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lament tree 1

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (vs.1-2)

…and normally we all stop at the end of verse 2, there. Because, as bite-sized verses go, this one looks great as a bumper sticker, or on a tee-shirt, or put in with whatever inspirational “quiet-time” picture you’re posting to Insta-Twit-Face. It is seen as someone engaged in a passionate worship session. Indeed, one of the first worship songs I learned to play on guitar years and years ago for the youth group cribbed the first verse as its focus.

But, there’s more to this Psalm than just that. There’s this immediate passage:

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (v.3)

…that tends to kicks the expectations of those seeking only life-affirming, positive happy thoughts from the Psalms right in the Olsteens.

This is a lament. Well, technically, this is listed as a maskil, which–after doing a quick Google search to make me sound all smart and stuff–I’m told is a Hebrew term that may mean a “contemplative poem” in this context, but scholars (i.e.–people who are way smarter than I am) aren’t entirely sure.

What I do know is that, this particular Psalm was written by the sons of Korah, descendants of the Levite that attempted a coup against Moses in Numbers chapter 16. These “sons of Korah” are a testament to GOD’s ongoing and powerful grace and mercy in not holding it against Korah’s sin against his decedents, as they remained faithful to GOD and served in His temple. But, that’s besides the point of this rambling article I started.

Let’s read the rest of the Psalm:
These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan, the heights of Hermon–from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me–a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (vs.4-11)

I can only imagine what was the writer of this Psalm was experiencing emotionally as he was penning these words. Personally, I can identify greatly with his words of anguish as he longs to seek the Lord, thirsty as we are of water, only to find feelings of abandonment, dark loneliness, suffering from what Martin Luther called “the dark night of the soul,” while his enemies and critics constantly mock him for continuing to seek after GOD, Who from their perspective, has completely abandoned him.

Some days…okay, some entire months it seems that the depression I suffer is soul-crushing, and I am alone in the pitch darkness. But, like this particular Psalmist, my lament always ends, despite all the hopelessness, the self-loathing, the pain of living, the suffocating darkness, with the admonition to “put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Not because it magically fixes everything I’m going through (far from it); instead, it’s really the only thing I can do.

Praise the Lord, oh my soul…

::END TRANSMISSION::