Sunday, July 30, 2017

Drinking Deeply from the Psalms: Psalm 30 - Words of Thanksgiving and Praise

Psalm 30 – Psalm of Thanksgiving
As we have moved through this series we have discovered that the Psalms speak, give us a language of faith. They are the words of our conversation with God. So much of scripture gives God's words to us, but the Psalms are our words, our side of the conversation. Throughout the Psalms we find examples of all the many things we might want say to God. The Psalms even give permission for doubt and to question God, by giving us the very words that we so often find deep in our hearts, when we are struggling with pain or sorrow. But they also give us word for thanksgiving and praise.
This morning we find the Psalmist speaking words of Thanksgiving; words of thanks and praise to God on account of the wondrous ways God has moved in his life. He recounts the ways in which God has been faithful in the past and calls for us to join him as he gives God thanks and praise for what God has done in his life, for how God has acted on his behalf to right life's wrongs, to heal what was broken and bring restoration to what has been lost.
The writer of this Psalm is on the other side of a personal tragedy. He has suffered, has endured, has found himself in one of life's dark valleys, has gone into a long dark tunnel and has come out the other side. Through the words of this Psalm he recounts what happened and the faith journey he took as he went through his struggle. This Psalm bears witness to the struggle, to the hardships, and calls for us to join the Psalmist, as he gives God thanks and praise for how God provided restoration and carried him through his this difficult time.
 The Psalmist says he was already in Sheol, that he was restored from among those who had already gone down to the Pit.  The Pit and Sheol are ancient metaphors to talk about death. He feels that he was already in Sheol; he had already gone down into the Pit. He felt like he was on the brink of death, but he was not overcome by death, his life was restored. When the darkness was just about to close in; when he felt that all was indeed lost, he found that it was not. It is because he came to the point where all was lost, it is because he came to the point where he faced death and then, he found God has rescued him. He speaks to us, shares his story with us and calls for us to not only rejoice with him, but to give God praise for once again proving to be faithful, even when he felt it was about to be consumed by darkness.
The Psalmist felt abandoned by God. The Psalmist felt the God had turned away from him, felt that his pain, his illness, the struggles he was going through were because God was angry with him and was refusing to help him. But the anger was temporary, the feelings of being lost from God, of God being gone from him, were temporary, like the night. When the darkness has closed in all around, when the moon is hidden and one is unable to see the stars, the night seems to be unending, but it does end. The darkness never lasts forever, the morning comes, and with it light and with it joy. Although the struggles the Psalmist was going through seemed they would go on forever, they did not. There is always an end to suffering, just as there is always end to the night.
When we are struggling the Psalmist speaks for us what it feels like to be in that place. We feel God is angry with us; we feel God has turned away; we feel that we are on death's door. When our struggles seem to overwhelm, when our pain is too great, when we feel that all might be lost, that we might be swallowed up by the darkness that is in our lives, it good to hear the words the Psalmist has to say here.
When we feel that there is no way out, that there is no end, the Psalmist tells us that there is a way out, there is an end. Sorrow lasts only for the night, joy comes with the morning. No matter how dark, no matter how cold, no matter how long or how dangerous the night might be, the dawn always comes. There will be an end. ‘This’, whatever 'this' is cannot and will not go on forever.
Then the Psalmist remembers a time when all was going well; a time before his struggle; a time when all was right and good; a time when he was prospering in life. And he recounts how easy his faith was then. In times of prosperity, when things are going well, when life is going generally in the way we would wish, it is easy to express our faith in God. It is easy to say, “I will not be moved.” When life is as it should be faith is easy. When we have enough food, when all our loved ones are safe; when there is enough money to pay all the bills, when we and all those we love and care for are healthy, it is easy to trust that God takes care of us. It is easy to trust God to provide, when you are being provided for.
The Psalmist trusted God when all was well, he felt his faith was unshakable, but when prosperity was not at hand, when all was not being provided, when all was darkness and he felt he was on the brink of death, he found trusting God to be a bit harder. His faith waivered, his trust in the Lord faltered. When the world is dark, it is hard to believe in the light. When life is a stormy sea, it hard to imagine that will be calm again. When you are experiencing the deepest pain, it is hard to remember what it was like before the pain, must less trust that the pain will subside.
When our faith falters, when we struggle to trust that God is there for us, the Psalmist's words are here remind us, that we are not alone in our struggle. The Psalmist's faith waivered, just as ours sometimes does. He began to doubt that God was there, that God was listening to him. He wondered if God had abandoned him.
The Psalmist tells us that even as his faith faltered, and his his trust was troubled he still called out to the Lord. The Psalmist pleaded with God. The Psalmist argued with God. The Psalmist spoke logically with God. Who will praise God if he died? He can not speak of the wonders and the goodness of God, if he has gone down to the Pit? The dust he will become cannot give praise to God. Only he can speak of God's goodness, only he can tell of God's greatness. Only, those who have known the hand of God in their lives; only those who have been restored; who have tasted of the good fruit that is God's work in their lives, can share of God's greatness. Only those who have known God's presence in their life can speak of who God is and what God does. If God spares the Psalmist's life, he can bear witness to God's greatness; he can give God thanks and praise, but if he is not, there will be no praise; he will not be able to speak of God's greatness. The dust cannot do this. Only a human who has known the goodness, the greatness, the mercy, of God is able to do this. God should rescue him, so that he can speak of how God has worked; of God’s holy character; of God’s ability to bring salvation. God heard the Psalmist's plea and responded. The dawn broke, the tunnel came to an end; healing and restoration were found. God is good, God heard the cries of his heart and came to the Psalmist's aid.
When we are struggling to see God's face, even when we feel God has turned from us and we feel abandoned by the one who has promised to never leave us or forsake, we can call out to God. Even when our faith falters, God will hear; even when we are unsure of our trust in God, God will listen to our pleas. Some may say that God, responding to our cry is a measure of our faith. God hears, no matter how deep our faith, God responds even when our trust is weak. No matter how thick the darkness, no matter how deep the pain, no matter how far we feel from God, when we call out, God will hear us.
The Psalmist's cries were heard and God came and brought restoration and healing. Even when his faith faltered, even when he felt there would be no light, the dawn broke and the Lord God proved once again to be faithful. God heard his impassioned cries and came to the Psalmist's aid. Therefore the Psalmist will sing praises to God, and will give thanks to God for the mighty things God has done in his life.
Psalms like this one give voice to our words of thanks and praise that we lift up to God when God has rescued us from the darkness. They are the words we have for God when God has worked miraculously in our lives. We were in pain, we were sick, we were struggling psychically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually and we feared that we might be lost. We thought that this was the end, but then it was not. We saw the hand of God at work, the darkness gave way to light, the storm let up, the seas parted and we found that we came out on the other side. A little bruised, a little battered, a little worse for wear, but we came out just the same. God proved God's goodness, God's greatness, God's mercy and salvation, continues to be true. This is when we bear witness to what God has done for us, this is when we join with the Psalmist this morning and give God thanks and praise.
Psalms of thanksgiving are not only the words we give to God in the dawn after a long night, but Psalms like this are also our words to ourselves and to others that remind us, of God's goodness, and greatness while still in the darkness, when are continuing to struggle; when we feel that death is coming for us. Psalms of thanks giving are Psalms that give hope to us when we are struggling. They are remind us to have compassion on those (and perhaps even ourselves) who may be struggling, when we are not, and they remind us that God is good. And they serve as models of how we give thanks and praise to God. They tell us how God is at work; how God has worked in the past so we can be assured that God will continue to work in the future and they are blue prints of how to give thanks to God.
They are also blueprints of how to bear witness to what God has done for us. They show us how to speak words of thanks and praise. When we give thanksgiving it is easy to focus on ourselves, we can get the impression that God has empowered us and we feel that we have done something great (with the help of God). It is easy to fall into the trap of giving praise to God for how we have done wondrous things. Instead our focus should always be on how God has worked, on what God has done, on how God lifted us up when we were struggling or close to death.
True praise recounts how we doubted, how we failed. It brings to light our faults and gives glory to God for working anyway; give glory to God for working in ways we would never expect; for working even in the midst of our own weakness. Thanksgiving gives thanks to God; praises God for what God has done, for how God has worked. The focus is always on God and never ourselves.
When God has worked in our lives, when we have known the goodness of God, when we have known the darkness and have once again found the light, giving thanks and praise to God is our natural response. We do this to give God the glory God deserves. We do this so that when we find ourselves surrounded by life’s struggles that we will remember how God has worked in the past. And we do this, so that we can bring encouragement to those around us. Our thanks and praise are vital parts of our faith. They are the natural response to the wondrous ways God has worked in our lives. The Psalmist reminds us this morning how important it is to share, to speak, to give thanks and praise to God, before the people of God, about how God has worked on our behalf, about how God has saved us, rescued us, was our strength when we had none. Words of thanksgiving and praise bear witness to the character of God and are to be a part of our lives.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Drinking Deeply From the Psalms: Psalm 23 - Trusting God

 This is a Psalm of Trust, words that express our implicit trust in God, in God's goodness, God's provision, God's care for us. It speaks truth about how God has been there for us in good times and can be trusted to be there for us in the bad. Because we know God is there for us when all is well, we can rest assured, God will be there for us when all is not.  It is a set of simple declarative statements, using simple but meaningful language to speak truth concerning our relationship with God. So simple that we encourage our children to memorize it, but so profound that they are often the words repeated during times of deepest trial and in our greatest need.

“The Lord is my shepherd,”
The Lord – the God of the universe; the one who spoke and all things into existence; the one whom without, we would not live; the one who spoke the universe into existence and who reached down in to the dust of creation and formed humanity. The Lord God is my shepherd, your shepherd, our shepherd and we are God's sheep.  The shepherd lovingly takes care of each of us; watches over and looks after us.  God loves me; God love you; God loves us. 
As sheep of God, we belong to God, are God's own. 
We are sheep. Compared to the God, who spoke the universe into existence our wisdom is that of an animal; animals who can far too easily and far too often blindly wander into trouble.  We cannot see the whole picture.  We do not understand things bigger or greater than our limited world. There are things beyond our understanding.  We are sheep in need of being looked after and taken care of.  We need to have the God of the universe to watch over us.  We need God to guide and direct us; to show us the way. 
We need to allow God to do this. To be a sheep of the good shepherd is a choice; the right choice, the only good choice, but it is our choice.  But our ability to understand does not change no matter what our choice.
To be a sheep we first need to see ourselves for who we really are.  We may feel that we are wise, we may see ourselves as having understanding and foresight, but in reality, compared to the most wondrous God of the universe we are but lowly animals in need of being tended, provided for and taken care of.
Far be it from you or I, who are but sheep, to turn to the shepherd and tell him that I know better than he does, that I understand the way things work and that I should lead myself, that I don’t need him to take care of me.  For if we did that, it would be our downfall.  We would end up lost and alone on a ledge looking down into the deep abyss, with no way out and no one to turn to for help.

“I shall not want.”
With the Lord of the universe taking care of me, taking care of you, God gives us what we need.  There is nothing that I should want, that you should need that is not provided for us.  Everything that truly matters in life is given to us by God.  We should not complain that we do not have, or that we are not given all that we ask for. We are not a spoiled children who get everything that we desire; who receive all that we see; who has a new toy, a new gadget; a new pleasure everyday and quickly tires of it and tosses it aside to join an ever growing pile of un-used, un-needed junk.  God does not fill our lives with useless junk.  The Lord, the God of the universe knows what each of us needs spiritually, emotionally, physically to be the person we are called be and God is sure to provide those things.  I shall not want. You shall not want. There is no wanting with God

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.”
When we realize our place in this world and know who is taking care of us and trust God to take care of us, we can sit back and look around us and see all the good things God has provided for each of us.  There is a roof over our heads, there is food on the table.  We have cloths. Our houses are full of many things.   We can look to God and thank God for all the good things in our lives.  We can know that all the beauty; all the goodness; all that is wonderful in our lives is there because of God.  Because we have learned to trust, and allow God to take care of us, our lives can be at peace.  We do not need to worry.  We can trust God.  God is trustworthy.  My life is in God's hands, as is yours; our future belongs to God; we can rely on God and know that it is God who gives peace.  We are comforted by this and know that as long as we trust in God, as long as we rely on God, as long as we allow God to lead and to guide is, all will be well.

