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THE CORDS OF DEATH ENTANGLED ME

The psalmist feels like he's drowning
The psalmist feels like he's drowning

New Year’s Day 2010 and we’re beginning our study on The God of All Comfort. A few preliminary guidelines:

It is most important you connect with God — and then with us. To help you connect with Him, get a Bible, a notebook (or you may want to journal on a document on your computer) and a quiet place.

Begin by stilling your heart before Him. You may want to sing worship songs. Two that would be good for this weekend are the first verse to It Is Well With My Soul and, if you know it, the praise chorus based on Psalm 18:1-2 (I will Call upon the Lord)

Confess your sins. Pray for yourself and the others doing this study to be “quickened” by the Spirit.

Then begin the study. I’ve provided exercises to take you through the weekend — you may want to take two or three a day. If you don’t have the book The God of All Comfort there will be some questions you may need to skip.

Finally, and this may happen any time during the weekend, but perhaps not until tomorrow or Sunday, connect with us by sharing an insight He gave you, a question you have, or a praise. Read over your sisters’ responses and respond, as you feel led.

1. Meditate on Psalm 18:1-6. What images does the psalmist use in verses 4 and 5 to convey his distress? Can you identify for yourself personally or someone you love?

2. In The God of All Comfort, on the opening two pages, how do my journal entries reflect the feeling of Psalm 18:4-5?

What thoughts do you have about these entries?

3. Behind the psalmist in all the psalms of lament, if you look hard enough, you can see Jesus. How do you see Jesus in Psalm 18:1-6?

4. What does it mean to you that Jesus understands this kind of engulfing fear and pain?

5. I spoke at a retreat right after I learned of my husband’s cancer and Kim Hill led us in “It Is Well With My Soul.” I was crying as I sang it and had the fleeting thought of trying to be a better witness. Why was that a false thought?

6. Memorize the first verse of It Is Well With My Soul and write down any reflections on it.

7. Is there a key insight, question, or reflection you’d like to share with others on the blog? Then please do!

8. Respond to your sisters’ thoughts.

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59 comments

  1. Dee, I had a completely sleepless night last night. I was tormented by my many failures in life and fearful of the outcome of those failures. I would confess, pray and get one quieted when another would rear its ugly head. While it seemed like spiritual warfare at the time I see now that it was preparation for today. The fearsome specter that was in front of me with paralyzing ropes was death itself and for that I have a key. Christ has faced and defeated this horrible enemy. The dragon is toothless. Praise Jesus, but I am still sad. I guess it is truly grief that I am dealing with. Just a different source.

  2. i was truly blessed and ministered too by study…goes along with just the many things i’m in…in my life…brings much strength and encouragement…thanks a bunch.His blessings!! jill

  3. I am so thankful that “for such a time as this” you have been obedient in following the Lord’s leading to do this internet study. My sister-in-law sent me your book when she received the news that her brother (my husband) was abandoning me and our children. I have already been comforted by the message of your book as I read through it alone – now I am ready to go deeper and to allow my Heavenly Bridegroom to be my all-in-all. I know that the only way out of the wilderness is leaning on my Beloved!

  4. Dee, I remember the first time I went to church (after my mama died) and sang that song…I was crying through the whole thing while trying to sing. I remembered her telling me while she was healing that crying is very healing and when I finally let myself truly grieve for her there were many, many healing tears. After several weeks and months and going through my first holidays without her I feel like I will be able to go on with life, just differently.

  5. I remember clinging to Psalm 18 during my husband’s illness and believing that God would hear my cry. I believed with all my heart the God would heal him. He did, only it was not as I thought it would be, as it was the final healing. Jesus in now my husband on whom I must learn to lean.

    There must be some powerful prayer going on here. Just before I began this study, I felt a Peace that I haven’t felt since my husband died four months ago. I pray that the God of all comfort brings each of us that sweet, sweet Peace as we grow in trust of His love for each of us.

    1. Arlette, thank you for that prayer for sweet Peace. I do receive that. I’m so sorry for your loss. May the Lord comfort you and be more than enough.

  6. “When sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’”

    How often the words to this song have come to me these last 6 years to buoy me up from the depths of sorrow. How glad I am now to have responded to the Lord’s call to follow Him. How patient the Savior was all those years while I dragged my feet, resisting. I can see now how He had to get my attention and draw me close to Him in order to survive what lay ahead.

    Sometimes I think I wish I only had one loss to survive but such does not seem to be my lot. First our house burned down and we lost everything. Then the person hired to rebuild our home took off with the $40,000 down-payment and left. Then my husband asked me for a divorce, moved out leaving me to raise the kids alone but then came back, only to be taken to prison for the last 5 years and currently has no desire to move home; and now I lost my beloved job of 25 years. I am like a person out in the middle of the ocean in nothing but an old rowboat, constantly buffeted. And I am terrified of water, of falling over the edge, of never being rescued. Sometimes I ask God, “When will I be restored? When will it be my turn for something good?”

