Stuck Week 7: Parched
Hello? I’m still here. Still stuck. You people watch me struggle every week and just laugh. Ugh. Don’t you ever feel like you’re upside down or in the middle? Or in the thick of it? Life can be like that, but how do we get out of it? Maybe it starts with just one good push in the right direction to get unstuck. Turtle out.
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re ending our series that we’ve been in called “Stuck.” Can I ask a question? Aren’t you going to miss the turtle just a little bit? Come on. Just a little bit. Did anybody actually go out and buy one so that you could keep him right instead of flipped over? Anyway, if you’re new or you haven’t been here, I always go back at the beginning of every sermon that I do in a series and sort of just recap because I want everybody to feel like they know what’s going on. The last thing I want is anybody to walk in here and go, “Oh, man. The end of the series. I’m not going to know what’s going on.”
Let me put you at ease. We’ve been talking about areas in our lives that we get stuck in. Every single one of us gets stuck in certain areas of our lives. We know it. I mean, it might be a decision that we need to make. Maybe we’ve got one that we feel is better than the other, but we’re not quite sure. Or maybe they’re all bad and we’re just trying to figure out which is the worst bad decision to make. We’re just sort of stuck there. Maybe we’re in counseling. Maybe we don’t know how things are going to go in a relationship, a marriage or whatever it may be. Or maybe we’re just in something that just doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere and we’re stuck there. Maybe it’s finances. It could be whatever. Health. You’re just sort of stuck in life.
So, we’ve been looking at how we get unstuck when we are stuck, and looking at some really good, biblical stories and passages, and then sort of moving into practical stuff so that we get something when we leave. We hopefully get something to put in our toolbox that we didn’t have before, so when we walk out of here, we’re better than when we came in. We’ve also hoped along the way that maybe we could put some stuff in our toolbox, as well, that would help us from getting stuck in the first place. So, I hope that this has been a good series. I’ve enjoyed doing this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I think we’ve learned a lot. It’s a really big deal to me, as your pastor, because, listen, I know this. There are so many good preachers and teachers out there, far better than I am. You can watch their podcasts, YouTube and whatever. So, when you come here, I want to make sure that you get something. When you come here, that you leave differently than when you came.
So, I hope that this series has helped you, has equipped you, and we’re going to finish the series talking about something that we don’t talk a lot about in church. Because, as a general rule, most people go through a lot of stuff during the week. When you come to church, you’re hoping, “Man, I hope I get filled up. I hope that I get encouraged.” We do all those things as much as we can, but there are times that we get stuck and we don’t know what to do. The Christian Church really doesn’t know what to do with these things. When you’re stuck where it’s not like you’re just sort of stuck a little bit where it’s a little dark, but sometimes we get stuck in these really, really, really dark places where there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And we don’t know what to do with those situations because, I mean, it’s bleak. It might be a loss of a family member. Somebody may come along. “Oh, we were going to see them one day,” and it’s like, “Yeah, but they’re gone.”
You’re just there in the darkness. You’re there and it’s just all there, heavy, and you just feel it. Or maybe it’s a loss of a relationship or a marriage or a loved one. Whatever it may be. A spouse. A child. It could be whatever. And nobody can relate. Everybody comes along and they’re like, “Oh, it’s okay. Just pray.”
You’re like, “Man, I’m going to give you the left foot of fellowship out of this room.” You know? It’s like, “You don’t understand the pain and the misery that I’m going through. I’m just stuck in this really dark, nasty place. I don’t feel like there’s really anything at all for me. God isn’t listening. God isn’t coming through.”
And we really just don’t know how to deal with those things when they happen. So, I want to talk to you about that, but I want to talk to you about a psalm. We’re going to work through a whole psalm. I hope you’re okay with this. I’m going to be a little bit more of a teacher today than I normally am. I’ll put on my professor hat. We’re going to teach this psalm. But what I can tell you is the Psalter, which is the 150 psalms that we have, has one psalm in it that is unlike any of the other psalms in the Psalter. And anybody who studies the psalms knows this. Anybody who’s given their life work in an academic field, or in a biblical field, or in a pastoral field who has really studied the psalms realizes there’s one psalm that stands completely different from all the other psalms. In fact, it stands different from everything else in all of Scripture. It’s there and it’s like nobody knows what to do with it.
