Thanks forever, whether “comfortable” or “terrified”

Posted Nov 27, 2019

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Daily Scripture

Psalm 30:5-12

5 His anger lasts for only a second,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime.
Weeping may stay all night,
    but by morning, joy!
6 When I was comfortable, I said,
   “I will never stumble.”
7 Because it pleased you, Lord,
    you made me a strong mountain.
But then you hid your presence.
    I was terrified.
8 I cried out to you, Lord.
    I begged my Lord for mercy:
9 “What is to be gained by my spilled blood,
    by my going down into the pit?
Does dust thank you?
    Does it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Lord, listen and have mercy on me!
    Lord, be my helper!”
11 You changed my mourning into dancing.
    You took off my funeral clothes
        and dressed me up in joy
12          so that my whole being
    might sing praises to you and never stop.
Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

Reflection Questions

Psalm 30 reflected a time of severe trouble that threatened life itself (verse 9). “The psalmist may have been healed from a life-threatening illness, but the language could be metaphorical.”* Whatever the specific circumstances, the psalmist’s focus was on how God had driven away the threat and restored joy to life. Most individuals, as well as Israel as a nation, could remember situations when mourning (which seemed to last forever) had turned to joy.

  • Scholar Donald Williams wrote, "In [the psalmist’s] illness there has been weeping, the sense of God's absence, and mourning. Now…the healing of God has turned sorrow into joy."** Difficult times can make God feel absent even for people of faith. (Don’t forget Jesus quoting Psalm 22:1 on the cross.) We sometimes use the phrase “God showed up” to describe times of recovery and restoration. How does joy in our lives grow from God’s presence with us?
  • This psalm fits larger contexts, too. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “I read these words: ‘The United States Supreme Court today unanimously ruled bus segregation unconstitutional in Montgomery, Alabama’…. The dawn will come…. ’Weeping may endure for a night,’ says the Psalmist, ‘but joy cometh in the morning.’ This faith adjourns the assemblies of hopelessness and brings new light into the dark chambers of pessimism.”*** Can you think of  “dawn” times in world history? In what parts of life do you look forward to God bringing a joyous morning to our world?

Prayer

Lord, when I face hard times where "weeping may stay all night," I thank you that the worst thing is never the last thing. In the end you always have and always will turn sorrow into joy. Amen.


* J. Clinton McCann, study note on Psalm 30:2 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 870 OT.

** Donald Williams, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 13: Psalms 1–72. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986, p. 239.

*** A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1986, p. 504.

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Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

What do you weep about? What does your church weep about? What prevents you from weeping? These questions were posed by Rev. Dr. Grace Imathiu, a powerful preacher and biblical scholar, at the Academy for Spiritual Formation I attended last week. It made me think about weeping as spiritual practice. 

Broken-heartedness is at the center of human life and therefore weeping is at the center of spiritual life. Scripture, especially the Psalms, are full of weeping. 

Many American Christians don’t think much of weeping. We want to get on with the business at hand, we want to DO something NOW.  Weeping is viewed by many as a non-productive waste of time. We want to skip weeping and go straight to the “joy that comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Why? Why do we avoid weeping? 

When we weep, we are utterly naked and real before God. When our hearts are broken by personal loss or by tragedies in the world, all pretense is gone and we know something true about ourselves, we know our own weakness. When our hearts are broken, we turn to the Source of Life, utterly dependent on God’s Life that binds up our broken hearts. 

What do you weep about? What does your church weep about? What prevents you from weeping? 

Sorrow and joy are inextricably tied. The Psalms make this plain and our own lives confirm it. Somehow, broken-heartedness and joy are woven together deep in our souls. It may be that only a broken heart can, through its broken-openness, give birth to joy. When we avoid weeping, we miss out on joy! 

Maybe we need to be more willing to let our hearts be broken. Maybe weeping is the path into our weakness where we find joy, freedom, healing. 

What do you weep about? What does your church weep about? What prevents you from weeping?

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