I’d like to introduce you to a girl named Self, “myself” to be more specific.
For so many years, Self has fought to put into words what she felt, the suffering she’s faced and the agony of shame that has weighed her down. You know how Pastor Jay refers to our “backpacks?” Well, Self’s backpack is loaded with bricks that have caused much heartache.
When Self was a child, she watched her mother’s body break down and give way to the ravaging of cancer. Many a time, Self tells me, did the ambulance come to whisk her mother away to the hospital. And through it all, her mother clung faithfully to the words she found in Psalm 42:1-2:
As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
After hearing Pastor Jay’s sermon on Psalm 42-43, Self understood more fully what that must have meant to her mother.
“In high school,” Self recounts struggling to say the words, “I was raped by a classmate on the way home from a band trip. I remember staring up into the sky longing for God, begging for God to see me. My heart died that night.”
Self has struggled to come to grips with what she had gone through. She blamed God, fought to rid herself of Him and allowed her heart to pursue any and every other religious curiosity that came before her.
Self tells of how she unexpectedly lost her dad. “I remember that phone call. The nurse was on the line, and told me, ‘Your dad is here at the hospital and would like to talk to you.’ My heart stopped. After hanging up the phone, I went outside, fell to the ground and screamed. It’s all I could do.” Self woke up the next morning after losing him, and got on her knees. Self knew she needed the Lord; she needed HIM to be HER FATHER! She couldn’t do this life without him any longer!”
Self went to the hospital, opened her Bible to the Psalms and read the first one she came to – Psalm 121.
“I read it over my father’s body as the life support machines were turned off. I read it to myself burning these words into my heart and fighting to trust that they were, that they are, true.”
I lift up my eyes to the hills.Psalm 121
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
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 forth and forevermore.
Self met the Psalms that day. Self met the Lord that day. Self was given a chance at a beautiful redemptive story that day and she never looked back, but Self needed to come to find healing from what she had been through.
Praise the Lord, He brought Self to a counselor who read Psalm 18 over her, asking her to just hear those precious words.
At first, Self butted against the words. They were vinegar on her tongue, a terribly unpleasant agitation of words in her ear.
The Lord is my Rock, my fortress, my deliverer…
I am saved from my enemies.
Not in the least. But her ears held fast to the assignment to listen.
The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
“Yes, yes that was me! That was what I felt,” Self proclaimed! And as the Psalm was read over her – oh, the sweet love, justice, and mercy of the Lord poured out from the Psalm and washed over her like a balm.
Listen well and drink deeply these words that follow such grief and suffering. David writes:
In my distress I called upon the Lord;Psalm 18:4-19
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
Self now knew how God responded to her pain through all those heart breaking moments. She saw His reaction of powerful love poured out over this psalmist and knew that this was also for her! She experienced deep compassion and care. She saw a RIGHTEOUS ANGER, a DEFENDER of the WEAK. She saw God’s just hand moving mountains to reach her. She found His beautiful healing within this Psalm, because he delights in her.
This grief, the suffering, the anguish of death, these things are REAL, but she’s slowly painfully learning to lean into God through the help of the Psalms. They’ve given her freedom to express the deep sorrow, the pain, and the reality that life is HARD, our world is broken, and yet she is able to press into the shelter of God’s wings.
Mightier than the thunders of the waves, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD ON HIGH IS MIGHTY! Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore.Psalm 93:4
May we look to Christ and acknowledge that suffering, anguish, shame and pain are real struggles, that HE faced! And with His help, we can walk through these trials, too. May our souls thirst for the Living God as we seek restoration and healing through the blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Praise the Lord for the Psalms. Praise the Lord for His restorative power!