Goodbye Ordinary

I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us. Isaiah 63:7

Crying out to God October 23, 2012

Filed under: Faith,Grief — Lori @ 11:09 am

Psalm 88

English Standard Version

I Cry Out Day and Night Before You

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1 O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!

For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
    my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.

I have observed an interesting phenomenon in my Christian life.  When I have been in really hard places and suffering through a trial, I have spoken my questions, my pain, my fight for trust – and it seems to really disturb some people.  I am an honest and forthright person.  I don’t hide a whole lot about what I am thinking or feeling.  I have tried to learn to measure my words and only share those words at the right times and with the right people, but when our son died, I was in so much pain and felt so alone that I couldn’t keep from sharing my pain.  I find myself in a similar place of despair, although not nearly as deep and dark,  now with the issues with Levi.

What I think disturbs people is that they automatically assume that you are losing your faith in God.  They don’t think you should be speaking about doubt.  But the psalmists didn’t worry about that.  They shared their hearts with God – their doubts, their pain, how they felt alone and without comfort.  Does that seem like they are challenging or questioning God?  In a way, maybe they were.  But, the point is they KNEW they could say those things and they bothered to say them in the first place, because they did have complete faith that God was listening and in control.

Psalm 88 is a psalm that is completely a lament.  There is no praise, there is no resolution (as in most psalms).  He does state in verse 1 that God is his salvation.  There is trust as he speaks even though he does not see a resolution to his problems.

Our church read through the Psalms for worship and on the day we read Psalm 88 I was tempted to skip it.  However, I read some commentaries and came to understand the place that this psalm has in our Christian lives.  In James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on the Psalms, he writes:

“It is good to have a psalm like this, but it is also good that we have only one.  It reminds us that life is filled with trouble, even to the point of despair, even for mature believers.  Psalm 88 is an inspired writer, after all.  He is identified as Heman the Ezrahite, one of the “Sons of Korah”.

In speaking of Christian literature and why there is so little outstanding Christian literature he concluded, “..that is because we are not enough true to life.  Christians feel that in order to be Christian a composition has to work out right in the end and that there has to be a clear lesson or moral.  Psalm 88 is a reminder that life is not always like that.  There may be a perfectly good moral from God’s point of view; I believe that all life does have a divine purpose.  But that does not necessarily mean that we can see it or that it will ever become clear in our lifetimes.”

I am reading a book entitled, “How People Change” by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp.  They include a chapter that mentions Psalm 88 and its purpose.  They also remind the reader that this psalm is inspired by God.  They ask if it bothers you that there is no resolution in the psalm and wonder if you can think of any good you can get from reading it.  They list five things we can gain from it, but I will include my favorite three:

God understands the full range of human experience, from supreme joy to crushing sorrow.

God’s honesty about these experiences invites me to be honest about the things I face.  Biblical Christianity is never blind or stoic in its reaction to life.

Going to God with my despair, doubt, and fear is an act of faith.  Psalm 88 reminds me to run to God in desperate moments, not away from him.

I have often thought that because Kevin and I have been through such a tremendously dark and painful time in our life that we have a different perspective than many Christians who have not dealt with something that rocks you to your core.  You are able to look back and see that even in the times when you felt the most alone and forsaken – that was not the case.  That was precisely the time that the Lord was carrying you and providing for you the most.  There is a nearness you feel to the Lord through dark and troubling trials that is not experienced in everyday life.  However, we didn’t always recognize it at the time.  Your pain can cloud your perception while you are in it.

So, if you have a believing friend who is speaking their doubts, fears, confusion, sorrow, and helplessness and yet crying out to God – do not worry about them.  You can encourage them and pray for them and remind them, as a special friend did for me, that Jesus is our Great High Priest and understands our pain and is praying for us.  But, be careful not to judge them or assume they have lost faith in God.

Life is not neat and tidy.  Every trial does not have a good resolution.  Sometimes there are lessons we need to learn and ways that the Lord wants to grow us that can only happen through these difficulties.  My prayer is always that I would have eyes to see the Lord’s work on this earth, ears to hear what the Lord wants to teach me and most importantly that He would be glorified through it.


3 Responses to “Crying out to God”

  1. Steffan Says:

    Love it. Great stuff. Christians, especially in our western society, are just, quite frankly, horrible with suffering and grief. Assumption #2 in Cloud and Townsend’s “Twelve Christian Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy” is “If I’m spiritual enough, I will have no pain or sinfulness.” That’s a book I can highly recommend because it addresses commonly held “Christian beliefs” which are, in fact, incredibly toxic and harmful to the real-to-life and authentic Christian’s journey. I actually just wrote an article for my college’s newspaper which is very similar to your blog post here. I just posted it to my blog so I could give you a way to read it:

    Going to God with our fears, doubts and despair is indeed an act of faith! It’s sad that our fellow Christians do not often feel the same way. There are several reasons for this I believe, some of which I mentioned in my article. One is that we feel more pressure as followers of Jesus to live up to a certain standard (whatever we deem that to be and experience guilt when we don’t). Another is that we feel like we have to make Jesus out to be this kind of fix-everything-in-my-life kind of guy in order to have any evangelistic success. We want to appear to others like this whole “Christian thing” is “working for us.” But anyways.. thought I’d drop ya a note. 🙂

  2. Lori Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Steffan. It means a lot to me that you took the time. I appreciated all you had to say and really enjoyed your article. Thanks for giving me the link.

  3. Janine Says:

    Sheesh, people! I am tempted to be indignant for you, but I know that is a waste of time!

    When I watch you lead worship, I KNOW you are not losing your faith. I look at you and think, ‘This woman has been down in that valley and she struggles (sometimes mightly, I am sure) but she is standing there still singing praises to God’,and we don’t sing wishy-washy, 7/11 songs neither! Everytime, I am moved to tears contemplating this, this faith despite everything, so I don’t think about it for long or I will cry the whole of worship!

    “My prayer is always that I would have eyes to see the Lord’s work on this earth, ears to hear what the Lord wants to teach me and most importantly that He would be glorified through it.”

    I know this to be the true cry of your heart even through the questions, pain, doubt and darkness and this glorifies God, (the whole purpose of our lives) and we can do no other.
    See you tomorrow
    Love, Janine

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