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Another Round of Despair


We all have our favorite verse or verses of scripture. We all have our favorite Bible characters as well (after Jesus of course!). I remember growing up at home and my family would have family Bible studies in the evenings sometimes and it was usually the same thing: my dad would ask me and my siblings what our favorite Bible verse was and then we would all discuss why that passage was so special. Other times we might talk about our favorite Bible story and the significance of it. Some of those evenings are more memorable than others and I remember sharing different passages at different times. 

Over time I have started to find myself falling in love with other unique areas of scripture such as favorite prophet or favorite psalm. I feel like every time I find a new psalm that I am in love with, it's only a short time before I find one that is even better. One realization that I had several years ago is what the psalms are. I had always thought that the psalms were just praise poem after praise poem and while there is some truth in that, it's so much more. There's a lot of complaining! While David didn't write all of the psalms, he did write most of them and pretty much all of my personal favorites. I believe that the biggest reason that I love his writings above the other psalmists is just how genuine and down to earth he is when talking to God. Many people know Psalm 23 by heart and many know Psalm 100 very well too. They are beautiful words of peace, joy, and love. However, David also expresses fear, frustration, and despair in his psalms at times and when he does this, he doesn't hold back! If I'm being honest, I love this. It's not because I'm looking for someone to tell God off in scripture or because I think that the psalms of praise are lies. Neither of those things are true. I love it because there are times when I just don't get it and I'm tired of not getting it. I don't understand what God is doing in the world or even just in my own life. I feel like I have done good and righteous things and yet I still experience suffering and that doesn't make sense to me. Perhaps you've been in this place before yourself. 

One of the best psalms that illustrates this is Psalm 13. It's only six verses and David doesn't hold back at all in the first four.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts 
and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"

and my foes will rejoice when I fall. 

Wow! I never grew up hearing anyone talk to God like that in public prayers. I never heard anyone pray like that even in smaller private prayers. I honestly didn't think that anyone was even allowed to talk to God that way, let alone someone who was described as a man after God's own heart!

This psalm came to me this morning in my silent time and I couldn't help but share where I feel like God is leading me and maybe even us. You see, my wife and I are recovering from COVID. Today is my first day that I am allowed to be back in my office at work. It's the first regular day at the office that I've had since mid July. Ashley still isn't allowed to come back in and won't be until next week. We have felt weak, sore, achy, and pretty helpless. One of the toughest factors of all of this has also been that our two younger children have been with us while we had it so they have been forced to quarantine with us despite being symptom-free this entire time. It was difficult to watch my son celebrate his birthday without being able to see any of his friends. 

So here I have been for about the last month not being able to do the things that I normally do, stuck at home, feeling poor, not being able to see our two older daughters who stayed with grandparents during this time, and in less than a week, Ashley and I will drop our oldest child off at college in Abilene. This will be a difficult transition for all of us. If this isn't enough, we are well aware of all of the drama going on nationwide in regards to COVID, vaccines, masks, etc. and there doesn't seem to be much of anything that we can agree on outside of the fact that we disagree! Most studies are also showing that this is going to get worse before it gets better and I have now begun to think what many have been thinking for weeks now: here we go again.

The delta strain of COVID is reintroducing so much debate that many of us thought was behind us. It comes right as school starts meaning that people are fighting for what they believe is best for their children (meaning that the fighting is more intense). When I think about my church family, I look back at just how difficult of a year it has been for us. Right when we began meeting in person again almost a year ago, we lost two shepherds and a minister in about six weeks time. A few months later, a massive snowstorm devastated our city and many people in our church. A couple of weeks after this passes, our church experiences the deaths of eight people who were members or closely connected to us in a span of only eight weeks, two of whom were less than 18 months old. And now, only a few months after this, we are about to experience another wave of COVID cases that many are saying will be greater than any that we have experienced so far and there's little to nothing that can be done about it whether you are vaccinated and wearing a mask or not. 

Sometimes it feels like the hits just keep coming and that's a lot of what I have felt both for me and my family and for my church. Right when we think it's going to get better, something else comes up. All of a sudden, David's psalm resonates a lot more than I thought that it ever would. David felt lost, forgotten, defeated, frustrated, and ignored. While I may not feel all of these ways at once, I have certainly resonated with them at different times throughout this past year.

However, David consistently does the same thing after this kind of complaining that he does: he reminds God and himself that he still trusts Him. Look at verses five and six,

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,
For He has been good to me.

David always had the same mindset every time that he cried out to God. While things didn't make sense and this was difficult for him, he knew that God was in control and would provide and care for him in God's time and in God's way. 

Perhaps one of the healthiest things that you can do in your relationship with God is cry out your heart's true feelings. Express to the Father that you feel tired, worn out, frustrated, forgotten, forsaken, lost, hurt, or maybe even unloved. We don't enjoy feeling these ways and so we try to hide them from others, from God, maybe even from ourselves. If there's something that we can learn from Psalm 13 though, it's that these expressed feelings of loss and disappointment lead directly to a genuine encounter with the Almighty. They lead to confession and confession leads to comfort and healing from God Himself. 

So as we see another round of despair heading our way, may we identify this to God; may we name it! And perhaps this time instead of internalizing our feelings, we will accept God's invitation to allow Him to come and walk alongside us as we figure out this dark road. May we ask Him to be the light we so desperately need as we walk along it, and may we, as David did, trust in His unfailing love, for He is truly good to us.

--Casey Lankford