Suffering is part of life, but the Book of Psalms can help us better grasp the mystery of our ordeal and get through it.
At certain times in our life, when disappointments pile up, when relationships with loved ones become difficult, when we suffer personal failures, or health worries, we can sometimes feel thoroughly discouraged. It can be the start of a real depression that requires medical attention, but more often than not, it’s a passing trial. How to get through it to the other side? How to regain confidence? The psalms show us a path through this nighttime of the soul.
“How long, O Lord, will you forget me?” (Psalm 13)
When God seems so far away we almost start doubting His existence, we’re tempted to give up on prayer. We think prayer is only good when we’re overflowing with love and gratefulness … but when our hearts are downcast, we no longer pray because we have nothing but bitterness on our lips.
So what then? Why not speak our bitterness to the Lord? How can he “turn for me my mourning into dancing; loose my sackcloth and gird me with gladness” (see Ps 30) if we turn away from him? The Bible is full of cries of distress and anguish. Did not Jesus himself cry out before dying, “Father, why have you forsaken me?”
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55)
God desires us to cast all our burdens on him. He asks only one thing of us: that we entrust it to him. We mustn’t be ashamed to put all in his hands, including that which humiliates us, that which seems despicable, even disgusts us.
One bad apple spoils the whole apple-cart: one single seed of rottenness that we don’t place before the Lord is enough to fill us with sadness and bitterness.
“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51)
God doesn’t expect that we offer him only our good acts, that we lay down our crosses. He also wishes us to offer him our sins, for he rejoices in offering us his forgiveness.
One day, God asked Jerome what he held most precious. Jerome then went on to list all that he offered the Lord: his extensive fasts, his long hours of prayer, his acts of love, etc. The Lord was still waiting for something, but Jerome didn’t know what else he could offer him! “And your sin?” the Lord asked him. “Why haven’t you thought of offering me that?”
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37)
When we no longer know where we’re at and anguish plunges us into night, let us apply ourselves more than ever to “commit our way to the Lord” by fulfilling, step by step, his will through the little things of everyday life. Let us push ourselves to live fully in the moment, without worrying about the rest. The only thing that matters, the only thing that depends on us, is that we carry out the will of God, here and now. The rest is up to him. Don’t torment yourself needlessly! Seek the Kingdom of God and all the rest will be given you in abundance.
“Every day I will bless you, and praise your name for ever and ever” (Psalm 145)
Each day, even when everything is going wrong, we can still at least say a thank you to the Lord. Even the worst day has its little glimmer of gold: a child’s smile, a beautiful landscape, a kindly gesture, an unexpected encounter…
Don’t go to sleep without saying thank you to the Lord. Not some vague kind of thank you, airy and impersonal, but a precise thank you for something precise. The more we give thanks, the more we find reasons to give thanks. Praise opens our heart and our eyes to the wonders of God.
“The Lord my God lightens my darkness … You girded me with strength for the battle” (Psalm 18)
God doesn’t dispel the night; he enlightens it. He doesn’t dispel our battles; he arms us with what we need to battle bravely through to victory. Whatever the darkness of our night, whatever the battles in our life, be sure that through the risen Jesus, we already have the victory. Let us place our unreserved confidence in him and soon we shall cry out: “You have been my help; in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.”
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