Cries of the Heart

CC BY, sylvain.collet, Flickr
CC BY, sylvain.collet, Flickr

“In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’” (Psalm 31:22)

The psalmists confess what many of us won’t: that we don’t have it all together.

Have you ever read Psalms—I mean really read it? It has to be the most relatable book in the Bible. I am floored by the range of emotions we see from these God-fearers, their intimacy and sincerity, their indignation and rage.

And I love it. It makes me feel a little more normal when I’m stressed or tempted or miffed with God.

Peering Into Our Hearts

The tones of cheer and praise in Psalms are as obvious for the dark and gloomy ones that ensue. In Psalm 42, for instance, we detect signs of the speaker’s depression and frustrated search for God: “I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me?’” (v. 9). I love the nuances and implications that often arise from a text because they add color and depth to a scene and teach us by training our eyes on the unapparent. One thing I learn from Psalms is to really understand myself, how I respond to circumstance, how to feel and manage my emotions, how to submit them to God.

It’s important because what we can fail to notice is how impacted our emotions are by events and circumstances, the stress of them, although they may not be critical at all. You see, it’s the emotional aspect of our lives that often waylays us. Situations can be handled—we pray to God for as much—but we, the caretakers of our souls, are slow to anticipate and prepare ourselves for the emotional toll that can follow.

We never thought our circumstance would cause us to make rash decisions or to become temperamental. We didn’t expect to be crept upon by a sneaky depression. We surprised ourselves with our excesses, blinded by pleasure and glee.

Our emotions will trip us and Satan…well he watches unguarded doors.

Healing Our Souls

We’ve witnessed too many times of late the tragic consequences of people living life bottled up. It is necessary to acknowledge our feelings and give them healthy expression; it is also important to share our feelings with others.

I reject the triumphalist spirituality that suggests I keep happy and overcoming, or that it’s a sin or faithlessness for me to feel pain or experience sorrow. I also reject those on the opposite end, the hill climbers, whose faith only identifies with plight. They seem to start every conversation with “Hey, bro, what are you struggling with?”

I haven’t quoted a bunch of scriptures here, or said Jesus twenty times, yet this might be the most freeing news for some people, Christians included. We don’t lose our faith because we agonize; we just must not let pain cause us to lose our contentment in God.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Ps. 42:11)

14 thoughts on “Cries of the Heart

  1. I like how you bring balance between the triumphalists and chronic strugglers. Amen. Both are not helpful. We, as humans, need to process grief and sorrow, be able to pour our heart out to God, yet not live in that grief. One time when I was a teenager (long, long ago!), I was at a wake with my mother and asked her, why do we have wakes? It seems so pointless to me. She said so that people can process their grief amongst their loved ones and find comfort and eventual healing. That was an “aha” moment that always stuck with me; especially, now as a pastor. Even from a teen perspective, my mom was pretty smart that day. 🙂

    One more point on balance. Jesus was a man “acquainted with sorrows,” but He didn’t live there. And you’ll notice that the psalms often begin with sorrow, complaints, fears, but end in praise. I love that quote in Psalm 42…come on, soul, get with it!

    Great post! Blessings.

    • Pardon my phrasing, but that’s a “delicious” comment (maybe because I’m cooking right now!) 😀 I love the wake illustration. And I’m sure you have stories to tell from your pastoral work–both good ones and those of folk who have never properly grieved.

      I also like how you emphasize that we are not to linger in grief and sorrow…oh, and Jesus, acquainted with grief. Like you stated, balance is key. Yum! Delish! (Haha)

  2. Michael, you have hit a homerun with this one. Every experience and trial that we face is for our good and His glory. Believers are hit with as much as unbelievers, maybe more. Just like my daughter who is hooked on drugs. I never would have believed it could, or would, happen to me. You’re a winner Bub, even in a sombrero!!!

    • Oh, no. I recall you mentioning a wayward daughter and I prayed for her then. I had no idea it is drugs. I will continue to intercede for her. We trust in the Lord’s love for her. Thanks for the compliment, and methinks “Bub” and my sombrero aren’t going anywhere! 😉

  3. The Psalms is a treasure trove of uplifting lyrics but really, if we don’t read them all together, it is out of “life” context. To just pick out the joyous Psalms is to deny the hardships we, and the psalmist, face.
    Great post brother! “still praying”
    A Servant

  4. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

    We all will have times of scarcity and times of abundance. We all will have mountain top experiences and valleys full of sorrow. No matter what, God has given us the strength to be content with whatever life throws at us. Just like a child in trouble, it’s ok to cry out for help from our Father in times of need or to squeal with glee when we’re riding high.

    • Yes and I love your last line. That scripture is one that’s become special to me. I’ve written before that contentment doesn’t mean we’re satisfied with our conditions, but that we don’t let our conditions move us out of our rest and confidence in God. And I always emphasize how even Paul says “I have learned” this; it’s not instant. Very thought-provoking, thanks.

  5. No, we don’t have it all together. The Psalms are replete with emotions, showing us once again why we were given them. Thought-provoking post. Thank you.

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