Every day I hear of more despair, hardship and loss. In order to successfully navigate it, transformed rather than crushed, we need an example to follow. In Psalm 22, David unknowingly gives us just what we need.

He acknowledges his despair with honest expression of feeling abandoned by God. He freely asks where God is during this time. But he doesn’t stay there. He moves into recalling God’s faithfulness not only in the life of his ancestors, but in his personal experience. He begins to express gratefulness for what he recalls, in personal and corporate worship. His own despair becomes a platform for calling others to recall God’s faithfulness.

Next he moves into proclaiming the truth about God despite what he experiences. Regarding himself, he says, “But I am a worm and not a man. I am scorned and despised by all! Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying, ‘Is this the one who relies on the Lord?'”

Regarding the Lord, he says:

22I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people… Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel! 24For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.”

Psalm 22:22-24

To be honest, I get lost in my feelings — I am a worm — rather than rehearsing the truth — he is not ignoring me! Sometimes, I just don’t know where to start. So I start with the basics. God is good. All the time. My situation is not a surprise to him. He already knew. Seeds planted in the fall, when everything is dying, produce new growth in the spring. Even the winter cold does not destroy the flower of the rhododendron or the magnolia. He is not ignoring me. He does not belittle my pain.

Let’s not miss the first part of the passage for today — telling someone else. It’s easy to rehearse the despair without recalling God’s goodness. He is not ignoring you and he most assuredly is not belittling your pain. Acknowledge the despair, recall what he has done in the past, share it with others, rehearse the truth. Keep calm and keep on! This too shall pass!

Loss. The topic for this week because it is everywhere. It isn’t just death, the loss of a loved one, but the hard things that visit us out of nowhere. Job changes, health crisis, family difficulty, unmet dreams … the challenges of life. Looking to the psalms and David’s writing in particular, we learn how to grieve well. Psalm 22 is our template this week.

Yesterday I noted that recognizing the despair of our souls is paramount to effective grieving. But we don’t stay there. Moving to the next step ensures we will be transformed rather than crushed by the loss we experienced.

3Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them. 5They cried out to you and were saved. They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

9Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast. 10I was thrust into your arms at my birth. You have been my God from the moment I was born.

22I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people. 23Praise the Lord, all you who fear him! Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob! Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!

Psalm 22:3-5; 9-10; 22-23

David recognizes his feelings of abandonment. He allows himself to ask where God is. He knows he is experiencing loss. And then he reminds himself what God has done in the past, not only for his ancestors but for him personally.

As difficult as it may be at the time, recalling God’s care for me in the past helps me move through a present difficulty. This might be making a list of what I am grateful for, ways God has provided, moments when I heard God speak to me, recording a sunset or sunrise.

David takes it one more step and proclaims the Lord’s name to others. He gets with his tribe, his crew, his people and they talk about God’s goodness; they rehearse God’s faithfulness.

When I hit a tough spot, my natural reaction is to 1) rehearse the wrong, retell that awful story and 2) isolate myself. David’s reaction is the exact opposite. He acknowledges the pain, then he moves to praise, privately and with others.

Can you do that today? Perhaps it is writing out a gratitude list or meeting with others. You might consider asking the Lord to open your eyes to all he has done in your life. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it!

I haven’t always grieved well. I don’t like sadness, loss, despair. Of course, it’s expected to grieve when someone dies, but what about when dreams die, goals go unmet, stages of life change, jobs disappear, hope wavers. Can I sit with the sadness then and truly grieve the loss? I am learning; learning to sit with loss and sadness, allowing it to do the work of transforming me into a better person. Sometimes it helps to have an example of someone who grieves well. David, in his psalms, does it well.

1My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? 2Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.

6But I am a worm and not a man. I am scorned and despised by all! 7Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying, 8“Is this the one who relies on the Lord? Then let the Lord save him! If the Lord loves him so much, let the Lord rescue him!”

Psalm 22:1-2; 6-8

It seems the first step in healthy grief is acknowledging the feelings — feelings of abandonment, betrayal, rejection, loss, disappointment — whatever it might be. Allow it to be spoken, turn it over and examine it, look at it from all sides, feel it and acknowledge its presence.