In fact, nobody knows what to do with it. If you go to liturgical churches, they have a common lectionary. The idea is that if you go to a certain church or a denomination, whatever church you go to, it’s like you’re going to be getting the same thing every week because they use the same common lectionary. This psalm is not included in that lectionary because they don’t know what to do with it either. Most people don’t preach on this at all because this psalm is not just a lament psalm. There are different genres of psalms, but a lament psalm is where a psalmist is having a problem, going through difficulties, and you see that. Like the book of Lamentations is a lament where Jeremiah is lamenting over the loss of Jerusalem.
But in all of the laments, all of the lament psalms and all of the wisdom stuff that we have, except for this one, there’s always a ray of hope. There’s always something to look forward to. Psalm 88? Nothing. It is absolutely bleak from start to finish. There’s no hope at all. It’s just bleak. But it’s there. I can tell you this as your pastor: I’m committed to preaching every one of the 66 books. I’m not going to mine things for things that I think are good, or things that you’ll like me for. We’re going to preach the Word of God here. I believe when we preach the Word of God and we talk about the Word of God, God does change in our lives.
So, we’re going to look at Psalm 88. It’s going to be a little tough. It’s going to be heavy. It’s going to be weighty because this psalmist is in a bad place. The last word in the Hebrew text of Psalm 88 is “darkness.” That’s how it ends. It just ends there. Most people are like, “Man, can we get into Psalm 89? Get that thing out. What do we do with this thing?”
So, we’re going to take this thing head on because I believe many of you are going to go, “Wow. I’ve been there. I wouldn’t have told anybody I was there.” But I believe this psalm is there for a reason. I think once we work through it — and we’re going to feel the weight of it. We’re going to look at some real practical, applicational points that I think will really make a difference in our lives.
So, let’s get into Psalm 88. Psalm 88 has a heading. Headings are not inspired, but the heading of the psalm is the longest heading in all of the Psalter. It’s a super long heading. I’m not going to get into it that much, but there are a couple of things that I want to say. It says, first of all, that it’s a psalm. You know as well as I do, when you read it, as negative as it is and as painful as it is, it must’ve been set to country music. Just saying. I’m just saying. Don’t hate the messenger. I’m just saying. It is what it is.
So, it’s this song. They would sing it. You’re going to go, “Man, they would sing this song? It’s pretty bad.” It’s also, what we’re told, a maskil, which a lot of scholars believe is some sort of instrumentation. But the word, the root word, is a teaching or an instruction. So, it’s almost like an instruction that’s set to music, or something we’re supposed to learn from this. We’re told that Heman is the one who wrote this. He is, according to 1 Chronicles, a worship leader of Israel. This is the only psalm he has in the Psalter. I would think, man, if I had one shot at putting a psalm in Psalms, it would definitely not be this one. But this is the one that he got in.
So, it’s there for a reason. I love this psalm because I love the fact that the God of the universe doesn’t sanitize Scripture for you and me. Some of you are going to go, “Man, this is some real and raw stuff.” It is. So, let’s get to work. Let’s see. As we go through this, you’re going to see this is a psalm where the person is crying out to God, saying, “God, I hope that You’ll hear my prayer,” but there’s no answer. As he realizes he’s praying, he’s calling out to God and there’s no answer, he starts to get frustrated. We’re going to look at this. I think that it will — I do. I just think, a lot of people, it’s going to speak to them. So, let’s get to work here.
“O Lord, God of my salvation,”
The psalmist realizes that God’s God. I mean, this is not a psalm with no faith. There’s faith in God. There’s no question that he sees God as the God of salvation.
He says, “I cry out day and night before you.”
In the Hebrew text, the word “cry” is used three times. It’s a different cry each time, which means this guy’s doing everything that he can to cry in different ways to get God to hear him.
He says, “I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!”
What’s he saying here? He’s saying, “I’m praying, but for some reason it’s not getting before God. For some reason, I’m praying, but He’s not inclining His ear.”
In other words, the psalmist is saying, “I know if God heard this prayer, I know if God inclined His ear to what I’m praying, I know that if it came before Him, He can answer the problem that I’ve got. There’s no question. But for some reason, my prayer isn’t. I’m crying out to God. I’m crying out in every way that I can. I’m bringing these prayers before God every day and every night. For some reason, it’s not coming — God, I just want it to come before You. I just want You to incline Your ear to my cry.”
