“Listen, God—I’m desperate. Don’t be too busy to hear me.”
– Psalm 54:2 (MSG)
For this week’s Psalm I am isolating the second verse of the seven. It hit me hard because it’s familiar to my own history with prayer, and I’m willing to bet, yours too. It is a cry out to the heavens from that painful place where we start to wonder if we’re just wasting our breath. The place where we worry that God’s not paying attention, if He even exists at all.
I spent one season going to God every evening. I’d drive to the lake, turn off the car and look hard at the horizon. I made it clear, at the start of most visits, that I was going to say some unpleasant words. That these prayers would be the pain and rage type, because when it came to “God”, my mouth filled with razors. I was so angry at the Cold Shoulder I felt every time I called.
So I’d cuss Him out, call Him down, throw a middle finger to the sky. I’d seethe and fume and cry and then drive off when I tuckered out. That was my routine. It was the only way I could come. I had to be honest, because the sweet chatty prayers weren’t cutting through anything.
A lot of my bottoming out moments landed me in the back pew of church and when I heard them talk about pain and suffering and agony, I heard them say I should be so lucky. Bless you! Bless you who are down down down! God is closer when you’re sad! He is near to the brokenhearted! Can’t you see?!
And I plunged, because I felt nothing.
He may have been there, sewing my heart back together, cooling my rage with wet cloth, easing me out of bed. My anger may have clouded out the sight of His hands. But in Real Life feelings, the sadness would go on like a flatlining heart. No good feelings wedging their way inside. No resuscitation. No verse that would come compellingly into my mind, rising me off the couch, slipping on my shoes, leading me out into the bright light of day.
I was just there.
And you’ve probably been there too.
And you know how in an emotional sense, it can feel like an endless effort to bend the ear of God. Which, when you think of it, is enough to make you discouraged all over again.
Yet, you do it.
You do it over and over and over and over again, because something brings you back. For me, it was my anger, but I think, on some other level, I was just dying for His attention. For him to descend upon me and make me well. Hold me til I stopped shivering. Dust me off and move me on. I wanted to provoke Him into Presence.
And also, I had no further to fall. This is the rock bottom pile of bones I’m talking about; a place that you simply cannot survive without something to look forward to. Some horizon to watch and wait for a miracle.
So you speak. You scream. You beg. You go.
And He comes.
Sometimes he will swoop in and lift you up to the surface.
But sometimes he wants you to wait and be still and be ready to be better off than you’ve ever been, because when he comes and when he clutches your whole heart, Life becomes life. Free of the dead weight, lifted by a belief that there are good things ahead.
And that last part, “good things ahead” is critical. That’s hope.
Because you’re going to fall back in.
You’re going to feel nothing and everything at the same time.
It will feel like you’re lost and flatlining.
And you’ll need Hope.
Because in Hope, there is no give up. There is no go away. There is a Sometime Soon. There is a One Day.
There is you, returning to the lake with two fists swinging, disbelieving eyes and a mouthful of razors.
There is the plea, there is the wrestle, and in the end, there is the rescue.
And that, for me, is all I really need.
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