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)

Naked and Not Ashamed

CC BY-NC, Vetustense Photorogue, Flickr
CC NC, Vetustense Photorogue, Flickr

In despair I thought, I am the exception to the grace of God. It slipped from my heart so gently and disgusted me on reflection, but I cannot deny it. Discouragement was fighting hard to get its paltry grip around me; thankfully, I prevailed over it.

I love the Lord and try hard to guard my thoughts and the words I speak about myself and the course of my life. I don’t want to offend him, the one who acts providentially for me. I understand that he deeply loves me, and my narrow assumptions may be discourteous to him. He cares for me better than I care for myself.

Then, I discovered David’s own testimony: “In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’” (Ps. 31:22) This is the man after God’s own heart expressing the same unglamorous thought I had. In verse seven, however, he makes a keen observation: “You have known my soul in adversities” (NKJV). This thought consoles me.

We Hurt and That’s Okay

It can be quite contemptible to bear your soul, even to God. I would like to insist that I love the Lord perfectly and never have doubts; that I never struggle with his words or instructions; that I take it in stride when he stands in the shadows and isn’t apparently working for me.

But I am not that guy.

Nevertheless, I have learned that he is not offended by my limitations and brokenness. His opinion doesn’t change about me because I don’t have it together. Moreover, in his acceptance, I gain the freedom to not worry about how others perceive me. I don’t have to appear strong so everyone can think well of me and assume my spiritual fitness.

I hurt at times. I doubt. I freak out searching for God. I get angry with him and wonder why the process cannot be easier. I grow forlorn that things won’t turn out well. All of this is what David means when he says, “You have known my soul…”

Trusting in the Divine Aid

Hear me carefully: God’s love and acceptance is not an excuse for sulking and forgetting our spiritual heritage in Christ. Instead, it frees us to be what we are—human—and fully so. Thereby our burdens and pains are employed to develop character in us by the skillful hand of God.

Also, we must not forget that Christ assumed our humanity and, with it, secured our freedom, and, now retaining it, he who represented God to us now represents us to God.

David continues: “You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place” (v. 8). Those who trust in the Lord can have confidence that the fears and doubts will not hem them in.

I can be sure that I have never been the exception to God’s grace. He will always give me room to fight and conquer every mental foe and dark power that assails me. God’s power is perfected in my weakness.