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 out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. -Psalm 69:1-3
Psalm 69 is not exactly a common Bible verse quoted at Christmas. But I think it's perfect for Advent. At least it's where I'm at right now. Maybe you are too.
For lots of people, Christmas is not all joy and jolly. For many it's a very painful reminder that they long for things to be right and happy and light, but in reality they find themselves in a place where things are wrong and sorrowful and dark. If you find yourself in a place like that today, I pray this will encourage you as it has me.
I counted 11 times in my version of Psalm 69 where the writer asks God to save him in various ways.
Save me O God! For the waters have come up to my neck... (vs.1)
...answer me in your saving faithfulness. (vs. 13)
Deliver me from sinking in the mire... (vs.14)
...let me be delivered from my enemies. (vs.14)
Let not the flood sweep over me... (vs. 15)
Answer me, O LORD... (vs. 16)
Hide not your face from your servant... (vs. 17)
Draw near to my soul... (vs. 18)
Redeem me... (vs. 18)
Ransom me because of my enemies.... (vs. 18)
...let your salvation, O God, set me on high. (vs. 29)
Obviously the person writing this was in some sort of circumstance that made him feel desperate for God to show up and do something! And apparently these circumstances had been there for awhile and the writer wasn't seeing God show up because he writes:
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 out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God. (vs.2-3)
He's sinking. There's nothing to stand on. He can't keep himself up. He's overpowered by his circumstances. And it's not short lived so he's weary. His faith-eyes are barely able to see any kind of hope because he's been waiting so long for God to show up and do something about this overwhelmingly difficult, long season.
There's a lot here. The psalm describes the writers desperateness for God to do something about his circumstances. He's specific about the circumstances- overwhelming numbers of enemies, lies, reproaches, shame, accusations. He even says that even though he knows he's not guiltless- God knows the wrongs he's done- he knows these circumstances aren't because he did anything wrong. "For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach..." He's in these overwhelming circumstances because he is a God-representative. He's in this despairing situation because of his identification with God.
At that point you may say, "Well, I'm out. I'm in the situation I'm in that I wish God would show up for and do something about because of my own mistakes." That might be true to some extent. Like this Psalmist, none of us are free from the guilt of folly and wrongs that God knows about and may even be in part cause of our current suffering. I too am in a long-lasting difficulty that is in part due to my own sins. But in 1 Peter, Peter says something that always gives me hope and encouragement:
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:12-13)
I know that the only person who can claim perfect sinless suffering for God's name's sake is Christ. But, we who bear his name and love him and seek and him hate our sin and, like the psalmist in Psalm 69 acknowledge our sins before God, we have an "insofar as" sharing in this suffering that Christ perfectly endured. And we need to see that and believe that, because that's where we will find the deliverance and redemption we long for from God.
The psalmist who wrote this was weary with waiting for God to come do something to deliver him out of these horrible circumstances. You might be too. I know I am. And that's ok. It's ok to long for God to do something to keep you from being swallowed up by the anger, bitterness, hopelessness and guilt that your circumstances threaten to bring. What I find amazing in this psalm is that the writers very cry to God to save him and answer him and deliver him and draw near to him and redeem him and ransom him and set him on a high place, is exactly where he finds God giving him hope and a song and a word of encouragement for other fellow long-sufferers.
He doesn't find that his faith-dim eyes suddenly see because God comes in and changes his circumstances. He finds that in his crying out to God, God is there with him, strengthening him to endure.
By verse 30 of the psalm the writer turns from crying out in desperation and vulnerable confession to praising God with his words.
I wil praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving...
When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the LORD hears the needy
and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.
Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
And build up the cities of Judah,
and people shall dwell there and possess it;
the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall dwell in it. (vs.30-36)
This is what we, who are waiting for God this Advent, need to do: SING and GIVE THANKS!
I can't even tell how many times the simple act of opening my mouth and letting my soul sing, even while the tears flow, has caused me to find God is there. He's there as I sing reviving my heart and reminding me of his promise: He will conform me to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29) He will make all things new (Rev. 21:5). He will not reject me or leave me (Hebrews 13:5). He will judge rightly all that happens to me (1 Peter 2:23).
Don't know what to sing? Don't have a great voice? Here's a couple of my favorites to sing when I'm overwhelmed with my circumstances and sadness:
This is harder for me. Singing seems to come out of me (with the assistance of YouTube or iTunes) more easily, and lifts me almost instantly into hope. But the psalmist says he will magnify God with thanksgiving after telling him how dim his eyes had grown waiting for God to show up.
When the flood of hopeless thoughts, accusations and heartaches barrages you and threatens to take your faith down, you need to open your mouth Sheila and speak out loud what you are thankful for, or write it if you can't talk! It will be a gasp of oxygen to your soul and some light for your dim eyes!
It's Christmas. Everyone is decorating trees and you may feel like the world should be painted grey not red and green and glitter right now. But what if you took out a piece of paper and started writing what you're thankful for and put it on a tree, or on a wall and decorated your hard, painful, weary-with-waiting-for-God Christmas with words of thanks to God.
Don't know where to start Sheila? How about the fact that you have access to God's words that pulled you out of a sinking pit this morning? How about the fact that you've been provided food and clothing and comfort and song and family and... the pieces of paper should cover the tree, or the wall.
Join me today in pouring out desperate cries for God to show up, singing songs of worship and longing and faith, and writing or speaking words of thanks to God that make you and I remember how big and good he is.