If you’ve ever had that moment where you feel as if the prayers aren’t going any further than just the words that you’re saying, you could relate to this psalm. I know I’ve had plenty of times in my life where I’ve prayed things and I’ve been like, “Man, I don’t even know where it’s going. It’s surely not getting above the ceiling. I just don’t know what’s going on. God, why are You not answering my prayer.”
There’s a real humanity here to this psalmist. What’s probably going on — we don’t know for a fact. But what’s probably going on is the psalmist is on his way to death. In the Old Testament, they didn’t have the same view of death and resurrection that we do as Christians. He’s on his way to death and he probably has a disease that is very contagious. Maybe like leprosy. So, as he’s going to death and everybody’s fleeing him, he feels that God’s even fled him. We’re going to see this just continues. I mean, this is the most bright spot. That is the brightest spot of this psalm. So, let’s continue on. It’s like SheiKra at Busch Gardens. It’s like, “Woo! Here we go.” Let’s look here.
“He says, “For my soul is full of troubles,”
I love that. I know my soul has been full of troubles many, many times in my life.
He says, “And my life draws near to Sheol.”
What’s Sheol? If you never read the Old Testament, you’re like, “What is Sheol? What is Abaddon? What is this pit?” All this stuff. Well, in the Old Testament, what we have — and we have instances where they sort of start to intuit resurrection. It’s in there. It’s like Prego. It’s in there. But most of the people in the Old Testament — and this is hard for us when we read the Old Testament because we’re not really acclimated to that world that was written at a time and a place. Remember, like I always say, the Bible was not written to you and I. It was written for you and I, but not to you and I. So, we have to go back and understand what the original audience was hearing to really understand some of these books and what they mean to us.
Sheol was the place in the Old Testament where people felt like everybody went. Like David said, “Sheol is after me.” Well, David was a good man. He was a man after God’s own heart. Sheol was where everybody went. Everybody looked around and said, “Well, when you die, you go to the grave. I guess you continue on.” They had an idea that life was eternal, but everybody went, good and bad, to Sheol.
So, in life, the way that you would live life in the Old Testament — and you see it in Proverbs and places where it says if you’ll do this, God will bless you, and if you’ll do this, God will bless you. The idea was if you live a righteous life in this world, you’re still going to go to Sheol with everybody else. But if you live a righteous life in this world, you’re going to be blessed. If you live a bad life in this world, you’re not going to be blessed. Well, you and I know that’s not the way it works. That’s why when you get into the Old Testament and you start reading these books, like Job, for instance, where Job is obviously suffering affliction, and all of his buddies come and are like, “Dude, you must’ve done something wrong.”
That’s why these books are there because nobody understands why people are suffering. If God’s good, God’s loving, God’s kind and He’s supposed to bless you, then why are you going through these difficulties? You see it in the New Testament as well in John 9. People say, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” In their mind, the only reason bad things could happen to people was because they did bad things. Unfortunately, there’s a whole string of Christianity in America today that basically says the whole same thing. If something’s wrong in your life, you’ve done something wrong. You don’t have faith somewhere or you blew it somewhere. That’s why when we come to psalms like this, when we come to those moments of dark despair, we don’t know what to do because we sort of feel like if we’re honest, if we tell everybody, “Man, I am at the darkest spot. I don’t see any hope. I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” everybody will look at us like, “Whoa, what’s wrong with you, man? Did you do something wrong?”
But see, this is the reality of life. You and I both know, at a real human, honest level, there are times that we get in where it’s just dark. This psalm reminds us of this. So, this guy’s on his way to Sheol.
He says, “I am counted among those who go down to the pit;”
“I am a man who has no strength,”
In other words, everything’s withering away.
He says, “Like one set loose among the dead,”
“I don’t have any strength. You’ve set me loose among the dead. I’m not quite dead yet, but it’s like You’ve set me loose among the dead.”
“Like the slain that lie in the grave,”
Like the people when you walk out on the battlefield, you don’t even know who they are. You’re just picking them up and throwing them in the grave. You’re just picking them up and throwing them in the grave. “God, that’s the way I feel.”
“Like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.”