    I find great comfort in the book of Job. I figured that if Job could lament to the Lord God Almighty, I could too, and I mean that with great respect for my God. I lament, I groan, I cry and visualize myself reaching, reaching out to my Savior. The Bible tells us that He hears the groaning of our soul when it is too heavy for words. If He can restore Job, He can restore me too. I must carry on.

    How can I say “it is well with my soul,” you might wonder. Forgiveness—a daily process. Making an effort to find glimpses of God throughout the day. That took some doing for me but once I got the hang of it, those little moments of what some call “God-sightings”—special treasures from God whether it be a friend who unexpectedly called, the beauty of the glistening snow, these are the things that bring peace to my soul and reassure me of God’s personal love for me.

  7. All your stories touch me ladies. I am very sorry and can only cry to our Father to come to your side and gently be there for you. I see hearts willing to feel, however much, but I see it and that blesses me.

    My mother never cried. She would slit her wrist three times; after the first time, I saw her blood splattered all over her bathroom floor, sink, trailing to her bedroom. She drank and drugged, had many sexual partners, but never cried, never. (To be fair to her, maybe I recall her tearing up once or twice, but soon sucking it back in.)

    I cry and feel things deeply and often, to some’s discomfort, but I feel ashamed of it at times, even in front of Christians who have this restraint about them when I emote.

    At my father’s funeral, he came from a Pentecostal background, I love Pentecostal’s, but they held a “celebration” service at the funeral parlor.

    I didn’t know about it until I walked in to view my father’s open casket in a separate room from their “service”. I was livid, but said nothing, as I embraced my father’s dead body raging in tears, feeling somewhat guilty for my tears because of that “service”, praying right there and then for my father to be raised from the dead, and made the sign of the cross across his forehead when God didn’t raise him.

    I was also a Christian then, but did not have one ounce of celebration in me. Jesus wept and so will I. Here is the King of kings knowing all, weeping for his children even though he knows the joy in the future.

    God bless you sisters, thank you so much for sharing your grief with me, it helps me deeply, and thank you God for my emotions.

  8. 3. Seeing Jesus in Psalm 18:1-6…Jesus You are my Strength…my Rock, my Fortress, My Deliverer, My Rock, my Refuge, my Shield and my Horn of Salvation, my Stronghold…I call to You, You Who are so worthy of praise and I am saved from my enemies. What a list of Who You are to me!!! No room for fear here…Lord help me to believe.
    4. What does it mean that Jesus understands these kinds of fears??? I think of the Corinthians verse, that speaks of Him having been tempted in all ways, just as we, but He gives us a way of escape. I would imagine as He faced the cross, and separation from His Father…this was very much of a temptation…to fear…but He had faith and trust…in His Father being His Strength, Rock, Fortress, Deliverer, Rock, Refuge, Shield, Horn of Salvation and Stronghold. I want that kind of faith and trust!!!

    Lord, increase our Faith in You….

    1. 1-The cords of death and the grave bring to mind someone close to me going through a rough time with depression and how Satan is wrapped them up in his destruction and if they could just focus on Jesus and call out to God for help.
      2-Your calling out to God in your distress….that’s what I have done in my grief of my mama’s death. Oh, how great is our God that we can call out to HIM. We live with that knowledge of HIS love and caring for us during our times of distress.
      3-Jesus is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer…my shield and stronghold…without whom I would be in the depths of my grief instead of in the joy of passing on to heaven to be with Jesus who saved me from the enemy.

      1. Claudia, I like your description of what can happen during depression as “how Satan has wrapped them up in his destruction.” I know I’ve experienced that destructiveness during episodes of depression. But I’ve also experienced times when I was focusing on Jesus, crying out to God for help, and still felt horrible (and probably looked as caught up in Satan’s destruction as I did during the times when I really was caught up in it) as the depression still existed. And I’ve had those “in-between” times when I only reached out to others for help when I felt so awful that I potentially could have been “destructed.” So, other people didn’t see the majority of the time I really was resting in God and experiencing His comfort even when I felt horrendous. It might have been fortunate for others that I didn’t have enough energy to punch them out (or even think straight) when they told me to cling to Jesus. When I was caught up in Satan’s destructiveness, I just withdrew further into myself when I heard those words. During the times I was clinging to Jesus and received the “prescription” to focus on him more, I was puzzled, thought that the person who told me to turn to God was clueless both about me and God, and learned not to trust that person if I really needed help (i.e., I developed a process of “weeding out” Christians who gave answers before they knew the questions).

        Claudia, It might be that you only know of your friend’s temptations toward destruction because he/she trusts you. What you wrote is so true — that someone who is depressed desperately needs to focus on Jesus and cling to God and his promises. I wonder how we might best come alongside hurting people, weep with them as they weep, be there, pray for/with them, and help them to know our Savior — without making them feel worse???? (or lose future opportunities to minister to them).

  9. Hi Dee!
    The image that comes to my mind in verse 4 and 5 of Psalms 18, is the image of a man drowning, of being overwhelmed. I think your journal entries reflect that especially when you said, “I felt like I was under water, the words coming out of my mouth like slow bubbles.”

