It’s dark and cold, Christmas is over and the credit card bill is looming. No wonder many are stressed or depressed. It’s usually the month with the highest number of suicides.
January 2021 offers extra reason for people to be anxious as the Corona pandemic pushes health services towards breaking point. Plus Brexit fallout, environmental issues and ongoing conflict worldwide… As someone once quipped, ‘If you’re not depressed you just don’t understand the situation!’
It may be timely to remind ourselves that many of the 150 Psalms recorded in the Bible actually begin as ‘laments’, cries of hurt and fear from hearts in deep distress.
‘Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.’ (Psalm 130 v 1)
‘Why O Lord do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10 v 1)
‘I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow…’ (Psalm 6 vs 6-7)
Often the source of the distress seems to be the lies and cruel violence of others, some of whom the writer regards as ‘enemies’. Sometimes the writer is ill and concerned literally as to whether they will live or die. Sometimes they are burdened with the state of their nation. Sometimes they feel they have done nothing wrong and their trying situation seems unfair. Other times they are feeling acutely guilty and longing for relief in their conscience.
I find these cries strangely comforting.
The fact they have been preserved in what we believe to be the book inspired by God’s Holy Spirit is a starting point for reassurance. This is realistic. It rings true to experience. It’s not unusual in life to feel upset. It’s necessary to be honest when we do. Most importantly it is OK to bring our griefs, our complaints, our questions to our Maker. It’s more than ok, it’s recommended.
Now circumstances locally/globally may not change immediately or in the way we might want. These problems seem to recur in each new generation of sinful human beings. We’re not good at learning from history, repeating corrupt practices and inviting judgement! Evolving ourselves into utopia currently appears unlikely.
However throughout the book of Psalms we find this conviction that our cries are heard and help is given. The writers call to mind deliverance in the past like the Exodus in Moses’ day. The One to Whom we pray has kept His covenantal promises before, He can be trusted to do so again.
We may be challenged to change in ways or to become part of the answer to our prayers. But into the darkness light shines, transforming our sorrowful dirges into songs of hope and joy.
‘I love the Lord for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy…
Be at rest once more O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
For you O Lord have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.’ (Psalm 116 vs 1 and 7-9)
‘He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.’ (Psalm 40 2-3)
We’re facing the toughest month of the worst crisis most of us can remember. Of course we feel threatened and anxious and quite naturally afraid.
But people who trust in the crucified and risen Saviour bring our laments and cries for mercy to God. He has not abandoned His creation. The climax of His approaching kingdom is nearer every day.
Meanwhile we believe that He listens to His children with compassion and will in His time and way deliver us to sing fresh hymns of thanksgiving and praise.