Sometimes all the assurances in the world won't undo that feeling of uncertainty or shakiness. Often, the best prayer is not the prettiest or the most eloquent: it's the grittiest, messiest, most gut-wrenching...
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.
1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger, or discipline me in your wrath. 2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror. 3 My soul also is struck with terror, while you, O LORD — how long?
4 Turn, O LORD, save my life; deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love. 5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who can give you praise?
6 I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. 7 My eyes waste away because of grief; they grow weak because of all my foes.
8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. 9 The LORD has heard my supplication; the LORD accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror; they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.
I'm not going to beat you over the head with any mind-blowing revelation this morning. I don't want to embed in your psyche some new mantra that will radically revamp your theology. Instead, I want to give you — us — some permission...
...permission to cry. permission to weep and sob. permission to be angry, to feel abandoned and left alone. permission to ask questions and to doubt. permission to yell, and scream, and curse, and throw things at walls (I emphasize things, not people). belt at the top of your lungs, "Hasa Diga Ebowai" (if you have any friends who love modern Broadway musicals, ask them to translate this for you)...
These two Psalms are a good coupling of lament and admiration. We see several components: trust, hope, testimony, promise, confidence, questions, certainty, doubt, clarity, and much more. They're pretty pieces of poetry, these few stanzas. And a baseline reading of them would tell us that, even if all is not currently well for their writer(s), all will be well in the coming future.
But I want to read them another way: "Preach faith until you have it, and when you have it, you'll preach it." These are the [paraphrased] words from Peter Böhler to John Wesley upon the latter's arrival in England from his mission voyage to America, a project that indubitably flopped. Wesley was frustrated, saddened, scared, angry, and a whole host of other emotions. He lost his faith. I imagine these might have been a couple of the passages he turned to for comfort and guidance.
The last couple of weeks have been hard ones for me. I haven't been sleeping well. It's been hard to maintain my healthier eating habits. I miss my family and my partner. I'm frustrated with not having a car in this never-ceasing winter. And as much as I love my friends, a text, a phone call, a Skype chat — these things haven't served very well to make me feel connected or confident in my relationships, in my worth or value to the people I love.
Some days, I just want someone to be with me, to sit next to me on the couch, in pajamas just like I'm wearing, look me in the face, and without words, remind me that I am loved and that it will all be okay. Most importantly, I want to be reminded that, even when things are hard, sad, frustrating, infuriating, or worse, I won't be left alone. I won't be abandoned. I won't be pushed to the wayside. Instead, I want assurance that I will be kept and that I will be heard. That I will be held, and that I am loved.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.
You are kept. You are heard. You are held. You are loved.
**If you want to follow along with the devotional lectionary I’ll be using for this series, you can find it here via Pittsburgh Theological Seminary**
photo credit: Aaron Gilson (via Flickr)