It's Okay To Give Voice To Your Fear
Today's lectionary text comes to us from Psalm 31:10-15. I know that it's a sign of the times, but I seem to be gravitating to passages that are speaking directly into the situation we find ourselves in right now.
It's kind of awesome that we read Scripture that way, isn't it? The Spirit of God is always moving in the words we read, inspiring them and letting us know that God speaks to us still, right in our own moments.
Here's what spoke to me today:
10 My life is consumed by anguishMaybe you have prayed a prayer like that before you in your life. Your mind took you to dark places. You felt isolated and alone. It felt like there was no one to come and rescue you.
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
and plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
It's possible that some of you are feeling that way right now.
The circumstances we find ourselves in are extraordinary, and there are many among us who are feeling overwhelmed by the weight of it all.
I made the grave mistake of setting my phone up to receive notifications from all kinds of different news sources (I am sad to confess that People magazine was one of them). Now my phone is constantly "dinging" with one bad news story after another.
I should turn all of the notifications off, but for some reason I can't bring myself to do it. So here I sit watching the bad news pile up. The words of the Psalm speak even more pointedly to me today...
"I have become like broken pottery..."
"My life is consumed by anguish..."
"Terror on every side!"
"My bones grow weak!"
The Psalmist cries out to God in much the same way that many of us are crying out now in our isolation and dread.
But then the Psalmist pivots. It's almost as if he snapped backs into reality from all of his visions of destruction. He discovers the longing of his heart turns toward a pure and simple longing for God.
"But I trust in you, God..."
"You are my God..."
This isn't some kind of simple, Hallmark card theology. The Psalmist isn't saying:
"I'm miserable, things are awful, I'm scared, I am filled with anxiety... but I really shouldn't feel any of those things because I ought to be trusting in God."
Far from it. This is a moment when the Psalmist feels all the things, all of the fears, all of the angst, and then turns toward God and merely hopes.
He hopes that all the things he believes about God are true. He hopes that the longings he feels for God to answer during his time of trouble will be realized, and that God will act on his behalf.
And in a weird way the Psalmist is actually reminding God (as he reminds himself) of who God is, and what God has done in the past. The prayer turns to resolve in a way as well. The Psalmist resolves to trust, to believe, and to surrender.
And then there's this revelation at the end of the Psalm that just makes my heart swell to bursting inside of me.
"My times are in your hands."
Right now we get this more than we ever have.
These uncertain times are out of our hands. We have little control over what is happening. All we can do is surrender, wait, and believe that if we put aside our needs for all of the things we used to think would bring us peace... we might actually discover new reserves of it.
Because our times are in God's hands. God is at work in this. God is present in the suffering and in the dread. God is present with those of us who are struggling, and God is with us as we learn to let go of ourselves, die to our old ways of thinking, surrender our outcomes and find new life in the midst of all of it.
This psalm reminds us that we have permission to feel. We ought not feel ashamed or chastened by our desperate, secret prayers. There's no pithy, Christian-y phrase, or Facebook meme that should silence our cries for help.
They are as precious to God as any amount of praise we might offer. Because when we are honest enough to give voice to our fears, it means we are finally ready to receive what God has to give to us...
Presence. Perspective. Peace.
Let today be a day that you live in surrender. And may you discover God's presence anew. And may it lead you to the peace that defies logic.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.