Day 124—Gray and Rainy—“Heart Cries” Psalms 13 – 16
May 4, 2021, 10:06 AM

Day 124—Gray and Rainy—“Heart Cries” Psalms 13 – 16

A reflection on Psalm 13

Such a day. Rain and cold and clouds. The house itself is dim and we still need to turn on the heat, which is a great disappointment in May. If we didn’t, we would freeze and pretend it was ok, that we didn’t mind, that the cold was bearable. Even in May, with the sureness of warmth and sun ahead, the cold is not bearable. We clicked on the heat, and now we are warmer.

Psalm 13 is a lamentation, one of my favorite stylistic methods of psalm. Why do I love lamentation when I am a person of inveterate, impossible, unreasonable joy? Because co-existing with joy, my heart is always broken, too. Broken by the way the world seems to ignore suffering, broken by personal losses, broken by my own inabilities to do the things God has asked of me, broken by the difficulties of planet Earth when my heart compares this place to paradise and to eternal time with God, broken when I compare the hardness of reality in our own culture where too many children do not have enough to eat, or safe places to sleep, or clean clothes to wear, with the eventual reconciliation of all who believe in Jesus and in the final falling away of suffering and fear and want.

Today, a rainy, bone-cold day, I read Psalm 13 over and over: How long, O Lord? The pure honesty of that line is one I have heard many times. A good friend in his 90’s says to me “Why am I still here? Why won’t God take me now?” A young widow, too young by far, thinks about taking her own life because she can’t bear being here without the one she loves. Those of us suffering through various parts of this pandemic have said these words over and over and over again—how long? How long are we going to have to…hear about the death of those who had Covid?…have to wear masks?...stay away from our loved ones in nursing homes?...stay away from our own grandchildren or grandparents?

I have said that I can bear anything if I know it is going to end, but I want to know that it IS going to end. Grief. Illness. And in King David’s case, enemies who come up against him to fight and kill his soldiers, who come to take his possessions or his people into captivity. What a perfect prayer: How long? I get a physical picture of this 2-word prayer by visualizing a person rocking back and forth in emotional or spiritual or physical agony, tears or anger or helplessness in the picture as well. If only we knew how long, wouldn’t it all be so much more bearable?

The end of this psalm is a bit too neat for the raggedness of the opening in my opinion. So quickly the psalmist—and we believe it is King David—is able to turn his lamentation into celebration and trust. I’m not actually that good, I have to say. My crabby lamentations can last for days or weeks, and I can even have ‘cheap’ lamentation—“Oh, poor me! God you have given me so much to deal with in my little life. How long will you make me to suffer the slings and arrows of this difficult and challenging existence?” (You really should read that last sentence out loud with great drama, and some flouncing around if possible, because it is both dramatic and cheap lamentation.)

But as a reader, I am consoled by the ending. While my own lamentations may not be so quickly resolved, the role of faith, trust and love are foundational to serving God, and to seeing a vision beyond my small world, my individual suffering, my own problems. Faith, trust and love, in fact, are foundational to my lamentation on behalf of others as well.

I don’t stay in lamentation for long, though. The rejoicing of the psalmist reminds me that we are sometimes the solution to the lamentation in our families and our communities. Our joy matters! Our ability to continue on and to serve despite a broken heart speaks volumes and, through the mercy of God, allows us to serve others with whom, and for whom, we lament.

At my little church in upstate NY, we lament over hunger. We are the Food Church and our goal is to feed people. The difficult stories from our Food Pantry and meal guests never stop no matter how many hungry people we feed, and these stories continue to make us lament, and yet these stories also give us fuel for the journey and hard work of sharing joy in the midst of lament.

So lament may be our cry, but as another psalm will tell us, Psalm 30:5, joy comes in the morning, maybe not the actual morning, but perhaps after mourning itself, however long that lasts; or after illness, however long it takes to recuperate; or perhaps it refers to eternal rejoicing in the company of God and his angels—and oh yes, there will be joy on that day!!!!

For today, on this shiver-cold gray day, I will sing to the Lord, I will rejoice in his salvation, but I will not neglect to lament as I need to, as my always-broken heart may dictate.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML

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