Many of the Psalms reference imagery that gives us an ability to express our hearts and to know comfort. Such as: The Lord is my rock and fortress who reaches down and draws me out of deep waters. Or: he makes my feet like the feet of a deer and enables me to stand on the heights.
One of most comforting imagery in the Psalms is related to sight. Time and again, the Psalms remind us that we’re not hidden from God’s sight. He sees and he cares for us, but at times it feels as though God plays hide and seek, and we’re left blind folded as we stumble for our next step.
Do you ever feel as though you can’t see? It’s as though confusion and darkness swirl around you and each time you think your vision is about to clear, another gust of wind blows through your life. It’s wearying and demoralizing. So we cry out to him and he answers, but do we hear him?
It’s like a little one who hit her head, and whose loud cries drown her mother’s voice. Her pain consumes her reality and she cannot receive comfort because she cannot hear it. We can be like that little one too. We can be so immersed in our pain that we cannot hear God’s whisper so we determine that he’s not there at all. But today’s Psalm reminds us of the truth that he does hear and he is with us.
“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order than man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.” Psalm 10:17-18
In this Psalm, we see that we will be afflicted, we will need defending, we will feel alone and oppressed. These are the realities of a broken life. Sometimes we’ll be bombarded by all four of them, and other times we’ll experience a reprieve. Life consists of deep valleys, dry desserts, lush meadows, and high mountaintops.
We have this life race to consider and this abundant life that Jesus promises happens in the middle of the journey. Abundance doesn’t equate to physical prosperity, but an abundance of heart and joy and love and peace and fruit of the spirit. That’s our abundance. And we can have it now.
But. When life feels sparse and cheap, it’s easy to forget that God is still with us. And this Psalm reminds us that he hears our cries, and he encourages us by listening to us and defending us, which means that we might need to hush and be still, resting in him.
A Prayer for Your Heart
Holy Lord, we bless you for your unwavering commitment to us despite our fears, losses, and disappointments. Life is hard. And good. Give us grace to navigate it with peace and acknowledgement of you through it all. Sometimes it seems as though you are hiding and we cannot find you no matter how hard we seek you. Lord, forgive us for doubting your presence and power and lead is into your nearness. Let the truth that you hear our cry settle deep within our heart and may we look to you for encouragement when all we feel is discouraged. You hear our cry and not just hear us, but you listen to us. You are our listening ear and our constancy in our rather inconsistent life. Let us grow in you, rest in you, and depend on you more and more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
My heart hurts and feels bruised by disappointments and relationships. I trudge through the same routine over and over again. I’m weary of white. Of the threat of water in my house if I wash a load of clothes or use the shower. The feeling of failure looms over my ability or inability to wife and mother well.
It’s in these moments when I need my relationship with my Father God, even if I’ve been distant with him. Friendships have felt dangerous due to recent relationship rejections. And I hold myself together by sheer will and search for joy.
You develop a friendship only to realize weeks or years later that it was false. And realize that it’s like a trick pack of gum kids use on one another and wonder if relationships are worth it. But as difficult as relationships are, we need them to develop joy in our lives.
Partly because we’re instructed to bear one another’s burdens, to share sorrows as well as joys. Our lives need relationships even when friends bruise our hearts. I’m drawn to people like a moth to a flame even while I toy with the idea of disavowing future relationships.
I love people. I want to know if you’re a morning or night person or if you like to shop or hate it or if you’re a hopeful pessimist or a realistic optimist. What sorrows and joys have you lived and what has scarred you and how have you healed. Do you like coffee or tea or neither?
You’re interesting before I even meet you, but I wrestle with fear of you too. Rejection is a possible outcome.
Fear and curiosity tussle within me. Sometimes fear wins and I sacrifice myself on the altar of your approval. And other times curiosity wins and the security of God’s love propels me forward. And sometimes I move forward with fear dogging every step.
Joy and Our Walk with Christ
Joy and our relationships relate to one another. We get to live this life as a believer and follower of Christ in community, not in isolation. And it’s in community that we learn to choose right actions, to temper our responses to reflect Christ, and to share the joy of the Lord.
We contribute joy to another’s life when we refresh others, and when we live our lives in ways that honor the teaching we received about the Lord.
Paul and John write about this throughout the New Testament. He references how his hearers bring him joy when they give themselves to the whole of Jesus’ teaching and their lives change.
We bring joy to our mentors, friends, teachers, and spiritual directors when we choose God’s way over ours. His ways don’t always make sense, but when trusted and implemented, bring about joy and lasting change that we could never accomplish on our own.
