St. John’s University, Collegivelle, MN, 56231 2006
Monday, June 29, 2020
By Lance Mayes
Psalm 13 (NLT)
1 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
3 Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6 I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.
The words of Psalm 13 may sound familiar to you. I used this to form my prayer for worship yesterday.
Lament. According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the verb lament is “to mourn aloud, to express sorrow, mourning, or regret.” Psalm 13 is a poem of individual lament written by David, probably when he was fleeing for his life from King Saul.
Do you feel these words?
- “How long” is mentioned four times. This deep distress is related to God, self, and enemy.
- “Forget” in Hebrew is to withhold help and comfort.
- “Anguish in my soul” is the opposite of joy
- “Unfailing love” is steadfast love, faithfulness, loyalty, mercy, kindness. It is an essential part of God’s character and should be an essential part of our character as well.
Lament is something we need right now. When our “Stay Home, Stay Safe” plans first went into effect, I thought it was a temporary measure. The pandemic would be brought under control, school would resume, everyone would return to their jobs. Oh, was I wrong. COVID-19 was not consulted and continues to wreak havoc, illness, and death.
We need to mourn aloud to God. We need to share our sorrows with our Lord. We need to express our regrets to our Savior today. I invite you to join me in lament.
Lament. “O Lord, how long will you forget me?”
We are tired of this. I am tired of this. Tensions are high, and patience is low. I’ve seen lots of social media posts shaming people who don’t wear masks in public and shaming people who do wear masks in public.
Lament. “How long will you look the other way?”
The racial tensions are incredibly high. I’ve tried my best to put myself in the position of a listener and learner. Garrett and I had a conversation with Dr. & Rev. Brock, lead pastors at. The Message Church here in San Antonio. (This conversation will air on Wednesday, July 1 at 6:00 pm.) I am working my way through a book called White Fragility. And, our family watched the Netflix documentary The 13th and the movie Marshall. My heart is broken. We need to change.
Lament. “How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?”
I am tentative to post my thoughts online for fear of cyber-bullies out there. I’ve posted some. Many people are supportive; a few are bullies. Staying home, wearing a mask in public, physically distancing, and hyper-aware is weighing on me. I don’t think I’m alone in saying this is messing with my head. My mental health is not as healthy right now.
Lament. “How long will my enemy have the upper hand?”
I am angry. But where is my anger directed? Others who lie and gaslight, who deny systemic racism and say the world-wide pandemic is a hoax? Myself who does not do enough? God, who seems to be nowhere? At times, it is all three.
Lament. “Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’ Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.”
I don’t think I’m alone in saying I’m done. I am ready for the physical distancing to be over. I’m ready to enjoy life without restrictions. I am ready for systems to change that repress Blacks and other People of Color.
Lament. “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.”
My prayers seem to go unanswered at times. I see people post prayers that ask God to prevent COVID from messing with their plans. I see others pray that God would bring protection and healing to those dealing with COVID and that racial justice would prevail.
Lament. “But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.”
Psalm 13 helps us lament; it helps us move through our crises of faith and return to hope and trust in God.
I can look back over my life and see the hand of God at work. I can see how Jennie and I prayed for children, and we adopted Nick and Leah. I can see how God provided doctors to diagnose and provide treatment for my cough of over 15 years. I can see how God is at work all around me. I see God providing rain for the just and unjust. I can see how God has changed me throughout my life.
Thoughts and Questions to Ponder
- How long has it been since you genuinely cried out to God?
- What is breaking you right now? Share that anguish with God.
- Rest in God’s unfailing love. Make a list of the ways God is showing love to you today and in the past.
Listen to this song, “Sánanos,” by Marcos Witt (see below). For those who don’t understand Spanish, Google Translate and Patty Villarreal helped me provide this translation. May God bring healing to us all.
We are your people, and today we humble ourselves before you
We are your people, in need of You
We have sinned, we have left your way, your truth
We humble ourselves, our Earth heals today
Heal us! heal us!
It is the cry of this people, humbled before You
Save us! save us!
It is the prayer of your children, prostrate before You
Heal us, heal us
Heal us, heal us
We are your children, we recognize our pride, our mistake
We are your children, we ask you today for forgiveness
We invoke your name today, and we seek your favor
May your light shine on us, to honor You Lord
Heal us, heal us
By Ed Twedt
Reading recently about the history of Lent, it appears that there is no agreement among scholars about the exact origin and development of Lent, but there is agreement about what it means to us today. It is a time of fasting, reflection on who and what we are and getting ourselves more in touch with the kingdom, and a time of increased attention to Christian charity. Perhaps most of all it’s a time for us to be reminded of our relationship with God and the possibility of allowing God to enhance that relationship.
The psalmist gives us some insights into our relationship with God and what God has done for us and will continue to do. But we need to listen to God’s voice in this beautiful psalm to catch the nuances and depth of God’s love for us, and to understand how much God cares for us as we make our way through this Lenten season. There is a beauty and lilting rhythm in the Hebrew poetry of this psalm which is hard to miss, even in the English translation. A great deal of this beauty is found in the psalm’s repetitive nature. But if one only pays attention to these first 16 verses it is easy to miss the power and beauty which is found when one sees the Psalm in its complete form. For instance the personal name of God (translated as LORD) appears twelve times throughout the entire Psalm. There are only two other references to God in the entire Psalm. In verse 17 we read of “the words of God”, and “the counsel of the Most High.” Clearly the author wants to focus on the personal relation of God to God’s people.
The Psalm opens by asking us to give thanks to the LORD (the personal name of God) and reminds us that God’s steadfast love endures forever. This theme is repeated four times in 4 identical verses beginning in verse 8, “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.” This verse is repeated verbatim in verses 15, 21 and 31. Even in its English translation, the rhythm of this gripping poetry is hard to miss.
But lest we miss the power of these verses, the psalmist intersperses these beautiful verses with four reminders of what God has actually done for God’s people. In verse 6, speaking of “the redeemed of the LORD”, the psalmist tells us, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” This verse is repeated almost verbatim three more times, in verses 13, 19 and 28. The only difference is the verb used to convey what God has done. In verse 6 God “delivered”, in verses 13 and 19 God “saved” and in verse 28 God ”brought them out from their distress.”
So what the psalmist does is to remind us, the redeemed of the LORD”, of what God has done for humankind, and then reminds us, more specifically what God has done in response to our cries for help. And then there is the great finale of the Psalm which exhorts us, “Let those who are wise give heed to these things and consider the steadfast love of the LORD.” And that brings us right back to the Psalm’s opening reference to God’s steadfast love. It is in that steadfast love that we are called to walk with God during this Lenten season.