23Some went off to sea in ships, plying the trade routes of the world. 24They, too, observed the Lord’s power in action, his impressive works on the deepest seas. 25He spoke, and the winds rose, stirring up the waves. 26Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. 27They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end. 28“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 29He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. 30What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! 31Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.

Psalm 107:23-31

Life can be unpredictable. It seems 2020 has shown us that with undeniable clarity. If there is a common theme in what I hear, it is that right now life feels like a chaotic storm. I am proud of those who cry out to God in their deepest fears and he brings stillness to hearts and minds. But he isn’t giving a redo on this year with all its chaos. We get to ride it out with the blessing of the quietness he offers.

I take courage from these verses knowing I am not doing life alone. No matter how the seas churn or the ship is tossed about, the waves and winds STILL KNOW HIS NAME! He will bring me safely into the harbor.

This song seems to sum up the promises of Psalm 107 quite aptly. No matter where you find yourself, may you know the living hope of Jesus!

Praise the Lord for his great love and the wonderful things he has done for me!

17Some were fools; they rebelled and suffered for their sins. 18They couldn’t stand the thought of food, and they were knocking on death’s door. 19“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 20He sent out his word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death. 21Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. 22Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and sing joyfully about his glorious acts.

Psalm 107:17-22

When God rescues me from captivity, he isn’t concerned only for those things that keep me physically contained. Of even greater concern are those things that keep me from him while I walk in “freedom.” It might be soul wounds; it might be unconfessed sin.

As David says in Psalm 32:

3When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

When I hide my sin, covering it with activity, addictions or appeasement, I lose. My body loses. My mind loses. My relationship with my Creator loses. When I confess my sin, He speaks the word and I am set free from death.

Are you suffering under the weight of unconfessed sin? Cry out to Him and he will snatch you from the grips of death.

Praise the Lord for his great love and his wonderful things he has done for me!

10Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. 11They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High. 12That is why he broke them with hard labor; they fell, and no one was there to help them. 13“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 14He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains. 15Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. 16For he broke down their prison gates of bronze; he cut apart their bars of iron.

Psalm 107:10-16

This is a difficult scripture to read. I recall times when I sat in deepest gloom, imprisoned in chains of misery. But had I rebelled against the word of God? Had I scorned the counsel of the Most High? That rings harsh to my ears.

It might help to read it backwards. God snaps the chains of despair, rescuing from darkness and gloom those who cry out in distress. The “hard labor” from the Lord caused them to fall, opening their eyes to see that they were in need of help.

Perhaps the “hard labor” of the Lord comes because I am not listening. The Lord leaves me to my own abilities, I experience the full force of my limitations — that is the “hard labor.” I am no match for the heaviness of despair. It is in this place of what feels like utter abandonment that I know in the deepest part of me that I NEED the Lord.

When I will not allow God to help, when I will not turn to him until I experience hard labor, he stands by watching. But when I cry out, he responds! He breaks down the gates and cuts the bars of iron to free me from the grip of despair and gloom. He brings me home to himself.

Praise the Lord for his great love and his faithfulness to me!

4Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless. 5Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died. 6“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he rescued them from their distress. 7He led them straight to safety, to a city where they could live. 8Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. 9For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Psalm 107:4-7

Some of the Israelites literally wandered in sandy deserts without food when the Lord rescued them and brought them back to Jerusalem.

I have never wandered in a desert nor been so physically thirsty or hungry that I thought I would die. I know. We say we are going to die. We aren’t.

But I have been in a spiritual wasteland, lost and homeless, so hungry and thirsty for spiritual refreshment that my soul was dying. I needed help! I cried out to the Lord and he delivered me. He led me to a place I call home, a place I found the nutrition I needed, a place my hunger and thirst were satisfied. He filled me with good things and satisfied the longings of my heart. Praise the Lord for his great love!

In the New Testament, Jesus said it like this:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6

Are you wandering in a spiritually desolate place, without adequate nutrition? Cry out to the Lord for help. He will lead you to a place you can call home, to a place that supplies the refreshment you need!

This week, I invite you to walk with me through some of my inner thoughts regarding Psalm 107. The first time I remember reading it, I thought it would make a great sermon series. I even outlined it and used it as a part of an assignment in my Homiletics (Preaching) class. Perhaps it would make a series of sermons; but now it is just a favorite psalm. When I read it, the overwhelming message to me is this: NO ONE IS BEYOND HIS REACH OR HIS ABILITY TO REDEEM.

I encourage you to take the few minutes necessary to read the psalm in its entirety today. But if time doesn’t allow that, join me this week as we look at it in smaller, bite-size pieces.

1Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. 2Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies. 3For he has gathered the exiles from many lands, from east and west, from north and south.

43Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

Psalm 107:1-3, 43

Here is the beginning and the end of the psalm. While the author is anonymous, the event is thought to be the Jews return home from captivity in Babylon. Before you mark it off as irrelevant to you, consider your own journey. In some way, we all experience captivity and are invited to return to God through Jesus. Difficulties along the way are the places we meet Jesus.

In these opening words, I am challenged to consider the question: has the Lord redeemed me? Then speak up! Share what he has done!

So I ask you to consider: has he redeemed you? Are you sharing what he has done? What/who are your enemies? From what/who do you need to be delivered right now? Are you taking the faithful love of the Lord to heart?

David used his despair as a platform to draw others to faith in God. Others have done the same. One example in particular is Horatio Spafford, who penned the lyrics to “It is Well With my Soul.” Very few know the kind of tragedy this man and his wife experienced, and yet it produced the profoundly deep words of a well loved hymn. Below you will find a link to a modern version of this song. It has been a comfort to me and I hope it will be to you as well.

May your weekend be blessed with peace amidst the despair in our world! The waves and winds still know HIS name! Peace be still!

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?