My church is starting out the year studying the Psalms. I love the Psalms. No matter what you are going through, you can find a psalm or two that fits the mood exactly. Praying through an appropriate Psalm has calmed and encouraged me countless times.
One of the things that really appeals to me about them is how honest the writers are. They often begin their psalm with a pouring out of complaints against God.
I don’t hear a lot of that kind of talk in Christian circles. We all seem to think we have to tidy up our language lest we offend the Almighty. Which is really ironic when you consider that He knows your thoughts and intentions, so it’s not like He doesn’t know what you’re biting your tongue to stop from saying.
In my Bible reading plan today I came across this comment by Nicky Gumbel, the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton in London:
“I have a friend who is a Benedictine monk. He is one of the most deeply spiritual and holy people I know. He told me that he often begins his prayers with ‘a time of complaining’!”
So I don’t think we need to be afraid of getting deep and real with God. I do think we need to not stay there, however. The psalmists practice this – almost without fail, each complaint is wrapped up with a reminder of who God is and how faithful He is. I think that is the area I need to work on. I’m either “life is awful and doomy and gloomy” or <fake-Polyanna-laugh> “it’s all good I’m a Christian I never feel bad!”
I can’t see that either of those attitudes are pleasing to the Lord. Honesty, now THAT, we know He loves. He also tells us to remember His faithfulness, to cast our cares upon Him, to ask for wisdom, and to surrender to His discipline when it comes along.
In other words, He wants us to be about His Kingdom business, keeping our minds set in a Kingdom mentality, not pretending the problems aren’t there but not being bowed down by them either, because we know we can trust Him to carry us, guide us, provide for us and never leave us or forsake us. His grace is sufficient for us.
So all this was swirling around my mind the last few days, along with a lot of things about which I wanted to complain. So I finally did. I got up in the wee hours and grumbled at the Lord.
This person is being mean to me. That person is completely missing the point of this problem we’re having so now I have to handle it. I also have to handle this, this and this, and I feel very alone, like the only adult in the room. And also the credit card balance that I pay off every month didn’t get paid off this month, and I can’t get another job because I barely have time to complete the ones I already have. And then there’s the kids, and what they aren’t doing well, and what I didn’t do well in the past that has set them up to fail like this.
I still felt very alone, but after I prayed that, and after I finished up with “but I know You are faithful and will carry me through this,” it occurred to me that I could shift some money around to pay off at least a little of the credit card bill. And then I thought of another thing I could do with the finances, and then another, and there I was at 2 a.m. tapping away at my spreadsheet. It didn’t solve the whole problem, but it chipped away at it and I felt like I had at least taken action.
This morning I continued the dialogue with the Lord. I pointed out that I still felt alone, and that last night as I worked on the finances, I was the only one sitting in that room in the cold struggling to look at the numbers through my bifocals. And the Lord gently said, “Whose idea was it to do those things in the first place?” And I realized that the thoughts had dropped into my head from nowhere, all of a sudden. As if He had just handed them to me.
So I continued talking to Him and pointed out that I am still stymied by the problems with the kids, because if I messed them up in the first place, how on earth am I going to know how to fix the problem? Without really being aware of the transition, I suddenly found myself not talking any more but entering reminders on my phone to check with my son about his blood sugar, which he constantly forgets to check. And then I found myself having a conversation with my daughter about a couple of things that need to be taken care of for her college enrollment, as well as a firm reminder to finish a chore she left half-completed last night.
In other words, I was suddenly on top of the whole parenting thing and doing it with love rather than desperation or anger.
And that’s when it hit me that even though I can’t SEE Him, FEEL Him or sometimes even HEAR Him, He is still making His presence known to me.
Because I had been way too emotionally bound up over those problems to act in such a calm and practical manner with them. It was like someone opened a door, showed me the path to walk down and handed me a flashlight in case it got dark. And when I acknowledged that, I was able to feel less alone.
I possibly won’t get the big Triumphant Victory in each of those areas, the one major change where it all comes together and everything is fine. I probably won’t, actually.
But what I am getting is that still, small voice, helping me in the details, whispering words of guidance and strengthening and encouragement, and never leaving me or forsaking me.