The mirror tells the story of what the last months have been like for me. Black circles under my eyes speak of little sleep and great strain and sorrow. Blog post after blog post about suffering, with seemingly no end to that cloudy theme.
This morning I woke up and fought the familiar battle to get out of bed. You know how it is when it’s easier to lie under the covers than to face all of the hard. It sure is a struggle, to get your feet onto the floor and move into the day when you feel that way.
I was talking to the Lord about this, because it felt like I was failing spiritually. When I get to feeling down, guilt starts to rise that I should be singing and rejoicing and praising. I was asking God what I should do, when crying has become my default instead of all of those lovely “she’s a victorious Christian” verbs.
Opening my devotional book New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp, he sent me to Psalm 66. It’s a song that starts with expressions like “shout with joy,” “sing the glory,” and “let the sound of his praise be heard,” but I’ll be honest that those first verses felt far off to me –like something I should have had in hand but couldn’t quite reach.
Then I got to the middle of the psalm, and the Lord met me there. He came in close, and I got up from my chair, dug a piece of chalk out of the red tin can on my bedroom dresser, and wrote this chunk of verses on the giant chalkboard in my bedroom:
For you, O God
you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let men ride over our heads;
we went through
Psalm 66:10-12a (NIV)
These were words I could say with authenticity. I’ve felt like a burden has been laid on my back in the last months. I’ve felt like someone has been riding over the top of me. I’ve felt like I’ve suffered burns and sometimes like I’ve been drowning in so many different difficulties. The middle of the night has often felt like an emotional prison from which I can’t seem to escape.
It struck me that this section of Scripture is a song, a praise, a place of deep joy. Because it says, “For you, O God, tested us.”
This is who God is. He purposefully brings his people into painful places in order to refine us.
You, O God, laid the burden that’s on my back.
It’s a song of praise, but it’s played with a mournful violin and the depth of a cello. It’s worship, but the tempo is slow and broad. It’s joy, but the singer’s head is bowed low in reception of testing and barely a glimmer of hope that the refining process is producing something good.
God is good and loving and kind and awesome, but if you don’t feel like those words fit your suffering, try the words of lament in Psalm 66. God breathed these lyrics into David, and they count as worship. You’re not failing as a Christian if all you can say today is, “You, O God, have laid a burden on my back.” It’s an acknowledgment of who he is, and it brings glory to his name. It’s okay to sit humbly in that place for a season.