During that time, my favorite book of the Bible (and home of very few short verses, I might say!), though, was Psalms. It still is. I love the aspirations, the honest language, the advice, the humanness of those songs. They help me as I try to live my faith.
The 107th psalm is one that helps me the most. Part of that has to do with my encounter with it when I was entering into one of the darkest times in my life. At a time when I felt that my life as I had known it was collapsing around me (largely as a result of my own actions and mis-actions),
I'll admit that the opening words (Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever) were a little hard to choke out during that time when I was feeling completely bereft. But as I read on, I found a litany of people whom God had helped. God helped those who were lost, in prison, on ships at sea ... most anyone, most anywhere. And it didn’t matter whether they were victims of misfortune or whether they had brought the misfortune on themselves. When they cried out to God, God responded. He heard their cry and rescued them.
And so I came to this psalm and read it with new eyes and an eager heart especially after encountering these words:
Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy. (17-22)
That was me. My life. While I could relate to some of those in the psalm who found themselves in bad places only because they'd gotten lost or gone down to the sea in ships, I was a rebellious sort. Inwardly, at least. And my iniquities took away my appetite, my ability to sleep, my sense of worth to myself and anybody else. Death seemed like a pretty good option. But, if my life was a mirror of those in this psalm, then perhaps my salvation could be, too. After all, it says that when they cried to God in their trouble and were saved. God sent forth His Word and healed them and rescued them.
That was pretty good news. Especially since it doesn't say that God did all this only after they sufficiently cleaned up their sinfulness and got everything in order. No. They called in the midst of their distress. And God heard them. It was a word from God that I needed to hear. And so, night after night, day after day, I would reread that psalm – a way to sense to God’s presence when I felt at my most low.
The words of that psalm feel like good news to me today, too. I don’t know as much as I wish I did about living in the way of Jesus, but I do know this – that the psalmist is right when he says, “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD.” (43)
That’s the sort of wisdom I aspire to – to be wise in the great love of the Lord.
Brent Bill is a Quaker minister, writer, and photographer. Learn more about him at www.brentbill.com or holyordinary.blogspot.com