I prefer Sad David. Sure, there’s Victorious David. King David. Shepherd Boy David. The iconic leader and heroic figure dominates so much of Biblical lore and landscape, but the Psalmist brings other gifts besides some of the most epic stories in Scripture. Indeed, it is David’s raw emotional bursts like the one in Psalm 10 that resonate with me perhaps more than others.
“Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” I’ve often asked this in some form or another. In moments of cries and crises, I question the presence of God. The silence is deafening, as they say. In need of an answer, we all reach out for something – anything – bigger than us, bigger than our scenario. And many times, there’s nothing but the darkness.
I’m glad David says something. It’s the equivalent to someone finally acknowledging the elephant in the room that no one will talk about because they’re all afraid of a confrontation. We all feel it. We all sense it. But usually the church is silent on these things, as if to say that God seems absent is to actually insult him.
Yet here this historical figure whose lineage includes the Son of God cowers alone, afraid, confused, frustrated. The same emotions that cloud my judgment and keep me up at night aren’t mine alone to wrestle with. They’re universal and even essential to the journey of faith we’re all on.
The beautiful part of this is that David begins with such heartfelt questions marked by defeat and comes out the other side confident in the greatness of his God. That’s the tension we all walk with. We believe, only help our unbelief. We’ll never deny him and then the rooster crows. Our spiritual lives are marked by the tension of a doubt-full confidence, a phrase that only makes sense on this crazy journey of faith.
These Psalms are true gifts to us, signs that we’re real people with real feelings that aren’t so distant from what anyone else is feeling at a given time. It’s a natural part of our growing belief in God and learning what it means to walk with Him. And it’s vulnerable heroes like David who shed light on those moments.
Matt Conner is a former pastor and church planter turned writer and editor. He’s the founder of Analogue Media and lives in Indianapolis.
Just last night, I read a section of N.T. Wright’s book Simply Christian in which he talks about this very topic of the Psalms and their great worth to us as worshippers. Here’s a quote:
“In particular, Christian worship from the earliest times has made good use of the Psalms. They are inexhaustible, and deserve to be read, said, sung, chanted, whispered, learned by heart, and even shouted from the rooftops. They express all the emotions we are ever likely to feel (including some we hope we may not), and they lay them, raw and open, in the presence of God, like a golden retriever bringing to its master’s feel every strange object it finds in the field. “Look!” says the Psalmist. “This is what I’ve found today! Isn’t that extraordinary? What are you going to do with it?”
I love the image of the dog. And I think it’s a good reminder that all of what we feel and think can be brought to the Father honestly.
I love “A Sacred Sorrow” by Mike Card, and “The Silence of God” by the proprietor. They each say so much about this “elephant in the room” you’re speaking of. Thank you too, Matt for your post. It serves as a great reminder of how “normal” and vulnerable we all are. And thanks be to God that He is there. . . through it, and on the other side of it. Thanks be to God for his everlasting love, mercy and grace!
Six months to the day that a cousin my age, 48, died of cancer, his wife also my age is lying in a hospital bed dying of cancer. Yep, “its enough to drive a man craze, shake a man’s faith. Its enough to make him wonder if he’s ever been sane.” As I said in another post I can only trust that He will crawl down into the pit with us.
Come Lord Jesus
I agree that sad David resonates the most. I think the reason is that, while we see the heroes of the Bible when they are down and out all over the place, David is one of the few who gives us that experience from a first-person perspective.
I too thought of “The Silence of God” when I read this. The Jars of Clay song “Silence” is also a beautiful piece on this topic.
The permission that we as Christians have to be genuine with God about our emotions in unmatched in any other religious teachings. What other faith give permission for the believer to pour out their hearts to God? None: all command some form of stifling “incorrect” feelings in order to keep the favor of God upon us. I love that in Christ we have the favor of God already secure, and therefore can approach God just as we are, and let Him love us into submission to His will.
I was raised in churches where every Sunday people stood up to praise Jesus for helping them find their car keys or not be late for a hair-dresser appointment. My whole life I have heard friends and acquaintances talk about how every problem was a test from God as if those who get through with the least complaints will get the highest marks.
A few years ago we went through “Purpose Driven Life” in Sunday School. That book proclaims that everything is part of some grand plan. We shouldn’t just shut up and endure, we must scream out hallelujahs in the midst of whatever circumstances. No matter what it is, God either did it or allowed it to teach us, to make us grow, to bring us closer to him.
Then as now I can’t help but wonder about the child with Tay-Sachs sentenced to a short life of utter agony. Or babes born into families with physically or sexually abusive parents. Or good people who die leaving families with nothing but bad choices about how to survive. God did that?
What should I make of a God who steps into some stories like a silent sociopath? Not one word in threat or response as he beats a hapless soul into oblivion. What should he make of me repeating, through broken teeth and spilling blood: thanks for that birth-defect, thanks for that pedophile father, thanks for dropping me in that torture chamber before I was even old enough to know it was you?
It would cost modern American Christians to relinquish the belief that God has his fingers in everything, playing all of creation like sock puppets. Without that, who, then, would keep track of our car keys?
What comforts me isn’t the role of God. That is so far beyond my comprehension it feels like I’m on a high-wire between skyscrapers just trying to consider it — any conclusion could lead to a long fall. I find solace in Jesus, Emmanuelle. His very name means God in the midst of this messed up world with me.
Without that how could I go on? Moreover, it speaks something about the true nature of God that drowns out the life-shattering silence. He sent his son to share this with me.
Perhaps there is not enough triumph in that. No victory this side of the horizon. No Job-ian return on my investment.
But it tells me I am not alone. That will get me through today.
Good work Pete. I see the post.
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