    A couple of verses that stood out to me while reading Psalm 18, was verse 2, where it says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.” (NLT) I thought of a Rock – unmovable, unchanging, impregnable – solid.

    I also loved verse 6 of Psalm 18, where it says, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. FROM HIS TEMPLE HE HEARD MY VOICE; MY CRY CAME BEFORE HIM, INTO HIS EARS!” I love that! It just speaks to me of the tender mercy of God – that He would hear my prayer.

    You also asked how we see Jesus in Psalm 18:1-6, the picture that came to my mind as I read that was the picture of Jesus walking on the water. In the midst of our “storm”, I see Jesus coming to us – walking on the water – and like Peter as he looked down at the waves and the surging sea, he became frightened and began to sink, and cried out to the Lord, help me – and Jesus was right there reaching out his hand to rescue Peter. Peter was sinking – having his eyes on the waves – but when he turned to Jesus – he was saved.

    1. hi fellowsojourner,
      actually the analogy that you used about drowning is the most terrifying thing i can imagine anyone ever going through.its like when troubles are beating and beating against you and you cannot come up for air at all. there is no let up and you cannot even tread water because you are so weary and tired. and then having the lord rescue you right in the midst of it is awesome.

      1. Hi Journeyvision!!! I was so glad to see you here!! – even if it is only through the eyes of the internet! =)
        I love that you are participating and following along – what great thoughts from these ladies!! He does know when we are weary and tired journeyvision and He does come to our rescue journeyvision – if we call on him!! =) I love what Belinda said on the next blog – so encouraging! Check it out journeyvision – I so appreciated that, I hope you will too! Glad to be walking with you journeyvision!
        FS

  10. As I read and pray over the deep pain and loss that God has allowed in our lives, I sense a common thread. God is freeing us from the moorings of this world and building for us an anchor to Himself, an anchor that will hold for eternity. We must cling to Him and trust in nothing else. This is frightening to me but I am determined to go on because I know that when I have resisted this temptation to fear, I will emerge victorious in Christ on the other side.

    Lord I thank You that You are sufficient for my every need and that You will teach me to rely on You alone. When I come to the place where I can’t even breathe without first calling on You, then I am in a good place.

    1. Anne, Thank you for writing “God is freeing us from the moorings of this world and building for us an anchor to Himself, an anchor that will hold for eternity. We must cling to Him and trust in nothing else.” Your words are encouraging and affirming.

      Recently, I’ve been learning (very slowly) that most troubling situations are temporary, and that I am an “alien” on earth with my citizenship in heaven. As I grow to love God more and recognize his love for me, I’m starting to look beyond day to day difficulties and experience hope from and in Him.

  11. Dee, in answer to question 3, I see Jesus as actually experiencing death in our place. He seems to be the Psalmist, calling out to God the Father. This description may be just what He experienced when He died.

    1. Beautiful thought Anne!

    2. I totally agree with you and what I like is the end where it says, “He heard my voice” just as God hears our voice even if it is unspoken.

  12. Thanks for leading us in this study Dee. I’m grateful to be on board. As I am not currently living through such a devastating loss (such as death) as so many of you seem to be – I do have some friends that are and I want to be there for them. Although, I am grieving the loss of what to me was a dear friendship that took place after a sudden and unexpected move to a new area and I’m also suffering the loss of all that I had for so many years invested my whole identity in, since I am no longer serving God in the ministry of the local church – taking on the role of caregiver for my mother-in-love instead – I feel as if I am traveling in a foreign land. And yet, I’m not complaining because I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.

    The question that I have been struggling with is about “the fleeting thought,” that you had, calling it a false thought. How can it be a false thought if that is the thought you had? I think “fleeting” was a better word, and God seems to have sorted it out by the time it reached Him. Doesn’t God want our fleeting thoughts as well, and even those thoughts that we cannot yet articulate? When I think of a person drowning in sorrow, I think of being so overwhelmed by grief, that it is as you described it in your book, “I felt like I was under water, the words coming out of my mouth like slow bubbles.” Which leads me to a thought that I had about verse 6 – “In my distress (when I could not even form a word, but could only make bubbles), He heard me…” (when I was not even able to form a cry for help, He popped my rising bubble and heard what I needed to say). And then He answered!

  13. 1. As I was thinking about vs 4-5, I kept seeing water and ropes. One version referred to “floods of destruction.” “Floods” are a powerful image for me because I’ve lived in flood-prone areas. The words “floods” and “destruction” go well together. Regardless how much you prepare by sandbagging, building on higher ground, etc., the floods can’t be prevented; the destruction of some floods can’t be avoided. Even more minor floods create inconvenience. All floods leave messes (that are a real pain) to clean up long after the flood waters have receded. Like cleaning up the mess left from raging waters, we can’t deal with the mess in our own lives until after the waters have receded. While the flood waters are raging, the most important thing is surviving the flood, being rescued (v. 6).

