Summary: There are so many circumstances that cause us to experience “dark nights of the soul.” Learn more with todays sermon.
Strong faith in God does not come all at once and it is not without its times of doubt.It is often gained through willing submission to His love and goodness in the midst of trial. In February 1862, President Abraham Lincoln endured one of many “dark nights of the soul” when the circumstances of his life brought unbearable pain, despair and disillusionment. His son Willie died, and his son Tad became seriously ill.
A Christian nurse attending the sick child recalled that the president watched by his bedside and often paced, lamenting, over and over again,
“This is the hardest trial of my life, Why is it? Why is it?”
Sooner or later we all find ourselves in the midst of circumstances that bring unbearable pain, despair and disillusionment. Such is the inevitable consequence of life in this sin-marred world. The death of a loved one, divorce, terminal illness, financial crisis, serious family problems or other circumstances bring about “dark nights of the soul.”In the midst of the pain, confusion and uncertainty of such times we, too, sometimes cry out to God, lamenting over and over again,
“Why is it? Why is it?
“Where are you God? Don’t you care?”
Our text for this morning, Psalm 13, is a psalm of lament. Psalms of lament often make people uncomfortable.“They say things we aren’t sure should even be said aloud. They get in touch with the pain inside of us that we’re not always eager to engage.
Nevertheless, Psalm 13 and the other psalms of lament are part of the inspired Word of Almighty God. They have been placed there by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, deliberately, thereby giving us permission to lament. Before we look at this specific psalm of lament, we ought to begin by reminding ourselves that psalms of lament really are the neglected psalms. And there are a good many of them.”
Psalm 10 begins by saying, “WHY, O LORD, DO YOU STAND FAR OFF? WHY DO YOU HIDE YOURSELF IN TIMES OF TROUBLE?”
Have there ever been times in your life when you felt like saying that to God?
In Psalm 22 David cried out saying, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME? WHY ARE YOU SO FAR FROM THE WORDS OF MY GROANING? O MY GOD, I CRY OUT BY DAY BUT YOU DO NOT ANSWER….”
Have you ever entertained those thoughts? I’m sure you have.
Psalm 42 says, “WHEN CAN I GO AND MEET WITH GOD? MY TEARS HAVE BEEN MY FOOD DAY AND NIGHT.”
Psalm 88 is probably one of the bleakest: “I CRY TO YOU FOR HELP, O LORD….WHY, O LORD, DO YOU REJECT ME AND HIDE YOUR FACE FROM ME?” These are earthy psalms. There are reasons why they are such neglected pslams.”
“There is a feeling among us that seems to think crying and complaining and lamenting to God are signs of a feeble faith. If you had a strong faith, you wouldn’t” complain and lament. Some feel that good Christians don’t complain; they certainly don’t question and doubt. Good Christians can handle anything; they are never down. Their faith never wavers. Many are, therefore, inclined to think that it is a sign of weakness, of an inadequate faith if we question and complain. But this is certainly not the case. In a world where there is so much hurt and pain we need to be able to express our feelings and be honest with God.
We also need to express ourselves because it is healthier for us to pour out our pain. There is something therapeutic about it. Besides, God knows what we are thinking anyway!
In the 13th Psalm, the Psalmist David, with troubled heart, cries out to God saying,
“HOW LONG, O LORD? WILL YOU FORGET ME FOREVER? HOW LONG WILL YOU HIDE YOUR FACE FROM ME?”
His complaint is that God has failed to act on his behalf and seems unwilling even to listen to his appeal for help. As a result he knows great pain in his mind and sorrow in his heart. “HOW LONG” wonders, “MUST I WRESTLE WITH MY THOUGHTS AND EVERYDAY HAVE SORROW IN MY HEART?” The undesirable and painful circumstances of his life filled him with uncertainty and confusion about God.So he shared his thoughts and feelings with the Lord God.He cried out for deliverance. David’s lament could have come from any number of circumstances. We are not told and consequently we are able to read into it our own experiences, hurts, confusion and ambivalent feelings, whatever they might be.
There are so many circumstances that cause us to experience “dark nights of the soul.” Sometimes unrelenting pain, be it physical or emotional, can cause us to wonder if,perhaps, God has forgotten us. The heartaches and bitter disappointments of life confuse us, calling into question God’s love and providential care. Then when the heartache doesn’t go away we become confused about the power, if not the goodness, of God. When day after day and month after month the ache continues, like the Psalmist we, too, cry out, “How long, O Lord?” No matter how you pray about the problem, nothing seems to change. Which brings us to another cause of laments: unanswered prayers. When our pain is unbearable or our hearts are breaking and we call out to God and he doesn’t intervene on our behalf, a crisis of faith often results. That is when the problem becomes a real problem. That is what the Psalmist David was wrestling with.