Who’s teaching have you benefitted from? Do you have someone in your life from whom you receive spiritual direction and teaching? Bring joy to them by living your life according to God’s standards and righteous ways.
Joy spreads. As you learn from a sound biblical teacher, you teach others as you live your life. Whether you realize it or not, there is someone who learns from you. You need others who are a few steps ahead of you and a few steps behind you. And this joy that comes by living lives that reflect the love of Christ become like the spreading ripples of a pebble dropped in a pond.
Relationships: difficult and painful, but oh so necessary. Joy: complex and simple, but contagious.
And just as we affect joy in other people’s lives by how we live our lives, we also bring joy to others as we refresh each other.
Joy and Refreshment
Refresh indicates a restoration, a renewal, and a revival. Do you need your spirit revived? Is life dragging you along and you question whether or not there’s more than this, whatever this may be?
Extend joy by sitting with someone in their sorrow and rejoicing with them in their triumphs. Offer the refreshment joy brings by extending kindness and mercy, overlooking an offense, and extending forgiveness.
When we reach out to someone, our hearts receive refreshment, and the joy overflows and affects the lives around us. We sit with someone in sorrow and we rejoice with someone in their triumphs. Refreshing others brings joy to our hearts.
Let’s hold to the truth that joy comes from a relationship with its source: God. But as a byproduct of receiving that joy, we get to refresh others and be blessed ourselves.
Consider how your life affects someone else’s and take a small step to bring them joy.
Pray: “Lord Jesus, you are my rock, my comfort, my everything, and my joy. Let me live a life worthy of your calling. Lord, I surrender my will and my ways and submit to your transforming power. Let your joy flow from you and to others as I live for you.” Amen.
God has gifted us with the language of lament in order to grow our faith, proclaim hope, and teach us love. Lament is the language of emotion and without lament, our hurtful experiences dictate the way we interact with God, ourselves, and others, causing us to withdraw and to cast blame.
Emotions scare me because they’re so powerful and make me feel so powerless. They take me by surprise and it cripples me. I love good surprises, but I don’t love surprises that rob me of friendships, bring lousy news, and prove that trust can be broken.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to shield my heart from the extremes of emotions, but the thing I’ve realized is that if I fail to experience the emotions of sadness and anger then my joy and love cannot be as rich as they could be.
God doesn’t intend for us to live this life half-way but in fullness and abundance. Exploring our emotions is part of learning to live in the fullness he provides. But they can be frightening because we know the consequences of letting our feelings dictate our lives.
We shout words we can never take back. We slam cupboard doors and resist the temptation to throw dishes. We choose indifference rather than deference.
And over our happiest moments a shroud of sorrow lingers. We tiptoe around the proverbial elephant in the room.
Pain, sorrow, and disappoint is part of this life. And, as Christ-followers, we are not immune to struggles.
One of the best ways to learn to express your heart’s pain is to read the Psalms as if you were the one writing them. When David writes in Psalm 31:9, “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief,” we are given the okay to tell God about our distress.
That thing that makes your eyes weak with sorrow and your heart and your body wracked with grief?
Sit with God in that for a little while and recognize that your distress is affecting your physical body, that it’s making it hard for you to make choices that honor God with your heart and your lips, that the distress you feel overwhelms you.
Take David’s words and make them your own.
David knew distress, he felt forgotten and rejected by so-called friends. People plotted against him and it felt like he was on the losing end of the deal. He wondered when and if things would ever turn around.
I’ve been there, have you? As I page through my Bible, I find evidence of relating to exactly what David experienced. As I repeatedly read through the Psalms, I come to margins with dates that become testimonies of how God was my help. How he did guard my life and rescue me. (Psalm 25:16-22)
Learning to lament by way of reading the Psalms is the best way to learn to express the gamut of emotions created by the human experience and is vital to teach us to give voice to our deepest hurts, our deepest regrets, and our deepest sorrows.
Following David’s model, write your own Psalm, keeping in mind your own situation as you give expression to the pain in your heart.
ie: Oh God, I need your mercy, this distress makes me weak and I just want to sleep all the time. I can’t see anything good in my life, it’s all been pointless. Because of slanderous tongues, no one wants to be around me. Those who were my friends have turned their faces away from me and have forgotten me. I’m so lonely; I’ve been tossed aside like a broken dish. It seems as though people are plotting against me and conspiring to damage my reputation. But God I trust in you, because you are my God.
Commit to reading 5 Psalms per day to read through the entire book in 30 days and pay attention to the emotions and trust expressed there.