    Sometimes it doesn’t seem that I EVER get the clean-up done (after the physical or spiritual floods). But I do breathe a sigh of relief after the flood waters have receded and sometimes become complacent. And then the next flood hits and I’m about to drown (You’d think I’d learn! Or maybe I am learning — that I can’t prevent floods, death, etc —and that I always need to be rescued). Right now, thank God, I am between floods and have the luxury of cleaning up some messes.

    After thinking about good and bad water images, I had a more mafia-like 🙂 image of verses 4-5 (with the ropes, water, and powerful verbs). I could imagine being tied up, attached to an anchor or cement block, and being thrown overboard into a stormy ocean. When I’ve heard of something like that happening (either in fiction or on the news), the intent was that the body would never be found. That is, the situation was hopeless for the victim — and the perpetrators didn’t plan to be caught. I guess humor gets through to my brain, because I realized that not only do I feel hopeless and overwhelmed when faced with death and destruction, I AM hopeless without a Savior (And my situation without Christ is hopeless even if I don’t feel hopeless).

    Yesterday, I tossed out some “stuff” in the basement that had gotten wet a some time ago. Floods do help get rid of extra junk.

    3. The passage reminds me of the suffering that Jesus experienced —- and that he did cry out to God the Father. (But I’ve written quite a bit already so won’t go into detail here!)

  14. More related to cords/ropes: When I’m experiencing intense grief or distress (and most likely crying my eyes out), I physically feel the sensation of being strangled/difficulty breathing.

    A few years ago, I scrounged the Internet looking for an online Bible Study (on ANY topic) during one of those difficult periods when I wasn’t able to leave the house regularly. I couldn’t find anything online. So, I’m praying this will be a wonderful opportunity for many.

  15. I am so thankful that we have a God who felt and feels our pain. I am so thankful that He didn’t just speak his word without experiencing these things like fear and pain the way we have. About 10-17 years ago, when our family went through our struggles with medical issues, there were times I thought I was going to lose it…I felt like running blindly away from everything. I am so glad God knows my pain!

  16. Hi Dee!
    Great getting started!! my thoughts:

    1) The image of distress in verses 4&5 that the psalmist uses that touches me is the entangling of cords tying me up and completely OVERWHELMING!! me. I can really relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed! stuck and helpless!
    3) The image I see of Jesus in these verses is my Shepherd. I love Him, He is my Rock and Strength.I am one of His little lambs in distress, stuck,overwhelmed and crying for His Help. Where is He?? But yes He hears me! even me….

    I just love It is Well With My Soul! Through your book and Amy’s CD it has touched my heart and soothed me like it never has before. It brings to my mind the picture of me as a tiny bird nestling in His loving arms, embraced and protected, while He murmurs soothing notes of love in my ears in the midst of whatever swirling storm is around me. and I sing often to myself It is Well with my Soul, It IS Well with my Soul!
    So good to read your comments my sisters…my we find encouragement and light for our way along with our dear friend and guide DEE-thank you Dee!!

  17. Kris, I love the nestling bird picture! It reminds me of something that I think you ladies would appreciate. One early morning when I was going through a very difficult time, I was just sitting in front of my computer with my head down(trying to wake up I think). The screen saver was a series of treasured pictures from a recent trip to my childhood home. One of them was a long rocky coastline with waves ravaging it, foaming and splashing high in the air. In the foreground of that picture was the rock I was standing on and just on the edge was a small pool of water. So still you could see a cloud reflected in it. As I raised my eyes they went straight to the pool that I had never noticed before and as that picture flashed by God spoke to me. He said my heart can be like that pool, no matter how the storms of life rage. We have peace in Him. How’s that for treasure!

    1. Thanks for sharing that “treasure” Anne. I read your first comment yesterday that you have been struggling with failure, and that “hit the nail on the head” for me. For that too, is what I have been grieving. As there are so many failures in my past that I can do nothing about to change – all I can do now is accept the grace that God has now afforded me through the death and resurrection His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as well as embrace His peace. As I’ve said before that I’m truly happy to be where I am – one of the things that I currently struggle with, is this foreign feeling of learning how to walk in that peace on a daily basis. Especially since I have suffered from depression for so many years, I somehow feel like I shouldn’t be happy. But then, I know where that thought comes from. As our enemy, the devil, is a liar and a thief… my prayer for myself as well as for you ladies, is that “When [His] peace, like a river, attendeth my [your] way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my [our] lot, Thou hast [will] taught [teach] me [us] to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.” And that Satan cannot take that peace away!

    2. Thanks Anne! That is a “treasure”! That little pool of calm, reflecting water is protected by the ROCK:) and now if only, in the storms of life, would I reach out to Him and stay in that little spot He has for me….

      1. I think it is only inside. The storm still rages on the outside but inside we have peace with God through Christ.

  18. Hello, All. You each bring honest suffering and your prayerful hearts seeking Him. Thank you for being vulnerable here in a safe refuge to place your hurt and pain. There are treasures in the hidden places of grief and loss that I pray each of you are able to discover, walking hand in Hand with Him through your story.

