In the Depths

Chuck Swindoll once wrote, “Lord, I’m drowning in a sea of perplexity.  Waves of confusion crash over me.  I’m too weak to shout for help.  Either quiet the waves or lift me above them—it’s too late to learn to swim.”

David could identify with that prayer of desperation when he composed Psalm 69.  The psalm begins, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.  I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.  I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched.  My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”

For David, his tears and inner turmoil had to do with a multitude of enemies opposing him and insulting his God.  For us it may have to do with health concerns for ourselves or for a loved one.  It may have to do with family conflict.  It may have to do with the feeling of being abandoned by someone you care about.  It may have to do with financial worries.  It may have to do with chronic pain or declining capabilities.  It may have to do with some other struggle or trouble in your life that leaves you feeling like you are sinking in deep mire and weary with crying. 

We may feel embarrassed by our tears, but our tears are part of God’s healing process for the agony of our souls.  Writing in the Harvard Health Blog, Leo Newhouse states, “Researchers have established that crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, also known as endorphins.  These feel-good chemicals help ease both physical and emotional pain.”

In his book In the Company of Jesus, Bill Donahue remarks, “What is more elemental to the human soul than the shedding of tears?  It separates us from all other living things.  Animals don’t sob uncontrollably at the loss of a fellow member of the species or mourn their dead for days.  To weep is to express the soul of humanity.  It’s how we communicate love and grieve loss.”

In his book on prayer, Philip Yancey shares, “A man who serves as the grief pastor of a large church in Colorado reminds me of the value of tears.  John spends much of his time visiting the sick and dying, and most weeks he conducts at least one funeral.  In addition, he has two children of his own with life-threatening genetic disorders…. John says, “Sometimes there is no happy ending, and we’re simply suspended in grief.  When I’m with suffering people, I feel like a deep-sea diver accompanying them into the depths.  Come up too fast, and you’ll dangerously decompress.  We need to stay with the grief for a while, feel it, let it out.  Maybe we can see things through tears that we can’t see dry-eyed.”

Perhaps this is why so many psalms voice the agony of one’s soul.  Perhaps this is God’s way of accompanying us into the depths, where we can feel our own agony and let it out in safe and healthy ways.  Only then can we venture up from the depths of agony and declare, as David does at the conclusion of Psalm 69, “For the Lord hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.  Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.  For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah; and his servants shall live there and possess it; the children of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall live in it.”

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