My Head Shall be Lifted
My Bible’s bookmark had been set on Psalm 27 for months. The Psalm had become my prayer, my plea and in time, my confidence. I have heard it said that the longer you live, the sweeter the Psalms become; for in them you find words to praise, to lament, to ask God to intercede and enact justice. In the Psalms for several hard months of my life, I found voice for the depth of emotions brewing within me.
Months of job-related stress, followed by sudden job loss and relationship loss back-to-back, and it became a season of grief which hit me harder than I would have dared imagine. Throw in winter, my least favorite season, and I felt like my legs were dragging lead and my heart had a timer set on it, at which point it would implode or explode from pain. So, when I began reading Psalm 27, rather than declaring with confidence as I assume David had in penning the words, “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” I cried out instead for God to reveal Himself as Light to me because the road seemed so dark, my outlook so bleak, and my heart sick from hope deferred.
Grief can make you do strange things and show you things about yourself you never expected to find out. Each morning for months, as someone who hates walking (it’s too slow), I would rise from my bed and strap on my shoes to go walking so I could pray and somehow get all the emotions out on pavement. I HATE WALKING! But I had to walk. I needed grace to get through the day. Each day.
When you grieve, it is not only about what you are experiencing emotionally—it is also a lens through which you see all of life. All of it. So, even that which is otherwise simple, appears the hardest task. To get out of bed and make it through normal daily responsibilities felt victorious. I would never have believed I would need to voice each step in the day to make sure I did not collapse into myself. “You will get up, and then you will take a shower, and then you will go to the store.” Doing the next right thing. Every day. Knowing I would not feel like doing whatever that “next right thing” was and choosing to do so anyway. That was my life.
I recall reading Psalm 27 verse 4 where David says, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” and thinking it was a lovely sentiment, but what I really wanted was to stop feeling pain and feeling so out of control; unable to stop the waves of sorrow washing over me for days, weeks and what would end up being months. I wanted David’s desires and disposition. But that was not my immediate desire. The glory of God was a distant second to my desire to be freed from the discomfort of loss and pain. James 1 verse 2 says we are to consider it pure joy when we face various trials because the testing of our faith produces perseverance. It was not perseverance I wanted. That lesson could wait for another day, in a different lifetime. I wanted there to be no trials, no testing, no need for perseverance. I wanted “out” of my present circumstances.
God in His goodness to me—even in my bad attitude and forgetfulness of His promises—showed me kindness. He surrounded me with people who prayed and cared. He never let any prayer for strength to make it through the day go unanswered. He was faithful, always faithful, even when I accused Him of abandoning me. Even when I forgot the Covenant He made to me. He used my Christian community as a place of safety; a refuge for my very weary soul. There are times people say they are praying for you and it feels like the nice thing or Christian thing to say, but when your heart is breaking or broken, you hope to God their schedules include intercession for you, their own knees raw from asking God to help you keep the faith. Because you understand in grief something which may go unnoticed in times of ease, the Christian faith is impossible for human beings in human strength. It takes the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to have faith and live by faith.
[bctt tweet=”Life is a gift of God, and it is hard. We are promised trials by Jesus himself who told his first disciples the unvarnished truth in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”” username=”humblebeast”] People who keep it real are my favorite kind of people, and it is one reason I love this verse, because Jesus does not mince words, yet He offers us hope. He offers us Himself. When you are grieving, hope is both your greatest need and that which seems elusive. And yet, for us, as Christians, hope is not a mere wishing for the best one day and a blasé stating that things will be okay, but rather Hope is embodied in Jesus who has bound Himself to His people, promising His presence, His power for those who are His. He promises that one day those tears will be wiped away—for good.
You learn when grieving that platitudes just won’t do. When a person is grieving, the best counselors are those who sit, who listen and who even when they don’t know the right words to say, show up. You learn in grief how to be the kind of counselor you would have wanted in your own grief. Sometimes what gives you hope in trials is the very knowledge that one day someone will experience what you are presently wrestling with and one of God’s ways of redeeming your pain will be when you say, “I’ve been there too. There is hope.” [bctt tweet=”One day, you will comfort others with the very comfort God has shown you (2 Cor. 1:3-5).” username=”humblebeast”]
Psalm 27 became the psalm I would read when I had any free time and my mind began to be filled with fears and worries. If I felt my pulse increase and my heart feel an impending implosion, I would turn to it and I started to work on memorizing it. Self-sufficiency was no longer a lie I had the privilege of believing anymore. I needed God to help me believe in Him as my light and salvation. I needed help to believe that just as David could say God would keep him safe in the day of trouble (v. 5), he would do the same for me. I needed God to help me do what David ends His psalm with: be courageous and wait on God to help (v.14).
I know with greater certainty today what I knew cognitively months ago, even though nothing in my life at present is outwardly different. God goes there, those dark places and bleak places with us, faithfully. David says it well in Psalm 139 verse 11, “If I say, ‘surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” I have confidence as David did that “I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Ps. 27:13).
We may waver, doubt, accuse and even forget Him, but He never forgets His children. He lifts our head. We are so often guilty of losing the plot line in this life, even as believers, but praise God our hope is not in our ability to be perfect. Praise God the covenant He made in the blood of His Son Jesus holds up His record of righteousness as our own. It is grace which keeps us going when our feet are heavy, our hearts are broken, our minds seem jam-packed of all manner of “what-ifs” and “how comes” and “it’s not fair.” Even there, when we need to be held up by the community of saints and we need desperately to be reminded of what may seem the simplest of truths, God is with us and He is faithful.