Have you ever felt so angry or embittered about something that you did not know how to get out of the funk you were in?
Maybe you have been living in such condemnation over past sins or current sins, you are wondering if you are even a Christian at all.
Have you ever felt so grieved over the loss of something or someone that it was more like depression. You were in the "depths of despair" and could not climb out? St. John of the Cross, a sixteenth century Catholic mystic and poet coined the phrase "The Dark Night of the Soul" in reference to this.
While depression can certainly have a psycological component, it is generally considered by many Christian counselors to have a definite spiritual component. Many believe it is an opportunity to recognize new areas for spiritual growth.
I have been in some of those places before. It can be paralyzing, defeating, and all consuming. So what do you do when these moments come along? As a believer, where do you go when you know what you should do but you can't seem to do it? How do you overcome?
There are more verses which speak to the issues of life than can possibly be addressed here. However, many Christian leaders have recommended the Psalms as a constant source for comfort and help in expressing the angst that our souls experience for any number of reasons. I am inclined to agree.
A cursory glance through the Psalms and you will see that they run the gamut of emotional expression. From depression, self-pity and anger to praise and exhultation, the Psalms give us the words we need when we cannot express what is in our hearts.
They often bring perspective and encouragement by way of reminding us of the glory of God, the many ways he has delivered us, and the many blessings he has poured out upon us.
It is often suggested that we should both pray and sing the Psalms. In fact Colossians 3:16 tells us
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
It is for this reason that I would like to go to a particular Psalm in hopes of bringing some source of encouragement and perspective to those searching for hope in a lost and dying world.
There are many Psalms which speak of God as our refuge and are loaded with encouraging promises. However, I have been particularly struck by Psalm 103 of late. It is very encouraging and seems to comprehensively address many of the concerns that we face in this life. Psalm 103 is 22 verses long so I thought I would break it down and try to look at some of the ways that I find it applicable and helpful. So we will see how it goes.
Please bear in mind that this is a blog, not a sermon from the pulpit. So, I will certainly not give it the breadth of expression and explanation that it deserves. However, if I can get you thinking about it and moving in the direction of relating God's word to your own circumstances in a way that draws your heart toward God in a life changing way, I will have accomplished my purpose. My prayer is that it will be a blessing to all who read it, in whatever way God deems best. So lets start with an introduction of this Psalm.
This is the launching pad for the whole Psalm. From here everything else pours forth. But what does it mean to "Bless the Lord"?
My dad used to make a joke with verse one if we had already begun eating and had forgotten to say the blessing. He would pray, "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!"
In this way he was insinuating that we were asking God to bless the food we had already taken in. While that was a cute idea at the time, it is possible to actually think that this is what it is saying without being specific to food.
The New International Version(NIV) of the bible reads, "Praise the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, Praise His holy name". I believe that this is the appropriate idea behind this verse. This verse is not actually asking God to bless us. It is, as a command toward our souls, to bless or praise the Lord with all that it is within us, regarding all that He has done for us.
I believe this is the proper understanding because, as we move forward we will not see a list of petitions of how God can bless us. Instead we will see a recollection of ways that God has already blessed us. This is the application of verse 2, "and forget not all His benefits."
Why Is This Useful?
When we already know what we should be doing, but we cannot seem to get there, I believe it is often because we are so lost in the cloud of circumstances that we cannot see the power and glory of God at work in our lives. In fact, we can even loose perspective on all that He has already done.
The problem with this is that it causes us to loose our joy. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that, "the joy of the LORD is our strength"! We need joy to combat sorrow, anger, and a plethora of other emotional and spiritual battles.
As our joy grows because we are focusing on who we are and what we have in Christ, it simply overwhelms and defeats these other foes for us. Rather than trying to overcome in our own strength, we remember on whose strength we rely and the truth sets us free(John 8:32).
So how do we find clarity? How do we find our way back to joy? Where do we find truth? How do we, "forget not all His benefits."?
In John 17:17, Jesus tells us that God's word is the truth by which we are sanctified(being made like Jesus). Psalm 119:105 tells us that God's word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
As the great reformer Martin Luther said, "my conscience is held captive by the word of God". I only hope it can be even half as true of me in this day and age as it was of him in his.
The fact is that God's word is where we learn the what and who from which our strength flows. That is where we must go for answers. That is where we must go to find hope and good news.
I have actually had people coming to me recently with challenges such as the one's I have mentioned here. They are part of my inspiration for this blog series. I have nowhere to turn but the word of God, which is exactly why they came to me. That's what they wanted.
So here I am, on a journey of discovery for both myself and anyone who is searching for answers to the struggles that they face. I believe that what we discover in Psalm 103 will shed some light on the hope that we have in Christ Jesus.
As the pastor and author John Piper has said, "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him."
So please, follow with me on this journey and perhaps we can learn satisfaction in new and wonderful ways which will cause us to rejoice together in the glorious goodness and grace of our God and Savior.