Psalm 137 and Despair and Rage

Destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

The psalms are raw in their emotions. When there is sorrow and anguish, we see it. When there is joy and happiness, we see it. And in Psalm 137 we see despair and rage:

Alongside Babylon’s streams,
    there we sat down,
    crying because we remembered Zion.
We hung our lyres up
    in the trees there
    because that’s where our captors asked us to sing;
    our tormentors requested songs of joy:
    “Sing us a song about Zion!” they said.
But how could we possibly sing
    the Lord’s song on foreign soil?

Jerusalem! If I forget you,
    let my strong hand wither!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
    if I don’t remember you,
    if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy.

Lord, remember what the Edomites did
        on Jerusalem’s dark day:
    “Rip it down, rip it down!
    All the way to its foundations!” they yelled.
Daughter Babylon, you destroyer,
    a blessing on the one who pays you back
    the very deed you did to us!
    A blessing on the one who seizes your children
    and smashes them against the rock!

Does this mean that the Bible advocates killing the children of enemies? Absolutely not. What this means is that the biblical writers have faithfully recorded what people actually felt and actually prayed at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction and the captivity in Babylon in 586 BC.

Our faith is not a sanitized faith. We have it in the midst of real-life struggles, tragedies, triumphs, and joys. And God is big enough to handle whatever we feel. Of course feelings like these, if they lead to actions like these, would be sin. Yet that does not negate the fact that sometimes we feel despair and rage.

If you are in a place of despair and rage in your life right now, follow the psalmist’s lead and cry out to God. But remember, the entire Bible is not contained within this one psalm. Neither should our prayers of anguish and anger and despair be left alone. If this is where you are in life right now, know that there is a reason Psalm 137 is surrounded by other psalms of praise and joy. God delivers, blesses, and vindicates us. Our part in this is to cry out to God and believe he will act. Read Psalms 136 and 138 and see the answers to Psalm 137.

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Psalm 13 and Feeling Abandoned By God

TheDepression_2014_Types_10-22-14_5PM-img_1280x720 Psalms capture all of our emotions. It is a hymn book for Israel and the Church, yes, but it is also a biblical reminder that we are not the only people to ever feel the way we do. Take Psalm 13 for example:

How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I be left to my own wits,
    agony filling my heart? Daily?
How long will my enemy keep defeating me?

Look at me!
    Answer me, Lord my God!
Restore sight to my eyes!
    Otherwise, I’ll sleep the sleep of death,
        and my enemy will say, “I won!”
        My foes will rejoice over my downfall.

But I have trusted in your faithful love.
    My heart will rejoice in your salvation.
Yes, I will sing to the Lord
    because he has been good to me.

This is obviously someone who feels completely depressed, abandoned, and cut off by God. Yet as this person pours out his soul to the Lord in an anguished prayer, he remembers that the Lord has been faithful in the past. This thought gives comfort to the present because he knows God will act in the future.

In the midst of despair, sometimes simply having hope for the future is the best we can get. It reminds us that this depression will not last forever because God will act. Remember, no matter how dark it is now, God is light and the darkness cannot overshadow him. You may feel abandoned by God, but God has acted in the past and he is faithful to act for you as well. Trust his faithful love.