Knowing that I am not going to camp (live) in this place of despair, I allow the feelings to be present, to sit with them. This looks different for every person, and no right way exists. If you are experiencing loss in any way, let it do the work of transformation. I read it like this today: ““We face many deaths within our lives. The choice is whether these deaths will be terminal (crushing our spirit and life) or open us up to new possibilities and depths of transformation in Christ.” – Peter Scazzero in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

I choose new life. What about you? Can you sit with the despair, the loss? Perhaps sitting with it while someone helps you process would be helpful. Seek out that person today. Or click on the Contact link above. I’d be happy to sit with you in your sadness so that it might do the work of transformation.

The current sermon series at our church is entitled Going Deeper: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality! The challenge to take care of my own stuff in order to enjoy life and all it brings is ever before me. This week we faced the challenge of hard things.

Life is full of hard things. That’s the way Jesus said it would be — that’s why he came. Because I need it so badly, I am going to review the scripture from the message this week. For today, just give it a read and see what God might want to be saying to you. Oh yes, you can listen to the message at Maple City Chapel by scrolling to the “Latest Sermons” tab.

1My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? 2Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief. 3Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them. 5They cried out to you and were saved. They trusted in you and were never disgraced. 6But I am a worm and not a man. I am scorned and despised by all! 7Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying, 8“Is this the one who relies on the Lord? Then let the Lord save him! If the Lord loves him so much, let the Lord rescue him!” 9Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast. 10I was thrust into your arms at my birth. You have been my God from the moment I was born. 11Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me. 12My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls; fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in! 13Like lions they open their jaws against me, roaring and tearing into their prey. 14My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. 15My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. 16My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet. 17I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. 18They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing. 19O Lord, do not stay far away! You are my strength; come quickly to my aid! 20Save me from the sword; spare my precious life from these dogs. 21Snatch me from the lion’s jawsand from the horns of these wild oxen. 22I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people. 23Praise the Lord, all you who fear him! Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob! Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel! 24For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help. 25I will praise you in the great assembly. I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you. 26The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the Lord will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy. 27The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him. All the families of the nations will bow down before him. 28For royal power belongs to the Lord. He rules all the nations. 29Let the rich of the earth feast and worship. Bow before him, all who are mortal, all whose lives will end as dust. 30Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. 31His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done.

Psalm 22

What phrases do you resonate with in David’s song? How can you imitate his faith in order to strengthen your own?

Contronym — a word with multiple meanings where one meaning is the reverse of another.

The fifth: buckle (v)

Buckle: to fasten or secure with a buckle

Buckle: to bend, warp, collapse under pressure

5Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 6He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. 7My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. 8O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.

Psalm 62:5-8

When I buckle myself to my God, who is my fortress, my knees will not buckle and no enemy can reach me.

Today is the day to attach securely to God!

May your weekend be filled with joy and delight at the wonderful works of God!

Contronym – a word with multiple meanings where one meaning is the reverse of the other.

The third: screen (v)

Screen: to protect of conceal

Screen: to show or broadcast

20After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard. 21One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent. 22Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers. 23Then Shem and Japheth took a robe, held it over their shoulders, and backed into the tent to cover their father. As they did this, they looked the other way so they would not see him naked.

Genesis 9:20-23

Ham, seeing Noah naked, broadcast his father’s vulnerability. Shem and Japheth protected and concealed their father’s vulnerability.

In what way are you screening for others? Do you protect and conceal, helping others to feel safe in their vulnerabilities? Or do you show and broadcast what you learn of others, increasing their shame and fragility?

Contronym — a word with multiple meanings where one meaning is the reverse of another.

The second: overlook (v)

Overlook. To monitor or inspect.

Overlook. To fail to notice or choose not to emphasize

On one hand, I overlook the progress of something, perhaps I keep a close eye on how something is developing. On the other hand, I overlook the failings or shortcomings of myself and others, I choose to not see how something fails to develop!

Too often I find it easier to look closely at how something progresses or fails to progress and keep a record. Rather, I want to develop the ability to overlook the progress of something and look instead to the heart of the person involved. After all, it is the heart that our Father sees.

4Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

What about you? Is there anything you need to overlook as you overlook the progress those close to you are making?

HAPPY HUMP DAY!

I learned a new word last week. It was completely by accident while reading a beach novel with very few redeeming characteristics. But I learned a new word. Actually a word that categorizes many words.

Contronym.

Contronym is a word with multiple meanings where one meaning is the reverse of another. There are many examples in the English language. It seems to me it makes learning the English language quite difficult. Although, it is quite possible that other languages contain the same difficult words.

