Supplication for Help against EnemiesPSALM 86 (NRSV)
A Prayer of David.
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all day long.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my cry of supplication.
In the day of my trouble I call on you,
for you will answer me.
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
and bow down before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
O God, the insolent rise up against me;
a band of ruffians seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant;
save the child of your serving girl.
Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
Friends, the world that we live in can be overwhelming sometimes, can’t it? We are surrounded by fear and illness, injustice, and fighting. Opinions and passions are fired by emotions, and people take sides. We do not know who to listen to anymore because what one person believes is good and true, the next person disagrees with wholeheartedly. Unkind words are said, and judgmental actions are taken, and week by week the chaos seems to grow. That peaceable kingdom, where the lion and lamb lay down together that we hoped to someday experience seems totally out of reach. Well, every once in a while, especially when we are surrounded by such uncertainty, we need to look inside of ourselves. We need to figure out what we are feeling and take our emotional temperature.
Folks, today we heard two readings from the book of Psalms: Psalm 95 during the call to worship, and Psalm 86 just a few moments ago. Both were chock full of emotions. One expressed feelings of gladness, joy, and celebration, while the other was filled with feelings of distress, frustration, and sadness–emotions, good and bad, that we have all felt at one time or another. And yet, whether the psalm writer was feeling joy or sorrow, happiness, or grief, he found a way to praise and worship God just the same.
One of the things that I love the most about the psalms is that, however you are feeling, you can always find someone else who has felt the same way. In reading the psalms, no matter what situation you are in, you know that you are not alone. The psalms also remind us that God can handle our frustration. God can handle our sadness and our struggle and our anger and our pain, along with our joy and our excitement and our delight. But no matter what we are feeling, it’s up to us to be honest with God, to be vulnerable, and to be our true selves. And that’s not always easy to do, because society teaches us to always look good on the outside no matter what is happening on the inside–to paint a picture of perfection. But the only true way to work towards wholeness and healing is to be honest and open with ourselves and with God, admitting that we sometimes feel angry, or we feel sad, or we feel frustrated, or we feel lost.
But what about the times when we do not feel right and we cannot explain why? What if we do not have the words to describe what we are feeling because we are not sure what the source of our pain is? Well, here is the good news, folks. We do not need to have words, because God knows what is in our hearts. Eventually, when we stop ignoring our hurt and pain and find a way to name it and explain it, that can open even wider the path to healing and wholeness. And the truth is, sometimes prayer can help us do that, too.
Last week, we talked about the fact that prayer does not work like magic. You do not ask God for things and have them appear out of nowhere. But prayer changes us. It helps us to take a deep breath and look at the world around us a little bit differently. It helps to comfort us and bring us peace, and it gives us a way to lift up our concerns for people and situations in our world which can help to alleviate the burden from our shoulders and encourage us to see more clearly.
So, if you are having a tough time, talk to God. And if you do not know what words to say, that is okay. Sometimes you can look to the book of Psalms and read the words of others who were feeling the same way, like the writer of Psalm 86 did today. Or just take some time sitting in silence and listening because prayer is a two-way street. It is not just about asking for things or complaining about life. Sometimes it is about listening and allowing God to answer.
Friends, the truth is, the key to many of the psalms, which is important to realize and remember, is that whether they are psalms of lament, psalms of praise, psalms of thanksgiving, or psalms of wisdom, they are all about remembering. No matter what we are feeling, the psalms always call us to remember, to remember the goodness and the glory of God, to remember when others have walked through darkness and found the light, to remember when we have had struggles and found solace in our faith, and to be comforted in the fact that, no matter what we face, we are never alone.
Friends, many times when we are struggling or when we are sad, or we are dealing with depression or addiction or other forms of illness, we try to pretend that everything is okay. But pretending that everything is okay does not make it go away. That is why we need to be honest with ourselves and others. We need to teach our kids that it is okay to be mad or sad or frustrated. And when you are, you need to talk about it. God will understand, even if you don’t know the right words to say.
Friends, if we are going to work together to bring healing and wholeness to our community and the world, then we need to start by taking care of ourselves because then we can patiently share love and understanding rather than impatiently striking out with anger and frustration.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, please take some time to check in with your emotions this week. Remember that it is okay to feel mad or sad or frustrated, but in order to help bring healing and wholeness to the world, we need to bring healing and wholeness to ourselves first. So, look to the book of Psalms, or spend some time talking with God. Take care of yourself and do your best, but do not burn yourself out because the Body of Christ needs you! Folks, if we all work together, the peaceable kingdom will come, and we will find wholeness and healing not only within ourselves but all around the world.
My friends may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen.