We sat in the doctor’s office for two of my children’s well checks. I knew it to be customary for annual shots to take place, but I didn’t give it much thought as the doctor asked her routine questions, seeking to glean insight into behaviors, habits and norms so she could ensure my children were on a path of health. Her intentions were pure, but the mood changed quickly when she said the dreaded word. Shots.
My kids tensed up. Tears began forming in the corners of their eyes. They were totally and completely fine with conversation, but a shot crossed the boundary of “okay” to “no way.” They wanted nothing of it. Glares were sent my way for allowing the doctor to do what I knew could help them. But when the nurse came in to administer their shots, they reached for my hand. As I held it tightly I said what likely every parent has said at one point:
“Deep breaths. It won’t take long, I promise. It will be over before you know it.”
There’s a shift in our capacity to endure hardship when we see an end in sight.
What would be unbearable if time were endless somehow becomes manageable when we know it isn’t going to last forever.
- We can overlook childbirth knowing that the labor pains will subside at some point. Plus, a bundle of joy is expected to be in our hands on the other side of that pain.
- A trip to the dentist can be pushed through when we are reminded we only have to tolerate another person trying to talk to us while they have their hands in our mouths twice a year.
- Finals in college are the pits but on the other side is a break; a much needed and well deserved break for sure!
When we can see the end—the light at the end of the tunnel—we can hold on to the hope that this isn’t forever. This is just for now.
But what about those times when light isn’t even visible in the far distance? Hope isn’t visible on the horizon?
David—the same shepherd who defeated Goliath, seeing God’s goodness despite his weaknesses—experienced these same feelings of hopelessness that we do to this day.
1 Samuel 19:1-2 paints the scene of where David’s mindset likely was in Psalm 13. He was running from Saul who’s jealousy got the best of him and sent his army to find and kill David. His enemies were on the hunt, and David was terrified. He felt alone, helpless and depressed. When hope isn’t visible, those feelings can find any one of us, myself included.
As of late, I have found myself screaming prayers of lament to God. As David does in Psalm 13, I question when enough is enough. How long, God, do I have to deal with my challenges? How long until I get some reprieve? I love the Messenger version’s interpretation of the repetitive phrase found in Psalm 13: 1-2. It shifts “How long” (a question David is asking God) to “Long enough” (a statement of desperation). This is long enough, I beg. Give me a break. Please!
David’s prayer of suffering can become a template for our prayers of suffering, too. And the three parts of Psalm 13 give us hope even when we can’t find the lighter to light a match in the darkness.
How long, Lord?
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?Psalm 13:1-2
It is no coincidence that David asks “how long” four times in two verses. He’s desperate. He’s in the depths of despair. He’s feeling a bit forgotten and, like most of us, would like to know when his pain and suffering will end. He’s feeling all the feelings of what suffering offers.
We’ve all been there, I know. When the hits of the week just won’t stop. Another kid gets sick. Deadlines loom. You feel like you keep letting people down. You give it your all and yet, the car breaks, a water pipe bursts in the front yard and your child’s teacher has requested a meeting. I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering where the next ax will fall in times like these. It feels never ending; like God has a magnifying glass out and we are His victims.
But we know better. Our God isn’t a God who does this to us or wants this for us. He loves us deeply. He doesn’t forget us or hide from us. It’s us who does the hiding and forgetting. He is just and wants to carry our load; it’s not meant for us alone.
I’m reminded that feelings aren’t facts. In fact, many times, they create false narratives altogether. Feelings are indicators of something not being right, but in and of themselves, they aren’t always true. My fear of spiders doesn’t mean that all spiders are out to get me. Quite the opposite; they are more fearful of me than I of them! My worry about the future doesn’t mean that the future has something that is worthy of my worry. My interpretation of a friend’s text message doesn’t indicate the tone in which she intended for it.
In Psalm 13:1-2, David is being honest about his feelings. He’s giving them to God. And, despite feeling forgotten, I love that he doesn’t deny God’s existence, which is sometimes many of us do when we walk similar paths as David. Instead of questioning God’s existence, he turned to Him, begging for reprieve. God’s timing isn’t always in alignment with our’s, but I promise you He’s listening.
A Prayer for Clarity
Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.Psalm 13:3-4
I’ve been known to think in song. Lyrics swim in my mind as I process life, and from time to time, they come out as answers to questions people ask me, words of advice I offer to my children or confusing sentence fragments to those who are looking for clarity instead of more uncertainty.
When I consider what it takes to find clarity, I am transported back to my highschool religion class at the all girls Catholic highschool I attended. I had the best religion teacher a girl could ask for. She was at the beginning of laying the foundation for full body praying and worshiping for me. Each week, she’d pull our class together in a small, nearly hidden room of our high school where we would congregate together to praise God. It was there she taught me this song from the musical Godspell.
To further solidify the lyrics, she taught the class the sign language to go alongside it. Now, over 20 years later, I can still remember sitting criss-cross applesauce on the carpet of our chapel learning these lyrics and letting them become a path of enlightenment for me. I’m sure David, hiding in the darkness, was letting the lyrics of his song create a path of enlightenment for him too as he begged God for wisdom.