Right now, you’re probably going, “No wonder nobody preaches this psalm, man. I mean, are we going to get to 89 or something?” So, let’s continue. It gets real and raw very quickly here because this guy, he’s in pain.
He says, “You...”
He’s talking to God. He’s hurling some things at God.
He said, “You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.”
You know, everybody argues. Is God sovereign? Are we free? This guy just knows one thing. This guy knows that God is God. Whether it’s caused, whether it’s allowed, whether it’s whatever, he just knows that I wouldn’t be here if somehow God didn’t want me to be here. Because God has the power to get me out. He’s like, “You are the one that put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.”
“Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves.”
And then we get this term “selah.” It’s a musical term that says to rest. To just pause. It’s like, “Whoa. I cry out, God. Somehow, You’re not hearing my prayer. I wish it would get before You. I wish You would incline Your ear to me. I’m on the way to Sheol. I’m like a man let loose among the dead. You’ve put me here. This is where I’m at.”
Then we just pause for a moment as we’re singing this country song in ancient Israel. You know? It’s like, “Man, that’s tough.”
He continues one: “You’ve caused my companions to shun me.”
“You’ve caused my companions to shun me.”
He says, “You’ve made me a horror to them.”
What’s he saying here? He’s saying, “Whatever I’ve got, whatever affliction I’ve got, whatever’s taking me to the grave is so bad that nobody wants to be around me.” Maybe leprosy. We don’t know.
“I am shut in so that I cannot escape.”
This guy is not in a good place at all.
He says, “My eye grows dim through sorrow.”
That’s an idiom. An idiom is a figure of speech that we use that sounds like something that it’s not. It’s a literal statement that’s not literal. You know? It’s figurative. It’s like if I said, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” You guys wouldn’t think Pastor Chip’s going down to Der Dutchman after church and they’re serving horse on the buffet line. You would know that that just means I’m hungry. Okay? This guy here says, “My eye grows dim.” What he’s saying is, “I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. My eye is growing dim through my sorrow.”
He goes on and says, “Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.”
Man, this guy’s faithful. This guy is praying to God and God is not answering. He’s like, “God, I’m calling. I’m doing my part, man. Honestly, I could not come before You. I could’ve given up and just said, ‘Forget God,’ but I keep coming to You.” And then, because he’s coming and there’s no answer, and he’s got no strength, and he’s tired and he’s worn out, he starts to get a little snarky.
He says, “Do you work wonders for the dead?”
He’s taunting God. See, he doesn’t have an idea that you and I have of resurrection. No. God doesn’t do that.
“Do the departed rise up to praise you?”
He’s like, “God, what are You going to do? Are You going to raise me from the dead? God, I’m praising You now. When I’m alive, I can praise You now. When I’m dead, I’m not going to. Are You listening to me?”
And then we get “pause.” Take that in. Feel the weight.
“Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,”
Of course it’s not to the psalmist.
“Or your faithfulness in Abaddon?”
Of course it’s not.
“Are your wonders known in darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?”
“God, I’m talking to You. Are You listening to me? I am praising You right now. I am coming to You right now. I’m going here. When I’m here, it’s not going to make any difference in the world. Are You listening to me?”
“But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.”
“God, I’m praying. I’m seeking You. I’m doing everything I can to connect with You, and silence. Not answering. Nobody’s home. Everybody’s left me. Here I am in darkness.”
“O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?”
“Why would You do that to me?”
“Why do you hide your face from me?”
“I mean, I know if You just turned and looked at me, I know who You are. You could answer the problem where I’m at, but You aren’t.
“Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.”
Getting a little over exaggerated now. He’s saying, “I’ve been close to death from my youth up.” That’s not true, but do you know what happens? When we get desperate in our lives and we get really upset and frustrated, we over exaggerate. Can I get an “amen” on that one? It’s like everything is bad. I tell people when they come into counseling, I’m like, “There are two words that you do not want to use as a couple: Never and always.”
Those do not go well to your spouse. “You never do.” No, no. You can say, “It appears to me that more often than not, this happens.” Okay? But you do not do the “never” and “always.” It just doesn’t work. Those are not good words. But when we get frustrated, we go right there. You know? I always say it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it. Anyway, he says, “I’m helpless.”
“Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. You have caused my beloved...”
