As I stood on the front porch, surveying the landscape, I noticed to my left, sunny, blue skies. It was a beautiful picture of the ideal day. When I turned to my left, all I saw was dark and ominous storm clouds coming. The contrast typifies life itself and the joy and dread many regularly face. The fortunes of our lives rest on the head of a pin. To our left is sunshine, to our right storm clouds moving in.
In 2006 after winning a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, Chris Duncan was named the teams Rookie of the Year. After encountering a number of injuries, Chris left baseball. In 2011 he got married to his wife Amy and he began a radio career hosting various programs for ESPN Radio. Duncan had amassed a net worth of $700,000 and life was looking good for the young man. In October 2012 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, underwent chemotherapy. On September 6, 2019 he succumbed to brain cancer at the age of 38.
To the left, Chris saw nothing but sunny skies. Yet, to his right, dark and ominous storm clouds approached.
Truth is, Chris’ experience is one we all can relate with.
Psalm 130 verses 1 through 8 says, “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; 2 Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 3 If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord More than those who watch for the morning—Yes, more than those who watch for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption. 8 And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
The blessings and trials of life are many. The Psalmist realized this.
Notice in verse 1 the Psalmist says, “Out of the depths I have cried to You.” Clearly, he had experienced the dark storm clouds of life.
What are the “depths” the Psalmist refers to? I call it the dark place. The dark place isn’t a physical location, but rather an emotional, psychological, spiritual place, encased by darkness and dread. A place of potential hopelessness.
More times than not, we, by our own ill-fated design, willingly make our way down the path of the “depths.”
While standing at the kitchen sink cleaning my reading glasses, the out-swing window in front of me was open about a quarter way from the screen window. A bee flew between the two, thought it was trapped and began flying into the screen window. Several times it struck the screen window hoping to pass through it. No matter how hard the bee tried to pass through the screen barrier, it could not. Finally, the bee realized it wasn’t trapped, turned toward the opening and flew away.
For a moment, like the Psalmist, the bee found itself in a hopeless situation—the “depths.” Did someone or something force the bee into the “depths?” Of course not. The bee allowed itself to fly into the “depths.” All along, there was a way of escape, but in its moment of confusion, the bee was so focused on devising a useless exit, it repeatedly slammed into the screen in hope of removing itself from the “depths.”
Like the Psalmist, the bee needed to change course and look for a true means of escape. Once it did, off it went.
After recognizing and accepting the fact that he was in the “depths,” at some point, like the bee, the Psalmist acknowledged his way of escape. In verse 1 he says, “Out of the depths I have cried to You.” Who is “You?” The God of the Bible.
“I have cried to You.” Not only did the Psalmist recognize the source of deliverance–God, but he recognized the means of deliverance and humbled himself, turned to God, and cried out for help.
In shortsightedness and despair, the Psalmist forgot the true nature of the God he was calling on. In verse 2 he says, “Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” The Psalmist petitions God to “hear” his voice. To hear his plea. To hear his cry! In the darkness of the moment, he failed to realize that God never stopped listening. Rather, He patiently waited for the Psalmist to recognize the futility of his situation, turn to Him, confess to Him, and embrace His means of escape.
The Psalmist like the bee, appears to have attempted to work things out on his own by repeatedly going in the wrong direction. And after repeated failure and overwhelming frustration, he threw his hands up and “cried” out to God!
Have you ever found yourself in the position of the Psalmist and the bee? I have, many times.
The other day, I spent time with a very skilled counselor, someone of true faith in Christ, and the sort of person who has helped many confront and resolve serious personal issues. During our conversation, they told me that for an extended time, they had been struggling to make their way out of a dark place. While in the dark place, they experience hopelessness, confusion, anger, bitterness, and to some degree separation from God.
Initially, they embraced old destructive behavioral crutches to cope with their struggles, but that only made things worse. At some point, they realized the futility and error of their way, humbled themselves before God, sought His strength and aid, and flew from that dark place back into the loving and supportive arms of their Heavenly Father. And as they did, the dark and ominous storm clouds gave way to the beauty of a lovely day.
Based on the remainder of the Psalm, we know the Lord was “attentive” to the “cries” of the Psalmist’s “supplications.”
Of course, the question so many want to know is why are there dark and ominous storm clouds of life? And why must we encounter them at all?
There are several reasons why.
First, this world is clearly tainted. God created all things perfect, mankind, chose to turn from God, go their own way, and set into motion the many ills and troubles we see and encounter today.
Secondly, mankind, has not learned its lesson. Each of us in our own way continues to replicate, by our choices, and turn from God. And sadly, in the process, by our actions and examples, we encourage others to do likewise.
Thirdly, at times, the best, and perhaps only way to fully grasp our need for absolute reliance on God, is for Him to allow us to get ourselves in fixes, and suffer the repercussions. Why? To help us to turn from embracing our limited resources, and turn to God and tap His unlimited ones.
Lastly, often God allows us to enter the dark place because it can help us better understand ourselves and relate to the challenges of others. No one wants to have times of darkness, but there is no better place to be when it comes to developing greater understanding and empathy for others. It is impossible to truly grasp the pain and suffering of others apart from experiencing pain and suffering yourself.
As the Psalmist departs the “depths,” he leaves a stronger, wiser and more mature follower of God. In verses 7 through 8 he illustrates this saying, “For with the LORD there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption. 8 And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
In verses 7 through 8 the Psalmist establishes some very important characteristics of God.
First, his experience has taught him that “with the LORD there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption.” For those of us who have fallen short, and we have come to believe that we have burned our bridge to God, the Psalmist refutes such thinking. In a fuller sense, the Psalmist is saying, I have been in the dark place, like the bee, aimlessly, I attempted to overcome my problems through my own devices. I did not look to God, but self. Even though God should have cast me aside, He didn’t, for “with the LORD there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption.”
Rather than seeing God as the cause of his problems, he was honest with himself and realized he was the cause of his own problems. God didn’t create the problem, but He did provide a means of overcoming and resolving it. And as the Psalmist turned to the Lord, what did he see and learn? God is a God of “mercy.” God is a God of “redemption.” And the Lord’s “redemption” is not in short supply, but “abundant.” In other words, for those who truly have embraced Christ as Lord and Savior, and have truly acknowledged their waywardness, and are now seeking help to overcome, and find forgiveness, the Lord’s “mercy” and “redemption” are limitless.
In closing. The Psalmist helps us understand that there is no place that is too dark, or too distant for the Lord to reach out and rescue us from. Likewise, there is no sin or short-coming so great that we cannot find mercy and redemption from. This indeed is great news. The blessing of blessings!
The Lord has created us with a free will for the purpose of choosing God, or choosing our own way. He has afforded us the privilege of choosing Him, or choosing self. He is not forcing us to choose or love Him, but why would we reject the love of such a gracious and merciful redeemer?
To bee or not to bee? That is the question! Like the bee, we have the option to continue our hopeless attempts to free ourselves from that which binds us, or turn to the One and only true means of escape and deliverance–the Lord Jesus Christ!