“He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.”
When we rely on God, God guides and directs each of us daily.  God leads and teaches us the ways of God.  God shows the way in which we should live.  God teaches us right from wrong.  God guides our steps and helps us up when we stumble and fall.  God is our dearest friend and our most learn-ed teacher.  If we follow God, if we allow God to instruct and to guide us, we will daily become more and more like God.  We will walk in the ways that reflect God's glory in our meager lives.  If we follow God, the world around us will see God's goodness, God's beauty, God's righteousness in me, in you, in us.  In essence, as we allow God to guide and direct us and show each of us how to live our lives, the world will see God in all we do, all we say and in who each of are.  That is truly amazing.
 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear not evil; for you are with me.  For your rod and your staff – they comfort me.”
Even when we allow God to guide and direct us, even though we know we can trust God to take care of us and give us what we need, God does not promise that living in this dark and sinful world, that the darkness and sinfulness will not surround us and feel overwhelming at times.  God does not promise that everyone we meet will treat us as God has called us all to treat one another.  God does not promise that bad things will not happen to me or you, or to any one we hold dear.
There is darkness in this world.  There is sin in this world.  There are those who rebel against the shepherd, who do not desire to allow him to lead them and direct them.  The sin in the world can hurt and cause pain.  The darkness in the world can surround and those that choose to turn from the master can bring harm.  This is not fair.  It is not good.  It is not what God desires for any of us. 
God does not promise that we will not be hurt by the darkness, but God does promise that God will be with us.  God will walk beside us when life is hard.  God will be a comfort to us when our hearts are ripped from us.  God will give strength at all times, in all life's hardships.  God will hold us as a mother holds a small frightened child, and will comfort us.  God is there for us, and we can know that we are able to face any trial, we can withstand even the greatest blow when we have the Lord God, the creator of the universe, at our side to help, to guide and to make sure that we will make it through.  We will not be crushed because we know, we will not be abandoned.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;”
Even when we stand before those who wish harm, as we face the darkness and the sinfulness of this world, God not only stands with us, but is as our protector and our guide.  God shows God's face to the world and declares that we belong to God.  God endorses us.  God sets a place at God's own table for each of us and feeds us, so that all those, all that which wishes us harm, will know the Lord the God of the universe stands behind us.  Not only does God quietly keep and take care of is; not only does God stand with us when all things have turned against us, but God stands there boldly, with arms crossed and says, “If you mess with this one, you mess with me.”  God will fight for us.  God makes it known to all the world that it is God who is our strength, it is God who is our refuge, it is God who is with us and helps us make it through.  Our God will stand up for us.

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup over flows.”
In the ancient world, oil is a sign of newness, of cleanliness and of healing.  Our God, our shepherd, the one who created the universe, the one who takes care of us, refreshes us, cleanses us, makes us new and heals us when we are broken.  God makes sure we have enough and enough to share.  God is there to guide and protect, to renew and to restore.  God knows when we are broken, when we hurt, and when we are in pain, and tends to our wounds.  When we are to die of lack of water, God fills our cup and then gives us more.  God is not content to just let us to make it by. God will bring us back to health.  God will make us whole, and give us enough to share with those around, so they can see God's goodness in us and know God can and will also take care of them.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,”
The Lord God is good and is full of mercy.  We have turned from God time and time again.  We have disobeyed.  We have wronged God in so many ways.  We do not deserve Gods love.  We do not deserve God's care.  We do not deserve God's protection.  God gives us all this and more, anyway.  God shows mercy to each of us, when anyone else would condemn us for our faults and our misdeeds, throw us away as if we were worthless, but instead God fills our lives with mercy and goodness.  There is so much that surrounds us that we do not deserve, there is so much beauty in our lives.  There is so much we can see that God has given to us and has done for us that are only in our lives, or a part of our lives because God does not give us what we deserve, but gives us better than we deserve. We deserve death, but God gives life.  We deserve punishment but God gives protection.  We deserve to be abandoned, for that is what we have all too often done, but God is continually there for us.  God's mercy and goodness are a vast ocean with which God fills our lives and we know that like God's love and care will always be with us, even to the end of our days.

“And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”

The house of the Lord is God's temple, the place where we all go to worship and praise God.  Because of all God has done; because of all God is doing; because of all that God will do for us, we do not desire to only praise and worship God once in a while; one day a week or at certain designated times, but we want to dwell in God's house all day, everyday.  We want our whole lives to be filled with praise for God.  We want to worship God from the moment we rise in the morning to the moment we rest at night.  Even then we want to continue to worship, in our dreams.  We want to dwell in a place of worship.  We want to live a life filled with praise.  We will live giving God the glory and with our last breath we will tell of God's greatness.  For the Lord the God of the universe takes care of us, watches over us and guides us.  God is our shepherd, all the days of our lives.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Drinking Deeply from the Psalms: Psalm 13 - How Long?