“No longer is it just my companions, but You’ve caused my beloved and my friend to shun me. I have no nobody.”
“My companions have become darkness.”
And the ESV is right. That is the last word in the Hebrew text. I like what the NLT does because I think although the word order is not the same, the imagery is really good.
“Darkness is my closest friend.”
He’s saying, “God, darkness is even better to me than You. Darkness is my closest friend.” And that’s the psalm. You can understand why nobody preaches that thing. Like, “Man, that is a nice ray of sunshine on a dreary day.” You know? So, what’s going on here? Why is that in the Bible? Why is it there for us? I believe that every — I don’t believe there’s one surplus word in Scripture, so that psalm is there for a reason.
Well, let me tell you why. If you take notes, you’re good. If you don’t take notes, this would be a great time to learn to take notes. We’re really good around here. You can even take your phone and you can take a picture of the notes so that you can read them later. You can write it on your friend’s arm and take a picture of their arm, and then you’ll have it. Or however you want to do it. But these are times to take notes because this is where we take from Scripture — we just read Scripture. Now what we’re going to do is we’re going to say, “What can we pull out of this to apply to our lives so that we can understand?”
So, let’s start with number one here. Number one: Deep sorrow, despair, loneliness and darkness are part of the human experience. I’m glad this psalm is here because, somehow, we don’t want to have any of this in our lives. I mean, it’s not like we should want this in our lives. None of us want this, but it’s part of life. Loss, despair, loneliness. It happens to everybody, no matter how much money you have or how little money you have, what you have or what you don’t have. Whether you’re tall or short, you’re going to experience these things. And I’m glad that the God of the universe doesn’t sanitize our Bible to where we don’t have Scriptures that let us know how real and raw life can be at times.
In fact, we do everything that we can to not. We’ve even got drugs. We’ve got all kinds of stuff to keep us from anything in life because, somehow, we just feel like, “I should never.” But the psalmist reminds you and I that no matter how far we run, no matter how far we hide, no matter what, this is just part of life. Loss is part of life. There are going to be times that you do feel lonely. There are going to be times that you are desperate. And I love what Walter Brueggemann, the great Old Testament scholar — he’s just a fantastic scholar. This is so profoundly deep, especially to American Christianity.
“Psalm 88 is an embarrassment to conventional faith.”
See, we tell everybody, “Oh, it’s going to be okay. God’s got it for you.” Listen, I believe that Jesus gives abundant life. I believe that with all my heart. I believe that Jesus gives a peace that surpasses all understanding. I believe that with all my heart. I believe that He does exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think. I believe that with all of my heart. But I also believe that Paul says, “I want to know Jesus,” in Philippians 3:10, “and the power of His resurrection, and in the fellowship of His sufferings.”
And we don’t like that whole thing. We just don’t even want to deal with it. It’s like we’ve just sort of pushed that away in American Christianity. “God, He’s just good. Everything’s good.” But the fact of the matter is you know it and I know it, that every single one of us has had a moment in our lives where it didn’t seem like there was light at the end of the tunnel. That’s why this psalm is here. That’s why it’s here.
I’m just being vulnerable here. I come in here on Saturdays, in the mornings, and I pray for the seats. Then I go through my message. As I was going through that on Saturday, I was about midways back. Nobody was in here. I just stopped and I was like, “Man, God, I’ve got to be honest here. I’m not going to read the psalm. I’m going to let the psalm read me. I don’t know, God. If there’s not a part of me that my relationship with You is some sort of — there is a little bit of a transactional relationship here. There is a little bit of what You do for me that’s there.”
Isn’t that story of Job? God says, “Look at my servant Job.” Satan goes, “Yeah. You just think he serves You for nothing? Look at all the things You do for him. Take those things away and see what happens.”
I started asking myself what if God took everything? Would I find myself like Job? Would I find myself saying, “Hey, the Lord can give and the Lord can take away, but blessed be the name of the Lord?” In other words, God, are You worthy of everything I am if You never, ever do anything for me again?”
The answer is He is because He’s God.
This psalm reminds you and I of that. It speaks to a place that we only know when we’ve been in this place. The second thing this psalm does, and it’s great, is it reminds us that instead of bottling things up or just telling others, we should take our difficulties to God in prayer. I had that moment with God too. I’m like, “I’m sort of bad, God. I’m the worst. I’m really good at praying when things are good. I’m not so good at praying when things are bad. It should be the other way around. But, for some reason, that’s what I am. I need to work on that.”
