“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” (Psalms 130:1–2 NIV)
Hope is attractive. Magnetic. What kind of hope are we talking about? We are ‘hopeful’ our team will win a trophy. But such hope is uncertain. A wish. It is never a certainty.
Even the most confident hope is knocked off balance when we’re in over our head. Have you had that drowning feeling? Then you and the Psalmist are normal humans. Is there a way to hold on to genuine hope while struggling in the deep?
I’ve often felt overwhelmed. But I use that word too glibly. True devastation is rarer. A better guide to the theme of this Psalm is the time I felt most helpless. That occasion happened a few years ago. My son was rushed to hospital. It turned out he had meningococcal septicaemia. The consultant gave him a 50/50 chance of living or dying. We were stunned. Penny & I mounted a round-the-clock vigil by his bed. When not at his side, we were in the hospital chapel praying. We were out of our depth. We were out of our minds with worry. We were crying out to the LORD. He recovered. We are so thankful.
“The bottom has fallen out of my life” is what this Psalmist is saying – in other words, this is more than normal pain and problems. It is real suffering that has led to despair.
Hope is a stranger.
We all have this experience. The question is whether we have God in the middle of that experience, “The worst thing that can happen to a man is to have no God to cry to out of the depth.” Forsyth
Psalm 130 ‘sings’ through the suffering – acknowledging and not ignoring it. The suffering is not a skeleton in a closet, nor a puzzle to be explained. It is expressed.
Do you feel that suffering and pain shouldn’t exist or that they’re ‘wrong’ for a person of faith? This devalues the experience and value of suffering. It denies reality.
Our suffering connects us to Jesus on the cross just as his suffering on the cross connects him to our suffering.
The secret of this Psalmist’s confidence is found in the fact that God’s name is used eight times in as many verses. These references tell us that He:
- Forgives sin
- Comes to those who wait and hope in him
- Is steadfast in love and redemption
- Makes a difference
- Acts positively towards His people
- Is not indifferent, not rejecting, not ambivalent, not arbitrary, not stingy
…and much more.
These characteristics of God would make an excellent outline for a prayer time. Use it when you are feeling the despair captured in this Psalm.
What do we do when we are in the depths? We call to the one who can save us (Psalm 69:1f, & Psalm 69:14f). The word ‘call’ in the Hebrew has an expectation of response. This prayer is not a cry into emptiness, but to a person who is expected to respond. God hears your voice. Your voice is as important to Him as anyone else’s.
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV)
Our suffering has a purpose (Romans 5:1-5), and it will end at some point. In the meantime let suffering do its work to mature your heart and your faith. If you do, you will grow more and more into the character of Jesus.
Have you ever been overwhelmed? What did you do to find hope?
Please leave a comment here so we can all learn how to find hope – even in the depths. Especially in the depths.