected you, provided for you, blessed you, remembered you—and then praise Him for it. That, my dear friend, is where the heart turns from its grief to the arms of its Victor.

The question is this: will we allow our grief to cause us to miss Him? Remember, pain screams. It can be deafening. And there is great temptation to stay in that place of deep grief that can eventually lead to a shut-down heart to our disappointment. But God is in the middle of pain. He was in the Hebrew children’s fire. He was in Daniel’s lions’ den. He was in Joseph’s pit. He was in Peter’s jail cell. And they did not miss Him! And neither did David in this moment. Oh may we not in the middle of ours either.

Praxis

  1. Write out your questions. The real ones. Not the ones you'd write for someone else to read. But the ones just between you and God. He can handle them. Besides, He knows them anyway. The exercise is really for the freeing of your heart.
  2. I have spent the last seven years journaling extensively. I often journal "God loving me in my details" moments as I like to call them. I keep a list of many of them in my Bible to pull out on my difficult days. As the bonus-mom to five children who still grieve the loss of their nuclear family, there are still many difficult days. This remembering of God's bountiful dealings with me reminds me that I can trust Him. That He will save me. That He has rich mercy for me. Spend some time writing down some very detailed ways in which you have seen God love you. Then, put that piece of paper somewhere you can access it quickly as a tool of remembering.
  3. Okay, you'll love this one. I want you to sing! Yep, “at the top of your lungs” kind of singing in your car. This week practice your praise. I don't care what you sound like. God doesn't care what you sound like. But "He inhabits the praises of His people." Our praise makes Him present, in the car, in the shower, in the bed. For this next week let praise become your journeyman. You will be amazed at all it will do.

About JourneyOn Today

Today's devotional series accompanies the Spiritual Practices Foundations Curriculum which deals with 24 different spiritual disciplines. We will break for an Advent series in December and continue the second half of Spiritual Practices during the first quarter of 2015.