I open most of our services with a Psalm. Usually it is one that calls us or reminds us to worship God or one that speaks of the wonders God has wrought on this earth, or the ways God has blessed us. The Psalms I read are always giving praise and glory to God. But perhaps in only reading these Psalms I am doing my congregation a disservice, because in doing so, barring that each one reads though the Psalms regularly,  they might come to an incorrect impression about the general nature of the Psalms.
Most of the Psalms are not Psalms of praise, they are not Psalms of thanksgiving. No, the vast majority of the Psalms are Psalms of Lament. Most of the book of Psalms gives voice to our anger, our feelings of betrayal, anguish and sorrow. There are far more Psalms that begin, “Out of the depths I cry to you. . .”  than the ones that begin with “Praise be to the Lord, our God. . .”
As I have said before, the Psalms are full of our words to God, ALL of them. And here on earth, in this broken and sinful world, we find that there is much pain and anger, sorrow and abandonment, loss and fear. And it is not uncommon that we want to turn to God and let God have it; let God know exactly how we feel; exactly how angry we are; exactly how much pain we are in, how alone we feel, and how much we truly and deeply hurt because of the situations we are in; because of the things that are happening in our lives. And since we live in this broken world, the Psalms are full of the words we say, when we come face to face with that brokenness and the ways it destroys our lives.
The Psalmist begins the Psalm we have before us this morning, “How long O, Lord will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?”
“How long?”
Forgive me if I pull back the curtain and expose a little of the process of how I sometimes choose sermon passages. I spend quite a bit of time each year praying and reading through a lot of scripture choosing what I will preach for the next year or so.  When I chose to do this Psalm series, shortly after I got back from my sabbatical last year, I chose to leave the lectionary and preach from the Psalms for part of this summer, mainly because I had never really preached from the Psalms, and I always like to challenge myself when preaching. I do this because I believe it is important for you all to hear from ALL of scripture not just the parts I like the best, or feel the most comfortable preaching.
For this particular series I used a website that is set up to help pastors create cohesive sermon series and since I knew little about the makeup of the Psalms, I greatly leaned on their suggestions when choosing the passages we would use this summer.  I may have tweaked the series a bit recently because I was suppose to start the series while I was still away, and needed to change some things since I will be gone the next two Sundays.
I say all this to let you know that I had no idea that I would be preaching this passage, a Psalm of lament today, exactly one month after the passing of my father.
Today, I am right there with the Psalmist. “How long must I. . . have sorrow in my heart all day long?” I know one month is not long, but it has been a long month. Actually it has been a quite a few LONG months. I can make a list of things that have gone on in my life, going go back to early April, when Stella and I got food poisoning. It has been one thing after another for months, the “highlight” being my father's death and it all culminating in me breaking my foot. I almost don't want to list that as the final thing, just in case there is one more thing. “How long?”
I feel forgotten. I feel like the face of God is hard to find right now. I feel like there is no end to the pain and the sorrow. “How long?”
I do not know if it is best practice to preach from RIGHT where you are when it comes to situations like this. But THIS is where I am and this Psalm is the Psalm I had scheduled as third in the series.
I will not lie to you. Today is hard, for more than one reason. I am sure we have Day's, even Sunday's where it would have been easier to stay home, avoid being with the people of God. Days when you don't want to sing the hymns of praise and thanksgiving; days when being there for those around us, who need us to rejoice with them, seems to be too much to bear. Days when you do not want to say, “Thanks be to God.” But, instead, want to cry out to God in your pain, in your sorrow, in your anger, to let God have a piece of your mind. And I am here to tell you that, that is OK. That whatever feelings of abandonment, hurt, anguish with which you want to lash out at God, are OK. Our God is a big God, God can handle whatever you want to throw. And it is not something God has not heard before.
Can't find the right words . . . there is a Psalm for that. Feel abandoned? Try Psalm22, “My, God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Feel like you are in a dark place from which you will never find your way out? Try Psalm 130, “Out of the depths, I cry to you.”  If you feel like God has turned away from you, like God has forgotten you, there is no end to your pain or to your sorrow, then today's Psalm is for you. You have something you want/need to say to God, there is a Psalm for you, you just gottta find it.
The vast majority of the Psalms are Psalms of lament both communal and individual. And it might be easy to wonder why so much pain, so much confusion, so much doubt in God's goodness, God's willingness or even ability to help us in our times of trouble are included in scripture? I think it is because it is all too easy for us to forget that these kinds of words, these kinds of cries of pain, are also a part of our faith speech. Lament is a language of faith.  Crying out to God and saying these things to God is an act of faith. Telling God that we feel God has abandoned us and has not done right by us is not blasphemous. No! Quite the contrary, they are words of faith. Anguished and sorrow filled faith but true words of faith none-the-less.
