And so, the psalmist who wrote Psalm 13 expresses his heartfelt concerns to God. I don’t know about you, but I have certainly experienced times when the words of this psalm seemed very relevant to me or to a friend’s situation and I asked “How long, O Lord?” I remember once when a few of us spent time with a friend who was experiencing a difficult time and the emotions as expressed by the psalmist in this psalm seemed very appropriate. Our friend was in bondage to an addiction that was keeping him from living a normal life. He desperately wanted to be faithful to God but felt like, no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t break free from this addiction and in tears he and we cried out to God with the words of this psalm.
“How long, O Lord…how long?”
So very relevant, just like it was written for that very person.
Incredible really, considering that this psalm was written maybe 3000 years ago!
These lament psalms testify to the truth that God, then and now, is not only interested in our healing and deliverance but also in our pain. Our God, who is good and in whom we can trust, is moved by the heart-felt cries of his people.
Broyles notes that the lament psalms exhibit a “realistic faith, one that is bluntly honest with the realities of life…[a faith] that takes the promises of God seriously…it realises the gap between God’s promises and human experience, and believes this [discord] should be presented to God for him to resolve…they are based ultimately on promise and not doubt. They acknowledge something is wrong and believe God can put it right…the prayer psalms exhibit faith under the most contrary circumstances.” (see references # 4)
But then, what does it mean for God to “resolve…put it right” as Broyles says? What did he resolve or put right in the life of Mark Buchanan? In fact, it seems that what he did was enable him to go through his ‘winter’ and come through with a new perspective on life and God, maybe a little better prepared for the next time of difficulty and maybe with a new appreciation of the ‘summer’ seasons of his life.
In his Book called “The Silence of Adam – Becoming Men of Courage in a World of Chaos”, Dr Larry Crabb suggests that we (specifically talking to those of us in Western culture) are “caught up with everything but finding God. It is more beneficial to use Christ than to know him. We use him to make ourselves feel better, to develop a plan for making life work, to keep hoping that we’ll get everything we think we need to be happy. We rarely worship him.”
He then tells the story of “an 84 year old man” who talked to him after a Bible conference and said, “Five years ago my wife died after 51 years of a good marriage. I cannot express the pain that I feel every morning as I drink my coffee at the kitchen table alone. I have begged God to relieve the terrible loneliness I feel. He has not answered my prayer. The ache in my heart has not gone away. But, God has given me something far better than relief of my pain…he has given me a glimpse of Christ. And it’s worth it all. Whenever you preach, make much of Christ!”
“How sad that we spend our energy fixing problems, boosting self-esteem, recovering from shame, overcoming anger, and finding ways to be delivered from spiritual bondage. None of these things are wrong in themselves [of course], but they must be the outgrowth of a fascination with Christ. A fascination with Christ changes the way we do everything.”
Larry Crabb, speaking to men, but just as applicable to women, says this:
“[My understanding] of spiritual manhood [womanhood] has more to do with continuing to function in spite of difficulties than with successfully overcoming them. I believe that God’s Spirit is less interested in telling us how to get our lives together and more concerned with stirring – in the middle of our ongoing difficulties – our passion for Christ.
Rather than solving our problems, he more often uses them to unsettle us, to make us less sure of how life works, to provoke us to ask the hard questions we’re terrified to ask, to surface the stubborn doubts and ugly demands that keep us distant from Christ. I don’t believe the Bible provides a plan for making life work as we think it should. I think it offers a reason to keep on going even when life doesn’t work that way.”
Crabb talks about being “more drawn to the mystery of life than its predictability”. Of course, “some parts of life are orderly and manageable [and] where life can be managed, it should be managed well”. But Crabb suggests that “the most important parts of life, those parts that make up what Christianity is all about, seem to me more mysterious than manageable…There are simply no formulas to follow in handling the things that matter most”. He also suggests that “God designed it that way, not to frustrate or discourage, but to call something out of us that he has already put in us, something that is realised when we abandon ourselves to him in the midst of mystery”.
He continues that “spiritual manhood [womanhood] involves the courage to keep on moving – in the middle of overwhelming confusion – towards relationships. But the movement may not always mean success, in the way we define success, not even victory, but moving anyway, the kind of movement that only a passionate, consuming, Spirit-directed fascination with Christ can produce. And that is true victory.” (see references # 24)
I wonder if Mark Buchanan could identify with Crabb? Remember his words: “I don’t romanticize this time. It was hard and bleak, and I was happy to bid it good riddance. But it taught me something I’ll need again, [that] ‘even the darkness is not dark to [God]’ (Psalm 139:12)”
And what about the psalmist? Would he be able to identify with Crabb’s words? We shall look at this question next.