    I have known some very difficult losses in my life, but am in a season now of calm. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but I do know I desire for Christ alone to be my refuge, whether comforting, or sustaining me through the hills and valleys. This I know–it is never a dull journey when walking with the Lord.

    Here are my initial thoughts on a couple of the questions. I look forward to sharing this journey with you all. It is a privilege to walk beside you.

    On question 3,How do you see Jesus in Psalm 18:1-6?

    Changing the words “The Lord is..” to “Jesus, You are…my shield, my strength, my portion, deliverer, strong tower, my shelter, my very present help in time of need…” echoes in my soul the different facets of His Wholeness that minister to me. He knows we need different things at different times through our struggles. A shield to protect, a shelter from the harsh storm, strength instead of fear, whatever the circumstance—Jesus is everything I need.

    4. What does it mean to you that Jesus understands this kind of engulfing fear and pain?

    His divine compassion for me completely overwhelms me. Of all the Kingdom business He has to take care of, He is concerned about the details of my life. He takes time to minister to my soul in the hidden places, fortifying and strengthening, equipping, and attending. Such unfathomable love!

    6. Memorize the first verse of It Is Well With My Soul and write down any reflections on it.

    The concept of “peace like a river” almost seems juxtaposed. “Peace like a glassy still lake” or “peace like a silent pool”, but a flowing, washing, swiftly moving river tells me something about His Peace. His Peace doesn’t require calm. Peace doesn’t even require being still. Genuine peace, His beautiful Peace, is found in the midst of the storm, flowing, flooding, even raging peace–those same waters that drown can be the waters that bring the Divine Peace of His presence.

    You all have blown me away with the depth of your answers already. I sense it is the very storms you are in that give you the clarity of vision to focus on Him. Bless each of you this new year!

  19. As I meditated this morning on these verses, what kept coming back to me was the opening verse. In The Message it says, “I love you, God – you make me strong.” My mother always told me that God would give me the strength to get through whatever troubles came my way. That has proven true many, many times. Whenever anyone says to me that they could never handle all the things I have had to handle, it is easy to tell them that when you need strength and courage, God provides.
    Reading all the wonderful things everyone has written about these verses, I see how God has strengthened each of you in your distress. This is surely a sign of your love of God.

    The Message goes on to say, “God is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight.” I can be strong because my faith is built on bedrock, it can withstand any storm. Imagine living in a castle that is God! No matter which of the many rooms I venture into … mourning, sadness, grief, silliness, friendship, joy, whatever … I am in God!! God is my home, the place where I go to sleep at night, what a pleasant thought. And when the enemy attacks, my knight in shining armor mounts his white horse and comes to rescue me … ME! How could I not love such a wonderful God?

    Verse 2 in The Message goes on: “…My God – the high crag where I run for dear life, hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout.” Just as I was writing this a picture of a monastery flashed through my mind (perhaps because I recenly watched The Sound of Music). In my despair, many years ago, I finally accepted Jesus as my savior and “ran for dear life” to my God within the stone walls (the granite hideout)of my church. There I found safety and learned to sing God’s praises. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your church.

    I know all this. I believe all this. Yet, when each trouble comes I seem to slip first into fear before remembering to call out to God. Fortunately, by the power of Holy Spirit, the time lapse between fear and call seems to be shortening.

  20. Dee, unfortunately I have yet to get your book and hope to this week, but in response to some of the other questions:

    #3: In Psalm 18:1-6, I see Jesus on the cross. Facing death. Knowing He can cry out to and lean on His loving Father. And surely knowing that He shall overcome in the end.

    This, along with the comment above “God is freeing us from the moorings of this world and building for us an anchor to Himself, an anchor that will hold for eternity” really moved me.

    #5: That thought was false because I don’t believe God expects you to not grieve in times of sorrow. After all, even Jesus cried. Other people do not expect you to not grieve. Sure, “in this world there shall be trouble…” but it’s what you do with that grief and how you handle the situation for the duration that really speaks to your witness, I believe. Crying at learning your husband has cancer – totally acceptable and understandable. Leaning on God; praising Him through the journey and in the valleys; allowing Him to be your Solid Rock – therein is your testimony.

    Additionally, I really love what Annette wrote about how “the concept of “peace like a river” almost seems juxtaposed….genuine peace, His beautiful Peace, is found in the midst of the storm, flowing, flooding, even raging peace–those same waters that drown can be the waters that bring the Divine Peace of His presence.”

