|April 4, 2019
By Jordan Helming
1 I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, that he may hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan;
I meditate, and my spirit faints.
4 You keep my eyelids from closing;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
Read the full psalm.
A mentor of mine once told me, “Soldiers will look you dead in the eye and tell you everything is fine as long as their nose is one inch above the water.” This has certainly been my experience in chaplaincy. I have found that soldiers will quietly endure the type of pain described in this psalm for weeks, months, or even years on end, until they finally plunge into the water. This often takes the form of a divorce, an arrest, or a suicide attempt.
What do we do during the “day of trouble?” We cry aloud to God to find comfort, but for some reason, “my soul refuses to be comforted.” We lose sleep, and we cannot even describe the anguish we are in. On top of all of this, we experience a theological crisis: God promised to never leave or forsake me, but now he has turned his back on me.
Every now and then, soldiers will reveal to me that they have reached out to God during those particularly dark seasons of life, but they have heard no response. They asked for relief, or, at the very least, sustainment, but it doesn’t seem to be working. They are praying like they’ve never prayed before, but still their pain overwhelms. “Has God forgotten to be gracious?” (v. 9).
I suspect maybe that is the whole point. The Bible reminds us over and over that God is merciful and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6-7), that God never changes (Hebrews 13:8), and that God desires an intimate relationship with his people (Isaiah 43:1; Jeremiah 31:33). I do not believe that God causes our suffering, but he can certainly use it that we might “cry aloud to God,” “think of God,” and “meditate and search my spirit.” The psalmist reminds us that even amid our suffering, it is out of God’s character to spurn or abandon, to be unloving or to withhold compassion. Even on our darkest days, God is inseparable from his goodness and mercy.