Anyone who has or has had a teenager (or perhaps remembers all too vividly what it was like to be a teenager), knows that when a teenager stomps up to their room shouting, “This is unfair, I hate you.” That the reason why the teenager is upset is because of some perceived unfairness in the system. They are really upset, they are really angry. But any good parent knows, that the teenager does not hate them. That the anger and hurt are spurned by their child's deep love for them, and their desire for all things to be good and right in their world, even when sometimes they are not. Sometimes the unfairness and the hurt is something the parent plays a direct hand in, and sometimes it is due to the actions of others and the general fallenness and brokenness in this world. Every good parent wants what is best for their child. Every good parent loves their child. But that does not always fix the rift that sometimes forms between parent and child. But the parent loves the child through it all, and even when things are at their worst, the child still loves and ultimately trusts their parent.
This is often the way it is with us and God. We may be angry, we may be upset, we may feel like God is doing nothing to relieve our pain, feel ignored and even abandoned by God. But in the very act of feeling all these things we are still showing, and expressing our faith in God.
It is hard to feel abandoned by someone who does not exist.  It is kind of crazy to be angry with or feel hurt by someone in whom you do not believe. The very act of crying out to God is an act of faith, an act of belief in God. In our pain, in our doubt in our anger, we are living out our belief that God it there. And since we are upset that things are not right, we, actually, still believe that God is good, that God is holy, that God is righteous. Perhaps, we are having a hard time seeing it at the moment, but even being upset that our experiences do not match up with our belief in the goodness, the righteousness, in the holiness of God, means that we do believe the God is good, and right and holy.
The psalm ends with a recollection of how we have been able to trust God in the past. God's steadfast love has been trusted and has been proved to be true at other points in our life. So now, when God seems so distant, when there seems to be no cure for the pain, the only thing we have is to rely on the God we have known in the past. The God who helped us through the dark times and the struggles we have experienced before. We have known God to be good. We have known God to be our strength, our help and our shield. God has always come through before. There is no reason to believe God has forgotten and forsaken us now, because we know God has never done so in the past.
And this is the hard part. This is the part that sometimes takes every tiny little drop of faith we have in us, and that is to still praise praise God in our darkness. To sing to the Lord, not because we today we know God's bounty; to sing to the Lord because today we know a rich harvest and know we can rely on God's provision, but to sing to the Lord to thank God because we have known God's bounty, God's love in the past and we know that it is unending. We know that as our Psalm said last week, “God's love endures forever, and continues from generation to generation.”
Now in the darkness, in the pain, in the sorrow, when we feel lost and abandon we must remember that God's love endures forever. And forever includes right now. It includes all the nows that could ever be. So we can trust in God's love now, right now, no matter what is going on in our lives, no matter how we feel, no matter how lost and alone. God's steadfast love endures even ‘til now, penetrates even to where you are in the depth of your darkness. And for that we can give praise, even in the darkness to God who has always dealt (and will always deal) bountifully with us.
Sometimes, it takes a long time to get there, the place where we remember where and how God has been there for us in the past. Sometimes, we sit in the darkness a long time before we recognize the light. Sometimes we know the pain and the sorrow far to long before the joy of the past can find its way back in. This is a fairly short psalm, but some are longer than others. Sometimes, it takes longer to get to the place where even in the darkness you are able trust and praise.
You might not be there now. And that is OK, continue to call out in pain until you get there. Continue to cry out, “How long.” Until your heart is bleeding and your voice is hoarse. Continue to reach out to God in the darkness and pain. God hears you, even when you feel forgotten and abandoned. Even when you cannot remember when it was that God was good, still know that God is good. And be angry that it does not seem that God is, right now, if that is where you are.

Keep calling until you can remember. Keep crying until you feel God's arm. Keep yelling, never stop, until you know once again that God's steadfast love can be trusted, that it endures forever, until you remember the bounty that once was and are able to at least know that at one point there was love and bounty. Praise God knowing that there is an end to the pain, the answer to, “How long?” is not, “Forever.” We can rely on the love of God, we can know in the barrenness of our seasons of winter, that one day we will once again know the bounty of the seasons of harvest.