Reflections on Psalm 130 – EXPLORING LAMENT
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice.
LAMENT REVERBERATES THROUGH THE SOUL
Imagine hearing these words through the deep tones of the bow pulled across the strings of a cello. You can feel this cry of lament reverberating through your skin, through your soul.
This experience is common to us all at some point or place in our lives. These feelings can be isolating and lonely. In some way and at some time, I imagine this prayer has been spoken in each of our hearts, lifted to God and taken in.
EXPLORING LAMENT: WE ARE NOT LEFT IN DESPAIR
Yet we are not left in despair, for we hear, even from the depths of chaos, a confidence, a deep sense of trust, a knowing relationship with God.
There is no sense of abandonment or absence of God’s presence in this lament. The psalmist cries out with insistence, proclaiming God’s character and passionate love.
The psalmist knows that God is not a punitive God interested in marking or keeping a tally of our failings. We hear the essence of God, spoken through the tone and experience of lament, at its core, the knowledge of God’s mercy and forgiveness, never abandonment, even in the deep and the dark.
When the psalmist speaks of the soul waiting for the Lord, it is not with impatience or passivity, for the Hebrew word translated here as to wait also translates as to hope.
EXPLORING LAMENT: WAITING AND HOPING – LIVING EXPECTANTLY
Our spiritual life is like this. Our life with God is an unfolding process over time in which the depths of life breathe and communicate just as deeply as the heights. Lament has a role and a purpose in our relationship with God.
The Psalmist writes of those who watch for the morning. How often have you lain awake during the night, those hours seeming longer than any day? Yet when morning comes, even though we may be exhausted, there is the chance for renewal, trust that God has been listening with us in the dark.
We can imagine, in the time and place of the psalmist, a watchman waiting on the city wall, protecting the city through the night by watching for the enemy. Yet also watching for the dawning light of day, knowing the light would come.
When we feel our own lives have been crucified with pain, we cry out from the depths of sorrow, knowing God is with us. He has been to the cross; we remember that sorrow and pain walk hand in hand with the sure knowledge of what God will do. Then we remember that even sorrow and deep pain can watch and wait and hope.
As you begin exploring lament, may you hear this in the depth of your own heart today. Amen.
Rev. Julie Sheridan-Smith
Julie is a mother, wife, ordained minister, and a Chronic Joy® founding board member. She and her husband have three adult children. Julie became personally aware of chronic pain when her daughter began experiencing constant and excruciating back pain, resulting in surgery. Yet the pain continued and other unexplained issues began – nausea, stomach pain, and inability to keep food down. During her senior year in high school, her daughter became gravely ill with gastroparesis and spent much of her senior year in and out of the hospital. The quest for relief and solutions, the ongoing struggle of chronic illness, and the anxiety that accompanies both has drawn Julie to seek to know and speak of God’s presence in and through the reality of chronic pain – both for the one experiencing it and for those who love them.
Pushing our pain aside, hiding it, or feeling shame because of it diminishes our human experience. If Jesus wept and cried out in anguish, why do we feel it is somehow faithless to honestly express lament?