I will sing to the LORD,

   because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13: 6 

When David set out these words, his life was not going well. We don’t know the exact circumstances that surrounded him, but we certainly are aware of enough hard and challenging times that came his way for us to understand that he could be at the end of his ability to handle whatever it was that he faced. Yet, the song that starts out, “How long, O LORD, will you forget me forever?”, ends with this statement of recognition of the Lord’s care and provision and joyously hopeful note of thanksgiving. Had something changed in David’s life during the time of his reflection, or was it more a matter of his working through his fears, doubts, and concerns so that the Lord could respond to him with words of truth that bring with them the encouragement that his heart so badly needed? 

There is real value in doing what David did in this song, for speaking out to the Lord about the things that are troubling us is more than simply therapeutic. This act of engaging in honest conversation with God gets thoughts and feelings that we have working on our inner beings and it sets them out into the clear air of God’s realm of providing us with reason and order. The pain that we are experiencing, whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual, may not end at that time; however, talking it all over with the Lord does tend to grant a form of respite from the burden of carrying whatever it is that is so heavily weighting down the heart. The ability to manage pain, to calm a mind that is swirling in turmoil, or to find order in a jumble of confusion and chaos is something that comes most readily from the source of all order and peace in the universe, and that creator and source is God.

It seems to me that David is actually suggesting that he will sing a song of thanksgiving to the Lord even though the issues that are troubling him are still present and very real to him. There is no process of resolution mentioned in these six short verses; instead, we see David’s personal resolution to take all that is troubling him to the Lord with his mind and heart focused upon the many ways that God has taken care of him in the past and with genuine anticipation of the way that this same God will deal with what is going on at this time. This is an example of faith that is active and realized in the middle of the crisis. David expresses a form of trust in the Lord that grants its bearer the realization of peace that allows for him to think more clearly and to endure the moment more readily than would be the case without this tangible understanding of the presence of the Lord with him. David sings about God’s bounty as it has been poured out upon him over the course of his life, and he invites us to do the same as we travel hard roads and navigate the churning waters of our own times of asking, “How long?”  

Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord, your God, and cry out to the Lord.

Joel 1: 14

 

The prophet Joel was speaking about a time when the news was bad, and it showed all of the signs of doing nothing but getting worse. The crops were failing, the air and the water were being polluted, and the political processes, regardless of your personal views or persuasions, were undependable and in total disarray. The pressures and the challenges of life were causing people to have grave doubts about the future, and those concerns were causing people to become isolated, separated, and defensive. Those were tough times, and God gave Joel some very special wisdom regarding the best way to respond to them.

 

The Lord wants His people to focus our attention on Him alone. He wants us to set aside time and energy so that we can concentrate solely on seeking His will. God knows that we need to make this the primary activity of our days; thus, He tells us to stop doing even the most basic of ordinary daily functions in order to give our total attention to Him. However, the Lord wants much more from us, for He also knows that people tend to become isolated and to work independently when we are placed in stressful situations; thus, God wants us to purposefully come together with others during this process of seeking out His will. I believe that He is also telling us to make these gatherings as inclusive as we possibly can; then, the true Body of Christ is gathered with all of its gifts in order to stand strong in the face of the intense opposition that we face continually.

 

Finally, the Lord wants us to speak out with the passions of our hearts and the pain that is in our souls. As we gather together we can let our words pour out in the intensity of our concern, pain, loss, and suffering. God wants to hear the deepest fears and the greatest longings of our hearts, and He wants us to share them with each other in the process of speaking them to Him. When we gather together as the Body of Christ and cry out from our hearts as we seek the Lord’s direction and will, God will respond. He grants to us the wisdom of the ages that has guided people from the beginning of time and that is still the only truth that exists in our world. As we listen to the voice of the Lord, He will send us into the world with His plan for delivering the Lord’s blessing to the hurt, the oppressed, and the lost.

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12: 1, 2

 

If you live long enough, you will run into a bunch of tough days. This is an unavoidable fact. Life will take those sudden left turns without warning, and you will collide with its realities with their sudden and jarringly destructive crashes. Even if there is prior notice, the pain, grief and struggles that we encounter are equally difficult to handle. It could be easy to decide to hide from it all or to take a vacation from life, but we just don’t really get to do those things. Escapism and avoidance don’t fix things, at best they simply prolong their duration, and they often make things worse.

 

We can take some comfort in the fact that none of us is the first person to go through what we are faced with. The cloud of witnesses that is mentioned is truly made up of a number that is beyond counting. These are the people who have lived before us and the ones who are with us now and have endured through various types and kinds of struggles. In Christ, we are all joined together in the source of our greatest strength, and we walk together with Christ in the good and the bad days of life. Our Lord has endured the trials and carried the weight of harsh reality all the way to the God’s glorious end.

 

However, Jesus is not like many people in that He doesn’t just stand beyond the finish line and implore us to do as He did and finish our journey. Rather, Christ enters into the day-by-day and moment-to-moment aspects of the trial. He feels what we feel, and speaks truth to our minds and comfort to our hearts. All that we encounter can be a step along that path that Jesus walked which leads to our eternal dwelling in the presence of God. Each hour of the time of trial can be a testimony to the love, peace and victory that Christ gives to His people. So, each of us can go through our days with our strength and comfort coming from Christ, and as we do this, we join in that great and melodious chorus that is sung by that cloud of witnesses.