  21. 5. Dee, thanks for sharing that “fleeting thought of trying to be a better witness.” Your question is so helpful because similar thoughts may occur too frequently among believers. And sometimes the thoughts aren’t fleeting. Somehow when growing up, I absorbed the ideas that people weren’t going to see me cry — and that Christians were always supposed to be happy. So even as a child, I could paste on a smile and talk about my dad being in heaven, while trying to be a “good witness.” Because I didn’t know how to express my emotions, much of my life was an act even though I wasn’t intentionally being deceitful. As I grew up, I kept trying harder to live for/honor God because I did love Him. (and then crashed hard)

    The fleeting thought about trying to be a better witness and my thoughts that Christians were supposed to be happy in order to honor God are false thoughts for several reasons. 1) Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. He also demonstrated other emotions. Either our thoughts about suppressing emotion to be a better witness/ to honor God were false OR we could use the same logic to conclude that Jesus should have tried to be a better witness! (Obviously not true) 2) David, Jeremiah, and others who were called by and loved by God expressed their pain over and over. If those expressions were a “bad” witness, they most likely wouldn’t be so obvious and prevalent in the Bible. 3) Ps 51:16-17 (The Message) touches a few concepts that are related to false thoughts: “Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you.  I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.” Both pride and dishonesty are present when I try to hide what I’m really thinking or feeling when I attempt to (in my own strength) please God. When I start to think that I can please Him by trying harder (“flawless performance”), I’m denying His grace; this is the opposite of having a “heart-shattered life ready for love.” 4) God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor.). Finally, denying/ignoring pain is not a recipe for mental health — and ongoing depression is both miserable and expensive!

    6. I don’t always follow directions well. When I saw #6, I thought “I already know the hymn. I’ll memorize Ps 18:1-6 instead.” So, I started to memorize the passage, but almost ignored the first few verses because they were “easy” (I’d learned similar passages before). I got caught up in the descriptiveness of vs 4-5, just as I tend to focus on my problems rather than the Lord who is my strength. Then I realized some of the parallels between the psalm and “It is well with my soul.” The psalmist described God as his strength and wrote that when he called to the Lord, he was saved from his enemies (vs 3-4), Spafford wrote that whether in peace or in sorrow, “Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.” Each learned to say, even when he felt worse than words can describe and when praising God did not come naturally, that he KNOWS his soul is well because of who God is.

    “It is well with my soul” has been one of my favorite hymns for years. After adding Amy Shreve’s CD to my iTunes library, I have 10 (!) arrangements of it on my computer, ranging from rock (good on the treadmill) to classical, solo to choir, and piano to orchestra. I used to wear out cassette tapes in my favorite spots. The computer has allowed me to “soak” in hymns as I “sort by name” and listen to several arrangements of the same song.

  22. Hi Dee &
    When I read quest.5 about the false thought in the midst of your sadness, what came mind was Jesus weeping, as he saw & was deeply moved by Mary’s loss of her brother & the loss of the other Jews with her & Jesus was deeply moved up until he came to where Lazarus lay to raise him up….we to be are like Jesus in all areas & to openly grieve loss & it is to be shared among us, not deny our feeling nor to tell another how they are to handle their grief & we are to know, take more comfort how deeply Jesus shares with us in our loss. I don’t know what the loss of a child or husband is like but I pray I’ll be like Jesus in his response to the suffering of others, as well in not denying loss. I also read Dee how you said tears are healing,pure & profoundly simple..I’ve tried to hold mine back & let them build up & then the dam breaks,generally at the wrong time, especially if I didn’t think it was my place to weep for someone else’s loss, slowly I’ve learnt that’s not true either.
    What has hit me with Ps 18:1-6 was the psalmists heart felt, deep faith of knowing who God is,the many facets of God’s sustaining nature to all who will call to God ‘whatever their lot’. I just had a picture of a child clinging to their Father, a Father whose strength can’t be matched, he’ll deliver me, he’ll be all I need. He’ll save me from death. The fact if I cry out for help in my distress from his temple he’ll hear me, he’ll hear me
    is a wow…let read that again & again kinda thing…& to remember he is worthy of all praise.
    Just wanted to say I appreciated Renee’s flood imagery. of being rescued & then do the clean up, also Annette’s words of a river of peace doesn’t require calm are much appreciated too.
    I hope to have my book next week,looking forward to it.
    Thanks
    Bless you all.

  23. Hi Dee…this is a test…to see if my picture came up through using
    http://en.gravatar.com

    If no picture comes up….just delete me…Blessings…God has used your minstry so much in my life…May Jesus Christ be praised.
    Lynn…Gun Lake, Michigan

    1. Thanks, Lynn. This old dog is happy to learn a new trick!

  24. Dee, I love question 5. I thought that it was wrong to try to deny your feelings. It never occurred to me how, if we are honest with others about our feelings, it helps them to open up with their own(or the reverse). I think this may be key to being true in relationships.

  25. Dee, I had a question after reading all these great thoughts. I appreciated so many of them. But here is my question, and I know I am not going to win any “popularity” votes by asking this question but my question is: I know our feelings are something that God gives us and it’s O.K., to grieve and I’ve heard it said that our “feelings” are neither good nor bad, but is there not a time where we choose to trust God? I am not saying that I know what that time is for anyone else, nor would I assume to tell them what that time is but I have met people who drown in their grief and never seem to recover. It almost becomes their life story. Like when Jesus asked the man by the pool, do you want to get well? Feelings are great, but I have often heard, how they are to be the caboose not the engine of the train. I don’t always “feel” like doing things – but I do them anyway because it is the right thing to do. Just putting this question out there.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Teri. I’m glad you mentioned this because I was thinking something similar. Because I have friends, one friend in particular, who has been grieving for well over a year, I am concerned that her grief will consume her and she won’t be able to recover. As it seems to me that she has become stuck in her grief, I want to be able to help her but I’m not sure how. I also see how I too have become stuck in various levels of my own grief for things that I cannot change and I’m working on that too – that it will “be well with my soul,” when I’m not grieving, but when I’m at peace, content, and happy.

