Tuesday, April 8, 2014

psalm for the downcast (3)

Have you ever been burdened with sorrow or fear? You move through the world in a fog, and others' voices come to you as if from a distance. You wonder how they can be so carefree.

Sometimes, there's no lonelier place than a crowd.

I escape to solitude, grass below and a gum tree above. Twigs and bits of bark poke my legs. I stare at trees drawing lines on a slope striped with sun and shadow, a sky so lovely it hurts. I scribble words in my journal: "Oh, Father ...". It's good to write, but I want more.

How do you pray when your heart is heavy? Words seem inadequate. Hurt edges into bitterness. Perhaps the only word you can think of is "Help!" - and there are few better prayers. But you want more. You need, not your own words, but God's word. It has never felt so necessary.

I pull the Bible from my bag and open it to the psalms. I turn, not quite at random, to psalm 63 (someone once said it was helpful in times like this). I start reading a little earlier - psalm 61 will do. It astonishes me, as always, how the words give perfect shape to my need. I write them in my journal:
Hear my cry, O God.

From the ends of the earth I call to you.
I call as my heart grows faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O lord, are loving.
Two dot points form themselves in my mind:
  • he is strong
  • he is loving.
Those two things are all I need to know.

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(Excerpts are from Psalms 61-63.)

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