1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.[a]
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul[b] may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
(Psalm 30 NRSV)
Whew! That was rough. I never saw it coming. One minute I’m happy, fancy-free and having mountain-top experiences. Before I knew it, I was in a pit unable to get out.
I tried, though. God knows I tried. I dug and dug and couldn’t get out. The more I tried, the worse it became. On top of that, God was silent. Looking back I think God had decided to let me have my own control until I was ready to listen.
Was God angry at me? Perhaps. Disappointed? Undoubtedly. I can’t blame God, though. I was so wrapped up in myself and getting out of that hole, that I hardly noticed.
That’s when I cried out. Loud. Noisy. Gut-wrenching cries. God held me as I cried out my pain. Heartsick, disappointed in myself and angry. Angry with God. Angry more with myself. God held me through the night.
It was a long night. I still had to dig out, but this time I had wisdom from God. This time, I thought things through and found myself looking for grace in the turmoil. I began to realize that some of what happened was for my benefit. In the long run, the digging was a bit easier.
I discovered help was available. I couldn’t depend only on me, but I needed the help of others. Friends showed up with shovels and pickaxes. Others showed up with food and water. Everywhere I turned, I saw God’s acts of saving and providing.
My situation didn’t turn out like I thought it would. In the end, it was better.
What I learned this time, was that I’m not in control. I need God and I need my community of church and friends and even strangers. I needed the prayers and the actions of those who are in my life.
I also learned that I don’t always get it right. I may want to be in control, but there are times when I take that control too far and turn my back on God. As the Psalmist says, “For his anger is but for a moment, his favor is for a lifetime.” (verse 5a.)
I also learned that when I cried out to God, I was beginning to put my trust where it belonged. Like the man who said to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) I guess when you reach rock bottom it’s easier to trust in God than yourself.
Eventually, the morning arrived with the sun and a freshness I’d forgotten existed. I could dance again and sing. I praised God’s name, remembered God’s mighty acts of the the past. God hadn’t left me. Not really. I suppose it was I who had left God.
Sometimes life is overwhelming. It’s when we feel fragile that we tend to fight back and try to gain control. That’s probably the best time to turn to God. It would have saved me a lot of time and effort if I’d done that in the first place!
And so, I invite you to join me in my dance of gratitude. Celebrate my return to my place with God. And while we do that, perhaps we can remember those who are struggling:
- the victims of an unnecessary house fire
- those battling illness and disease
- your loved ones who will go home to God soon
- those who are grieving loss of any kind
- the food deprived
There are many folks who live in that dark night of the soul. We can pray that God will hold them through the night, ever so gently. We can pray that though their weeping may linger for the night, that joy will come with the morning.
We can also celebrate with those who have returned from the dark valley:
- those coming out of their grief and loss
- those whose bodies are healing
- those accomplishing life’s dreams and ambitions
- those who have turned away from anger and hate to the bright light of love and acceptance
I know you can add to either of these lists and I so hope you will.
We can’t always get it right. Some days our trust is in God and we live in that vulnerability. Other days we grab for control until we can’t handle the overwhelming, overpowering pressures. In our prayer for help, God sees our trust and in a way, that is praise.
Is God angry? Perhaps. But, it lasts a moment. Love and compassion win the day and we are united with our God who saves, provides for us and, most of all, listens to us.
And that’s when our joy returns: unbelievable, exhilarating, almost giddy joy that we haven’t known for awhile.
But, first we have to come down from that mountain built of our own sense of independence. God will help with that as well.
All glory and honor be to God.