    2. You get a popularity vote from me 🙂 Good question!

    3. Teri
      It is true that it is a choice to do the right thing. A choice to chose Christ over other things even when we do not feel like it. But just from my personal story of walking through a valley of depression because of great rejection I can tell you that it is not that easy sometimes. I used to think people can just chose to get over things until I walked this. I was suffocating and could not get myself out. I had fallen into a pit that I remained in for quite a while. I did not understand why my Bible reading and prayer would not get me out of it. I just had to walk it out the way it was and pray God would have mercy on me in it. One day He did draw me out but it was a long and hard process. Just my thoughts. Hope that helps some. 🙂
      Much love,
      Angela

  26. This morning I focussed on verses 4-6. I avoided them yesterday, unsure what to share. As I said when I joined this study, our son is in jail, arrested for robbery to feed his addiction to oxycontin. Three weeks after being locked up he attempted to strangle himself in his bed using slip-knotted sheets tightened by extending his legs … “cords of death entangled [him].” When “the torrents of destruction overwhelmed [him]” he tried to untie the knot but did not have air or strength to undo what he had done. He had been without oxygen for 4-10 minutes according to the hospital chart when the guard discovered him and revived him. They told us that if he lived he would have permanent brain damage. God had another plan. He lives and does not have brain damage from the incident. He has agreed to allow me to share his story as his incarceration continues for the next 5 years.

    He told me that he remembered struggling with the knot and then surrendering. He says he was taken to hell and that it was not fire and brimstone as he thought, but it was total darkness … nothing … aloneness … and the most frightening thing he had ever seen. “the snares of death confronted [him].” The next thing he knew he woke up in the hospital with a very sore throat and a breathing tube.

    In my distress over this situation, I turned to “my psalm” 18:16. I’d never paid much attention to the beginning of this psalm. But this time I did, and when I read these first few verses it was like listening to my son’s story all over again. I sent him Psalm 18 in my next letter to him. It is now “our psalm”.

    Over the six months since this incident I have put on my happy Christian face many times rather than sob at what has happened with this young man. It was so comforting to hear Dee’s comments on false thoughts. Thank you.

    It is so amazing to me that God would come as one of us and endure the trials and tribulations of a human life. From the trauma of birth to the ignoble death on a cross, He was willing to experience it all for our salvation. He not only knows us, he knows our pain, our sorrow, our fears, and carries us through it all. I love verse 6 in the message: “…my cry brings me right into his presence – a private audience!” Oh,Lord Jesus, as you cried out to your Father from the cross, may this son cry out to you!

    1. Janet that indeed is a great story of encouragement. Lifting a prayer for you all. I work alongside prison ministry from time to time and knowing your sons story gives me hope for the lives he will touch of those incarcerated with him. He can reach a group that many cannot. May God bless that ministry.
      Angela

      1. Thank you, Angela. I try to reinforce the belief that God puts you where He needs you to do the work for His kingdom. He’s trying to believe that.

  27. Teri..I was thinking of your question & am glad you put it out there because it has been something which I wondered about from time to time. I think for me it is a battle ground of accepting & not denying my feelings but I think the trust part is extremely important because as you say you’ve got to do things which you don’t feel like…obedience comes to mind along with the trust for the Lord to show his promises to come to pass but when people can’t grow because of their grief,must be only prayer & wise counsel which can move them on & God’s patience is infinite when people get stuck.?
    Janet I was moved by what you shared, thank you to & your son’s willingness to share such depths of heart.

  28. Teri that is a great question. Today I told my testimony without using a lot of what I used to use because I was tired of walking away feeling too vulnerable to take the next step. I am exaggerating a little about not being able to take the next step to make a point. But there is a season for everything Ecclesiastes says. And it seems like, for me, its taken these 28 years to finally put even my testimony in a different light for the sake of more healing and moving on. If that makes sense.

  29. Thanks Elizabeth for your response, it’s just a question I have. It’s hard to put into words my thoughts. I think tears are a gift from the Lord but I also believe you can wear grief like a blanket.

    I definitely am proably not the one to expound on this subject. I struggle myself in the area of showing my emotions and I even question myself on this subject. Even Dee’s fourth question about: “What does it mean to you that Jesus understands this kind of engulfing fear and pain?”, is a question, that I cannot even relate to, nor answer.