In Psalm 13:3-4, David is offering up a prayer to God, asking for clarity. Have you ever called a friend to sort through a situation that happened that you just can’t figure out. Ahem, I just did that yesterday with one of my dear friends! After spending too long venting, I took a deep breath and asked, “Whatcha think? Any ideas?” I trust my friend to tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. She’s got my best interest at heart, loves me and all my flaws, and helps me regularly unpack hard situations.
Psst… guess what?! God can do that for you too. And He desires that greatly.
Through prayer, we create a friendship with God. We tell him our woes. We vent. We scream and cry and celebrate. But many times we forget the added bonus of friendship: the pause followed by the ask… “Hey God, whatcha think? Any ideas?”
The path to clarity is a day by day path. Friendships don’t happen overnight. They require time. Learning requires us to fall and get back up. Wisdom comes from past failures. Who we turn to when looking for answers will either add more blinders to our eyes or remove the ones we already have.
Sing Through the Night
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.Psalm 13:5-6
Try to remain in a bad mood while singing. I think it’s downright impossible. It’s like trying to not laugh while being tickled. So annoying right?! I tell my kiddos how much I can’t stand being tickled, but my body is laughing through it, making it hard to stand by my convictions. The same is true for singing.
When we sing, it’s hard to not release whatever grip we have on frustration. Joy permeates through it quickly, increasing with each lyric. I experience it every time I sing a worship song, and I was reminded of its power recently at a Broken & Beautiful Retreat.
A handful of amazingly beautiful and yet broken women woke up on the last day of our three-day retreat energized and tired at the same time. We’d navigated a lot. Together. We’d shared a lot. Together. We cried and laughed a lot. Together. Together, we got through it. Arm in arm, we picked up our broken pieces and began to adjust our narratives. Together. And together, we worshiped in song.
Two of our favorite worship leaders showed up that freezing morning, with snow glittering in the grass and ice on the roads. With a single guitar in hand and a handful of songs prepared, the ladies, Shannon and myself rested in God’s promises. Usually during this time, I take a glance around the room to soak in all that the retreat provided by watching the faces of the amazing women who said “yes” to coming. Many times, I see tears of hope. It’s pretty amazing when the Holy Spirit becomes visible.
But this day was different. Our worship leaders paused before the next song and asked that we declare it as truth as we joined together as strong, courageous, beautifully broken women to sing “Goodness of God.” The song began. I got cold chills as words poured from each of our lips. But what was extra special is what happened next. One by one, each women began to stand, leaving behind the coziness of the couch cushions and lifting up their voice and bodies to worship God.
With each lyric our voices got louder. In unison we declared God’s truths.
- Your mercy never fails me.
- I’ve been held in Your hands.
- From the moment that I wake up until I lay my head, I will sing of the goodness of God.
- All my life You have been faithful.
- All my life you have been so, so good.
- You have led me through the fire.
- I have lived in the goodness of God.
- Your goodness is running after me.
- I give You everything.
In Psalm 13:5-6, David makes the same pivot each of the ladies at the retreat began to do. He made the conscious decision to rediscover joy. While everything around him felt like it was crumbling, he decided to not wallow in it; he wanted to rejoice. He remembered the goodness of God. He trusted in His unfailing love. And he decided to sing through the night instead of letting the darkness consume him.
If David can make that choice—when physical danger lurked around him—surely we can too, right?
There will be joy in the morning. Can you find joy in your mourning?
My friend that I turn to when the going gets tough introduced me to Tauren Wells once. I was having a rough day and instead of speaking words of wisdom, she pointed me to the One who could. The singer songwriter spoke truth into my heart that day as I listened to his song, “Joy in the Morning,” and his lyrics continue to. If you haven’t let his song fill your soul up, maybe today is the day to do so.
But as I reflect on Psalm 13, observing David’s pivot from despair to trust, belting out prayers of lament in the thickness of his suffering, I find myself being challenged to not just realize that there is joy in the morning, but to actively seek joy in the mourning.
The second verse of Tauren’s song goes:
Your story isn’t complete. Even if you can’t find the light at the end of the tunnel, there is one.
Our God is faithful. He loves us dearly, and He wants to help. If you’d like some insights into building a prayerful relationship with God, take a listen to our Whispers of Faith livestream series, specifically our message on Lament and Suffering Prayers. My hope is that, like David, you can find your voice to sing of God’s goodness in the suffering and uncover joy in your mourning.
Join us at a 2024 Broken & Beautiful Retreat.
Each retreat explores meaningful topics Christian women face, offering Scripture deep dives, creative therapy sessions, and community time with other women who are on the same broken to beautiful journey. Broken & Beautiful Retreats take place at various locations in Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
Whispers of Faith
February 25-27, 2024
April 11-13, 2024
New Season. Same Reason.
August 22-24, 2024
Broken & Beautiful
October 17-19, 2024
Giving to the Giver
November 11-13, 2024