According to the “Beyond Blue” website “Three million Australians are living with anxiety or depression.” https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Now, although you may not be in that statistic, most of us have had our “bad days”. Those times when the motivation to get up in the morning and get moving is just not there. Whatever the reason, and sometimes the reasons are not always obvious, these types of days are tough and if they go on for a number of days, it may be time to get help.
Our next psalm was written by someone having one of those bad days (or maybe weeks or even months). Listen to some of his words of despair:
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
Ever felt like this? I certainly have at times.
“All who have known the enveloping pressure of a dark mood can be grateful for the candour of this fellow-sufferer, but also for his courage. The memories which at first brought only tormenting comparisons…” (# 29)
Presently I am reading an interesting book and would recommend it. It is called “The Good and Beautiful God – falling in love with the God Jesus knows” by James Bryan Smith (IVP 2009). The author considers the attributes of God such as his goodness, trustworthiness, generosity, love, holiness, self-giving and his power to transform our lives. To do this he looks at the life and teaching of Jesus as his source.
The psalmist, despite his troubles (and we are not told what they were specifically), also believed in these attributes of God mentioned above, and here lies the tension. Because, the events of his life seemed to contradict all that he believed about God, and all that he had ever been taught about Him. And so, he asks some very confronting questions. Below (verses 7-9) is the list of attributes he had always believed belonged to the God to whom he cried out:
His promised presence in all circumstances (Deuteronomy 31:6 “the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”). And yet, he asks:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
His promise of blessings and favour (Proverbs 12:2 and 3:34 “Good people obtain favour from the Lord” and God “shows favour to the humble and oppressed”). And yet, he asks:
Will he never show his favour again?
His unfailing love (Exodus 15:13 “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed”). And yet, he asks:
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
God’s faithfulness to keep his promises to his people (Lamentations 3:23 “great is your faithfulness”). And yet, he asks:
Has his promise failed for all time?
God’s mercy (2 Samuel 24:14 “David said…’Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great’”). And yet, he asks:
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
His great compassion (Exodus 34:6 “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”). And yet, he asks:
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
Broyles suggests that “These lonely musings yield pain and longing, leaving the speaker sleepless, speechless and lost in nostalgia. Verses 7-9 express questions that would otherwise be unthinkable…They are presented as private musings and thus as real questions. What is most haunting about them is that they probe the ultimate and final cessation of all that is good in God…The attributes mentioned [being] central to Yahweh’s character…” (# 4)
Here, it seems, lies the heart of the problem. The psalmist is doubting all that he once believed about the goodness of God. Certainly a “dark mood” as Kidner puts it, until he makes the important decision to remember…consider…meditate (verses 10-12), which we will consider in my next Post.
Even Jesus experienced something of what could be called a “dark mood”. It was in the garden called Gethsemane, where Matthew tells us that Jesus began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to [the disciples], “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death… he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:37-39)
The difference between the psalmist and Jesus is explained by Thomas Smail (in “The Forgotten Father”) as quoted in “The Good and Beautiful God”:
“The Father that Jesus addresses in the garden is the one that he has known all his life and found to be bountiful in his provision, reliable in his promises and utterly faithful in his love. He can obey the will that sends him to the cross, with hope and expectation because it is the will of Abba whose love has been so proved that it can now be trusted so fully by being obeyed so completely. This is not legal obedience driven by commandment, but trusting response to known love.” (Page 65)
Abba, Father, when I encounter a dark mood in my life, help me to respond by saying, ‘Jesus trusted his Abba, and I will also trust in the God I know to be good.’ (Smith) Amen.