We are on vacation this week so I thought it might be interesting to consider some of these words.

The first: BOLT

Bolt: to fasten one object to another with a metal fitting

Bolt: to make a sudden escape

Consider your present situation. In what way are you bolting? Are you securely fastening to Someone with greater strength and stability? Are you making plans to flee suddenly without looking back?

13But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Exodus 14:13-14

I challenge you to insert your own circumstances in place of “The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again!” Can you “bolt” yourself to the Lord and watch him fight for you?

32That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. 33The whole town gathered at the door to watch. 34So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak. 35Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”38But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” 

Mark 1:32-38

It is no secret that Jesus didn’t look like the Messiah most people expected. Many believed the Messiah would reign on earth, deliver Israel from their enemies and set up an earthly kingdom. In the passage above, the disciples thought Jesus ought to go back to town where the people were looking for him. Imagine what they might have been thinking. This might be the moment…

But Jesus said no to the invitation for acclaim and recognition. He knew he wasn’t going to set up an office in town, live in one place with a magnificent following, set down stakes.

The disciples weren’t the only ones who had expectations. Recall his encounter with Satan in the wilderness. Three times he tempted Jesus to fulfill his mission through a stunning miracle, a real crowd pleasing event. Jesus said no to that kind of fulfillment.

Jesus’ first miracle was performed at a wedding and at the insistence of his mother. Later, his family decided he was crazy and more than once taunted him to make public appearances. Scripture records that his mother and brothers came looking for him to take him home. You know, like an intervention. Jesus said no to living according to the expectations of his family.

It is so easy to forfeit God’s call when my identity is not firmly rooted in what Jesus says about me. I am tempted to compromise, play to the crowd, win favor with the popular kids. I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but I am moving in that direction. I feel the pull to change course at times; sometimes the pull is quite strong. And then I remember Jesus. I listen for his still small voice. I remember that it is okay. It is okay to be me even when others don’t agree.

In what way are you drawn away from your purpose by the expectations of others?

David spent many hours as a young man in the fields tending sheep and listening to God. Evidence of knowing himself was displayed in his first interactions with King Saul when he volunteered to fight the giant, Goliath. Yesterday I highlighted his choice to forego the armor Saul offered because it wasn’t him. He knew who he was and he knew who God was, enabling him to make a difficult choice.

Near the end of David’s life, his son Absalom, plotted to overthrow him as king and claim the throne for himself. David, and those loyal to him, fled Jerusalem, seeking refuge outside the city. On the way, they encountered opposition from a man from Saul’s clan. Thinking David’s reign was coming to an end, Shimei spoke out against the Lord’s anointed, spewing hate previously held in check. Notice David’s response to the accusations. I believe the choices he made his entire life to walk in his true identity as God’s chosen enabled him to respond with humility and acceptance.

5As King David came to Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. 6He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. 7“Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. 8“The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!” 9“Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?” Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded. “Let me go over and cut off his head!” 10“No!” the king said. “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah! If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?”

2 Samuel 17:5-10

Absalom’s attempts to overthrow David did not work and ended badly for Absalom. As David and his men returned to the city, Shimei approaches them again. This time in a much different frame of mind. He fears for his life, realizing that his rash behavior may not go unnoticed now that David is returning to the throne.

As the king was about to cross the river, Shimei fell down before him.  19“My lord the king, please forgive me,” he pleaded. “Forget the terrible thing your servant did when you left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind.  20I know how much I sinned. That is why I have come here today, the very first person in all Israel to greet my lord the king.” 21Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shimei should die, for he cursed the Lord’s anointed king!” 22“Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah!” David exclaimed. “Why have you become my adversary today? This is not a day for execution, for today I am once again the king of Israel!” 23Then, turning to Shimei, David vowed, “Your life will be spared.”

2 Samuel 19:18-23

Once again, David rose above the situation. I believe it is because he completely identified as deeply loved and chosen by God. He didn’t need revenge; he didn’t need to prove anything. He knew who he was and whose he was.

I want to be this kind of person. I want to know deeply who I am and whose I am. When tough decisions need to be made I desire humility over pride, love over revenge. That will happen when I spend the necessary time in stillness and solitude with my Lord, listening to his voice, identifying with his truth, exposing the lies. It is consistent, hard work but the benefits are out of this world!

How about you? What kind of person do you want to be? How will you get there? Are you on the road to becoming the best of who you were created to be?