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Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Psalm for the Rest of Us: By Heman

If I'm honest, one of the things that frustrates me about the Bible is how it can be so hard to relate to. Burning bushes, parting seas, man-eating fish, and bread from heaven all make for awesome stories. But my life consists of burning toast, parting my daughter's hair, and bread from Safeway. I'm inspired by the miracles, moved by the stories of Christ, and even touched by angels (or at least the stories of them). My life, however, seems so much more...well, normal than that.

That's one of things that draws me to the Psalms. These songs are raw emotions of praise and pain, confidence and confession. These Psalms teach me how to pray and how to find trust amdist the daily grind of life. The Psalms express belief and trust in God in language that I often adopt for myself. Even when I am not feeling the same level of trust as the psalmists, I can speak their words in faith, "God, you are my Rock and my Redeemer."

But I recently ran across a Psalm that may be my new favorite. Psalm 88 starts out like this, "O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out to you by day, I come to you by night." So far, pretty typical stuff. The rest of the Psalm sounds like this:
My life is full of troubles...
I am as good as dead...
I am forgotten...
You have thrown me down to the lowest pits...
Your anger weighs me down...
You have driven my friends away...
My eyes are blinded by tears...
O Lord, why do you reject me...
Your terrors paralyze me...
You have taken away my companions...
My life really stinks and you God aren't helping...

Okay, I may have paraphrased that last one, but you get the gist. This is a lament; a man pouring out his heart to God. Now, typically we expect the Psalm to end with some rousing declaration of trust. We are accustomed to these Psalms ending with an "even yet will I trust you" kind of phrase. But for whatever reason, the author (his name is actually Heman) doesn't have it in him to go there. You know how our friend Heman ends?

Darkness is my closest friend.


Amen. End of Psalm. Nothing more. I can only imagine the awkward pause that must of followed the singing of this hymn in ancient Jerusalem.

By now, you might be thinking, "Didn't Nick say this was a new favorite? What kind of weird theology has entered into his brain to make this a favorite?" Fair enough. But here's where I am at. I like knowing that we can go to God, vent, complain and pour out our hearts. And at the end, we don't have to wrap it all up and sound spiritual. God doesn't need us to pander to him with half-hearted sentiments or veiled attempts at praise. To me, this Psalm grants you and I permission to go to God when life is crummy and not walk away expecting some instantaneous pick me up. It's an acknowledgement that sometimes life is hard and God doesn't have to show up and immediately fix my problems. This Psalm reminds me that it's okay to be real and that in some way, shape, or form, God appreciates the honesty.

So, maybe the most spiritual thing you could do today is vent. Tell God how you really feel. And if nothing happens, you can have peace knowing you join a long line of Heman's who have felt the same way. God still hears. God still records every word. And at some point, maybe in the next Psalm, the next day, or the next season, you will see His goodness and faithfulness again.

Until then, I'm glad to be on a journey of faith with other Hemans,

Nick