In case you missed it, I just began a series based on the How People Change group study I’m involved in at my church. Last week we laid the foundation, focusing on the need, Person, and tools of change. It was pretty general, not too intense. This week however, the study turned personal as we took a hard look at the circumstances that are constantly exerting pressure on our everyday lives.
Heat – the situations, burdens, pressures, joys, hardships, temptations, responsibilities, opportunities, and pains that stretch and challenge us.
That’s where we camped out this week. And it was no picnic.
Sure, sitting down in a circle of woman and gushing about all that’s hard and painful in your life may sound pretty natural, easy, refreshing even. But when you consider that those woman sitting around you are sharing more than just bad weather reports, more than just bumps and bruises – they’re giving you a front row seat into all that makes their hearts ache – you will find that mere platitudes and band-aids don’t have any place.
Our hearts and minds wrestled with these situations we’ve been called to, the lack of resolution to our stories, the absence of healing for our wounds. “Why?” was asked and answers sometimes not given . . . because there was no clear, satisfying answer.
We poured over Psalm 88 and found comfort there. At first, it seemed like a strange Psalm to be comforted by. The author’s distress is uncomfortably apparent, almost awkwardly so. And, uncharacteristic of most Psalms, he doesn’t end on a “happy” note. He doesn’t write of his return to a joy in God’s goodness and salvation, abandonment by his friends being his final complaint.
And yet, this Psalm is addressed to “God, the one who saves me.” The author, though in pain and full of despair, knows his God’s identity. He is the Deliverer.
You see worship does not always take the position of hands lifted high with a strong, clear voice rejoicing. No, worship is often postured with head bowed, heart sinking, hands clinging, mouth whispering, voice shaking. Worship does not cease to be worship, truth does not become lies, just because emotions have turned from confident hallelujahs into struggling hosannas.
Faith is not expressionless! It is not stoic in the face of great loss or daily weariness. Faith weeps as it looks at the resolutionless story that is your life and presses forward to the promised, ultimate resolution of Christ. Even though you may not be able to reconcile the fact that you know a God who saves, but Who hasn’t delivered you from pain, you have a hope that one day all things will be made new, that there will be an end to these trials we face.
Beautifully, Psalm 88, though something our hearts can relate to in the middle of our junk, is ultimately Christ’s Psalm. On the cross he cried out with the very same pain, greater pain actually. Initially there seemed to be no tidy, jump-up-and-down, heart-thrilling ending to his agony either. He died!
But – resurrection did come, wounds were healed, hope was restored.
So as we sat there, watching the hurt well up in each other’s eyes, we rejoiced in our ultimate hope and didn’t try to haphazardly throw a band-aid over the ugly mess. Sometimes wounds need to be left open for a while. We do the person a disservice when we try to force the hurt closed with quick fixes and clichés. Healing done right takes time. Otherwise the wound becomes infected with all kind of bitterness and pride.
Instead one lady wisely asked us to consider, “What does freedom look like for you?” Because this Psalm does free us. It frees us to worship honestly, to hope confidently, and to mourn appropriately. But what does freedom from this “heat” look like in our minds? And how does that vision line up with God’s?
“Psalm 88 is an invitation to honest and authentic faith in the face of [heat] . . . We can come out of hiding with our struggles, and when we do, we will find that God already knows and understands.”