I don’t know about you, but I am COVID-tired. I am tired of wearing a mask and seeing the partial faces of others behind the mask. I am tired of Zoom and only being able to connect with others virtually. I am tired of hearing about germs and illness and death. I long for fullness of life.
We were not created for life like this. We were created for relationship – relationship with God and community with one another. We were created for dominion over our corner of the earth. We were created for life and beauty and truth and trust. This is hard! What do we do?
I think back to the phrase, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?”. Where is it? It’s Psalm 42. This psalm begins with, “As the deer pants and longs for the water brooks, so I pant and long for You, O God. My inner self thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’.”
Here is the context of Psalm 42. It is written by the Chief Musician while Israel was in exile. One of the first things that the Chief Musician does in this psalm is he REMEMBERS. Here is what he remembers: “These things I [vividly] remember as I pour out my soul; How I used to go along before the great crowd of people and lead them in procession to the house of God [like a choirmaster before his singers timing the steps to the music and the chant of the song], with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a great crowd keeping a festival.” Even as he is remembering, he is also POURING OUT HIS SOUL. “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become restless and disturbed within me?” Very quickly the Chief Musician falls back on something that is planted deeply in him and something he ALREADY KNOWS. “Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” Again the psalmist pours out his soul,”O my God, my soul is in despair within me [the burden is more than I can bear]”. And again he goes back to remember Jerusalem from where they had been exiled: “Therefore I will [fervently] remember You from the land of the Jordan and the peaks of [Mount]Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the [thundering] sound of Your waterfalls. Notice that his emotions are struggling as he fervently remembers. He is fighting to do this. He pours out his soul yet again: “All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.” What does he already know? “Yet the Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song will be with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to the God of my life, (as he once again goes to pouring out his soul), “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As a crushing of my bones [with a sword], my adversaries taunt me, while they say continually to me, ‘Where is your God?’. Why are you in despair, O my soul? Why have you become restless and disquieted within me?” The Chief Musician finishes his psalm with his same refrain, “Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”
As you can tell from this psalm and for our edification, this is coming before God in turmoil. The psalmist is all over the place. He is fighting to do what he knows he should do. Yet his emotions are overwhelming him. He is honest before God. He is confident before God that he is loved and accepted and not condemned. He can be honest, encourage himself with memories of where God has acted before, and come back to the truths that he knows about the character of God and praise Him for Who He is.
Where does this attitude and posture before God take us? Hopefully we can come to the place where we can rest in God. We see this posture so beautifully in Psalm 131:
Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child [resting] with his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me [composed and freed from discontent]. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.
To myself and to all of us, O Church, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever!