All of us, if we are honest, have had painful moments or seasons in our lives. We have been terribly bruised by relationships that went sideways on us. We have had important dreams crumble before our very eyes. We have had work experiences that have left us deeply wounded. We have had some things of value stripped away from us. The list is long for most of us.
Often when we find ourselves in such moments or seasons we cry out to God. We offer him what amounts to a woeful expression of lament or despair. We whimper, uttering the dirge-like tune of grief or panic or fear. Were we to write a score for the words we utter, it would be written in the minor key. Sad, tired, a bit unnerving; this would be our cry.
King David of old, that remarkable monarch from Israel’s ancient past, provides some insight into how we might respond to such painful moments. His testimony in Psalm 40:1 tells us that he “waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” It is noteworthy that a king would cry out at all. Think for just a moment of the risk that must have been for King David; clearly a powerful and mighty ruler whimpering to God. I bet it was in the minor key.
King David proceeds to inform us of God’s response. “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,” he writes, “and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2). The king cries out to God, and God delivers him from his dilemma, securing King David on solid ground. Of course, one might complain, “Well, I’ve cried out and found no help whatsoever.” I have to confess that I somehow doubt this to be true. The challenge may simply be that the help looks nothing like what we might script. The help just might be there, but it will stretch us or force us to surrender something or cause us to be held accountable or invite us to change our expectations or values or commitments. I’m not the brightest bulb on the string, but in over two decades worth of doing some measure of vocational ministry, I have discovered that there is always some kind of help available for any one of us to land on sure footing.
Thus, let’s presume that many of us have experienced what King David expresses. Many of us have experienced some kind of rescue from some kind of miry bog. Perhaps we have a new job now. Perhaps we have new friends. Perhaps we have a new husband. Perhaps we have a new understanding of dreams. Perhaps we have restoration with that person or entity. Perhaps we have a greater appreciation for our real spiritual gifting and not what we perceived were our gifts. Many of us can testify to some movement from the slimy bog to a solid base on which to stand. When this happened for King David, note what he experienced: the LORD put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God (Psalm 40:3a).
And so we have a template for when life’s rawest things collide with God’s redeeming grace: we cry, he hears and acts on our behalf, he replaces our cry with a new song. Sandwiched between to vocal moments—a cry of lament and a new song—is a God who acts on behalf of his beloved. He is the one who can take our woeful tune sung in the minor key and make it a song of celebration offered in glorious major chords.
But here is the all-important question for the moment: despite all of God’s goodness, do you still sing the song of woe? I am afraid many of us still do. Sadly, I am afraid I still do. God rescues me from the miry pit, offers a new set of lyrics for me to sing—lyrics of praise and celebration and joy. But I, self-conscious and too often self-pitiful, continue to hum the dark tune of despair. I continue to circle the awful drain of what could have been, what should have been, what must have been. I continue to sing the whimper-esque ballad of grief and loss, as if somehow being rescued and placed on a solid rock was simply not good enough.
Oh, to sing the new song of joy and celebration. Oh, to look ahead rather than behind. Oh, to rejoice with the major chords rather than strum still more the minor keys. Oh, to trust my God who saves.
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“Write This Down…” provides a restatement of selected points or observations from various teaching venues at which Pastor Matthew speaks. The preceding material is from Pastor Matthew’s devotional presented to the Bethel Church ministry and support staff on January 10, 2012, at Bethel Church.