When I read these things, I don’t just read them. I try to say, “God, I’m going to open this up. You do that work that You’ve got to do in here on me.” See, it’s so easy, when things go wrong, just to bottle it up. “I’m going to do it. I’m going to make it happen. I’m going to put my nose on the grindstone and I’m going to just barrel through and not let anybody know.”
Or it just becomes blab-fest. You wonder why, when you walk into a room, everybody scatters, because everybody doesn’t want to hear all the bad things that are going on. This psalm reminds us that — and I’m not saying there’s not a time for holding things in. I’m not saying there’s not a time for talking to others, because there is. What I’m saying is, though, I think this psalm really reminds you and I that when we’re in difficulties, like the psalmist here, he says, “Every day I’m calling on You, God.”
And here’s the weighty, weighty statement: God must be addressed even when He doesn’t answer because He’s God. The psalmist realizes that. I’m like, “Man, God. I don’t know if I’ve got the faith of that psalmist. This guy, rather than Heman, he’s He-Man. You know? This guy is awesome. He is honestly coming to You in the midst of despair.” There’s a faith that is so faithful even in abandonment. I want that faith. I think this psalm speaks to that.
Third: Our feelings of abandonment by God do not invalidate prayer. It reminds me, when I read this psalm, that we are so based on feelings rather than faith. There isn’t a book of 1 Opinions that says, “When you walk with God, you should have goosebumps all the time,” but yet, we seem to do that.
“I feel God.” I have so many people say to me, “I don’t feel God.” There’s nowhere we’re ever told that if you’re walking really good with God, and everything’s going great, that you’re supposed to feel Him all the time. We’re supposed to have faith. Our feelings of abandonment don’t invalidate our prayer. This guy doesn’t think God’s answering anything. He says, “But I, O Lord, cry to You. In the morning, my prayer comes before You.”
There’s such a realness in this psalm. There’s such a gut-level — and see, we don’t talk about these things because we don’t know how to deal with them. When we’re in it, we don’t know what to do. And when someone else is in it, we don’t know what to do. It’s like, “Man, I don’t know.”
This is just a bad, dark place. This is a place where you are parched. If I could just get any bit of water. If I could just get any bit of help. The psalm is there. It’s there for a reason. When we read this, it speaks to you and I because we’ve been there. That’s why it’s in there. It’s not only to give us the answer. It’s there to have a visceral response with reading this, going, “Man, I’ve been there. I know what that is, and so does God.”
It reminds us that God’s not so small that we can’t come to Him, even when we’re frustrated and mad. I’ve prayed prayers to God that I would not want anybody to have heard. I’ve said things to God that I wouldn’t want anybody to know that I’ve said to God. I’ve said things to God that I’ve had to apologize that I said to God. But what I can tell you is isn’t it awesome that the God of the universe puts this in here to let us know He’s not scared of you and I coming to Him, asking, “Where are You at?” He’s thick-skinned.
The fourth thing I can tell you is this: Brokenness is the place where God resides. I can tell you this in my life: I’ve learned more in the dark points of my life — I’ve learned more about me and God in those moments of brokenness than I’ve ever learned in all the success that I’ve had. God’s near to the broken-hearted. God is near those who are crushed. It’s all through Scripture. I can tell you this as somebody who’s been crushed several times in my life: I can tell you I’ve been to the bottom, and I’ve been to the bottom several times, but I’ve got good news. The bottom is solid. It’s very solid. I can tell you this: Even though I didn’t feel God in those times, I can tell you He was more with me in those times than He was on the mountaintop. There’s something about being in that place. You only see it later, but you realize that it’s in brokenness that God resides. I mean, the psalmist says to God, “You’re not even a good friend. Darkness is my closest friend.”
But there’s also something here that makes me go, “You know what? We shouldn’t be so scared of those lowly moments because those lowly moments really bring out our heart. They really bring out the deficiencies. They really bring out what we really think about God and who we are in our relationship with God. And there’s a mercy there. There’s a grace there. You know, Paul talks about the thorn in the flesh that was given him. The word “given” is a grace word. That’s a grace. It’s not a punishment. It’s a grace.
