Grief Is Worship

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
    who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
    my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
    I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
    Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
    your faithfulness in Destruction?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
    or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
    and hide your face from me?

15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
    I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
    your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
    they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend.

Regarding this Psalm, Walter Brueggeman wrote, “the pastoral value of such a psalm in that there are situations in which easy, cheap talk of resolution must be avoided. Here are words not to be used frequently, but for the limited experiences when words must be honest and not claim too much.”

The presence of such grief in Scripture – in the middle of the Bible’s worship/hymn book – tells us that God does not condemn our grief, God is not put off by our grief, and that God hears honest expressions of the depths of our pain as expressions of worship. We cry out in suffering because things are not as they should be. In those dark moments, we come closest to understanding and sharing how God feels about human misery, fallenness, and sin. Our lament concurs that God made a good world that is now broken. Our grief points to the wrongness of death and separation, the longing for eternity and resurrection that must be true in a world made good by a God who specializes in redeeming broken things. Psalms teaches us that this longing is worship. Not that it can be made into worship. Not that we need to redirect it into worship – but that it is worship, perhaps the deepest, truest form.

Game Changers

16914548-mmmainYesterday I wrote about the hard work it takes to get started and stay with a new exercise program – whether it is physical or spiritual in nature. Many times real change is incremental and the result of hard work.

But not always. Sometimes real change happens in an instant. Exercise is one way to improve our physical health. Taking medicine or having surgery are other, more immediate means to the same goal.
The same is also true in spiritual/relational/social aspects of our lives. As I said yesterday, people really can change. And sometimes we can pivot on a dime and go in a different direction. Miracles do happen both physical and spiritual.
I think many times these go together – the long slow work and the game changer – and are deeply interrelated. The last Super Bowl turned on several game changers, none more memorable than the interception at the end. Malcolm Butler came out of nowhere to intercept what looked like a sure game winning catch. Impossible, ridiculous play. And also exactly what they prepared for in practice, where Butler admitted to blowing his coverage. He learned from the mistake made during the long slow work of practice and was thus ready for the game changer.
Let’s keep doing the hard work and keep hope in a game changer. Things can turn slowly or in a flash or sometimes both.