Sometimes the afflictions of life are graces by God because what He’s doing is He’s helping you and I become more like His Son. He’s working in our lives. Instead of pushing it away, instead of rejecting it, we should have a healthy view of God that He is the God in the mountain and He is the God in the valley, and we can worship Him either place.
Fifth, and this is true: There will be times in our lives where the only solace we’re going to find is in resurrection. See, we know that to be true. We know that Jesus resurrected. The psalmist didn’t know that, but we do. He’s making these statements. He’s like, “Do You do wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise You?” We answer that “yes.” Yes, He does. Absolutely. He didn’t just die on the cross, but He rose again on the third day, which means every single person that is His child is going to be resurrected to a world where there is no sickness, no death, and all the saints departed will be together. And that’s glorious. Sometimes that is the only solace you and I will have in this life is to know that one day we’re going to see them again, or one day it’s going to be taken care of.
That’s why Paul says to the church at Corinth, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only — we’re running around, we’re getting put in jail, we’re getting beat up. If we’re only trusting in Christ, and this is all that there is, we’re a people to be most pitied. I mean, man, we’ve bought into something that isn’t worth anything.”
He said, “But that’s not true. Jesus did rise from the dead.” When I look at the beginning of this psalm, where he says, “God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before You,” I don’t think he sees this in the way I see this. But when he says, “Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry,” I suspect that every tear you’ve cried, every tear I’ve cried — I suspect every prayer we’ve prayed is being answered and is being heard by God. We just don’t see it now. But I suspect, one day, we’re going to realize, “Wow. What I thought wasn’t exactly the way it was.”
And what I appreciate so much about this psalm is that God isn’t scared of you and I coming to Him, even when we’re frustrated, even when we’re depressed, even when we’re in darkness. There’s just something about the grace of God that understands when someone is desperate, that the words that we use aren’t always the best words, but He still says, “Come.” He says, “Here’s a psalm for you to read that you can see. I didn’t blow this guy up. I didn’t go after this guy.”
There’s something real and raw about that. I just think that’s beautiful. I think the psalm speaks to us at a real level. Now, as we conclude this series, I am going to tell you that many times in your life, you’re going to get stuck. But, hopefully, you’ve learned some things along the way. Hopefully, you’ve seen some things along the way. Hopefully, you can go back and watch some of the messages at different times in your life when you’re stuck in certain things, and get some help. But I want to just be honest and vulnerable with you all. There has been one thing in my life, for sure, when I feel like I’m stuck. I just want to share this with you. You don’t have to do what I do, but I want to share this with you.
When I’m at the place in my life where I feel stuck, or a place where it feels dark, or a place where I just feel spiritually dry or parched or whatever it may be, I find myself — some of you all are not going to believe this because you’re just not going to believe this. I find myself singing a certain song that I sing over and over again. Some of you are going to know this song. Some of you are going to be like, “Man, Chip actually was raised in church.” Some of you all are going to be like, “I’ve never heard this song before,” because it’s an old song. But it’s a song that I sing. I’m going to sing it to you. I don’t sing. I’m not looking for a spot on the worship team or anything like that, but I want to sing it to you from my heart, and then I want to encourage you to sing with me because this song has gotten me through so many areas of my life. What it says is that it’s all going to be okay, it’s all going to turn out right, everything’s going to be okay because Jesus really lives. I can really face tomorrow.
It goes like this: Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, I know, He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.
Would you just stand with me and sing that in faith? Let’s just worship God together. Let’s sing it.
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, I know, He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.
One more time, and let’s just sing that out in faith to God.
Because He lives — yes, Lord. You live — I can face tomorrow. Because He lives — sing this out — all fear is gone. Because I know, I know, He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.
Yes. Amen, amen, amen. Dear Heavenly Father, we pause for just a moment to thank You for this time in Your Word. We thank You for the time in this series. I pray, God, that we would really sink in all the truths that we’ve read, the things that we’ve looked at. And God, I pray that You would do a work in us. Lord, let us be an authentic place of worship; an authentic place that seeks You; an authentic church that not only equips the saints, but reaches those that are far from You.
So Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today, that You would continue to watch over us and protect us, I pray that You would lead and guide us.