    When I was younger, and a child in my Father’s house, we (us children) would get in trouble for something wrong, and my Father would beat us, and then we would cry, and when we cried, he said, “Stop that crying or I will give you something to cry about.” If the look on our face was wrong, he would tell us to wipe that look right off our face. And I remember, it’s kinda funny now, but actually taking my hands and trying to “wipe that look right off my face.” My father became a Christian in his later years, and he is not the man he was. There is many good things I have learned from him, and there are many things, he did right but being in touch with our emotions was not one of them. Eventually, I learned not to cry, and he would beat me and I didn’t care, (quite a little defiant child I was), I wasn’t going to cry, and he would beat me until I got welts on my body and I wouldn’t cry. My sister would always tell me, cry, let him hit you once or twice and then cry, then he’ll stop it. But in my child’s mind – he didn’t love me and I didn’t care, he could beat me all he wants, I was not going to cry, because then he would win. So, I took the “medal” of getting the most beatings in the family. I learned to stand against him. My father was emotionally absent and still has a problem with this today, but is so much better – so for me, to relate to a father who understands our pain, is just not something I can relate to.

    1. Teri, this is one of the reasons I loved the book, The Shack. “Father God” is presented as a woman, not a man. So many people have experiences that do not lead them to associating “father” with “love”. Seeing God as Mother might be easier in that case.

  30. I think I understand what you mean,livingloved. You have come to the point where you are ready to move on? I think back to the night before I started this study. I think God was telling me something. Thoughts about things that have happened in my family and how I could have possibly done things differently for a better outcome is never ending. It is just like the picture in vs 4&5. The cords wrap around you and pull you down if you don’t get free. It is paralyzing. My life seems to be on hold and I have another son who is 13. I live in fear that he will follow the same path. I know that God is sovereign but I can’t seem to just trust Him completely and move on. I have never recognized this as grief if in fact it is.

  31. Wow! I am chiming in so late but love what I am seeing. Wow, loved the first chapter of the book and love this Psalm. It has brought me great comfort.

    1-The picture of Psalm 18:4-5 is beautiful to me because it is perfect in describing me in times of deep distress. I often feel suffocated in these times and that is what it seems the Psalmist is explaining. Drowning, suffocating, unable to breathe. I have walked through a deep valley of depression because of rejection by fellow believers. I did not think I would survive that but God got me though. Yet there were times I felt I could not breathe but His Holy Spirit breathes life into me nevertheless. Also, I have walked through long years of debilitating illness-feelings the same. So often I can identify and am thankful because God has given us insight into others pain so we will not say or do the wrong thing in the situations-like what happened to your daughter. People mean well but there is a time to be silent. I especially loved the stuff about listening to praise music because there were times I could not read. I tried but it just didn’t stick.

    2-Reading your journal entries were a special time for me. Thanks for your vulnerability. I loved the raw and honesty of them. They encouraged me to pull out some of my own old journal entries describing these raw times and I was deeply encouraged by the things God has done. The journal entries you wrote flesh this thing out well. It is one thing to say it is well with my soul and walk it through but seeing the realness of it in personal thought is much more healing.

    3-I loved the names of the Lord that the Psalmist uses and others have pointed out. I see Jesus in this in those verses of 4-6. It reminds me of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane where He cried out in distress but then as He walked it out and died on the cross with the Words, My God why have you forsaken me? He lived out those verses and God heard. It gives me great hope and comfort to know this I can relate to Him in anyway and He understands me completely. There is nothing too much for Him to rescue me from. He is amazing.

    Praying for each of you and you too Dee. May God move us closer to Him in our walks with Him. May we be quickened and filled with wisdom and know His deep and unchanging love.
    Much love,
    Angela

    1. Dear Dee – I must be doing something wrong–none of my responses are coming up along with the others — I’m going to send you an email.

      Please help. Dar

  32. Dee: This is a first time on line study that I have done. I am a little computer illiterate but with my daughters help I think I understand the process now. I have enjoyed the comments from those who have responded. I am more of one to share one on one, face to face, so this will be a stretch for me. My understanding is that we just share something that might have really stood out in our study that day. So with that thought in mind I will try and share my thoughts. I too, share similar thoughts in regards to question 5. When I have found myself hurting I have thoughts of ‘I have to be a good witness’. But with time I have learned that this is definitly not a true feeling at that moment in time. But God understands my motive, and I just have to be honest before a Holy God. He knows my heart, that I want to be obedient to Him in responding before Him, but more important than that He wants my honesty before Him. It is not necessary to be something different than what I truly am feeling. We witness many times to others through our tears and just being human.
    Thank you Dee for the time you have put in on this study, I am really looking forward to it. It will be fun to see what God brings through each of the participating people in the study. Really appreciate your comments. Be seeing you on line.

  33. I am bringing up the rear as usual:
    1. Meditate on Psalm 18:1-6. What images does the psalmist use in verses 4 and 5 to convey his distress? Can you identify for yourself personally or someone you love? cords of death, of sheol, entangling him – yes i can identify. it is an awful feeling of being in quicksand, of sinking knowing daylight is far away, seeing the daylight, but not being able to reach it, slipping away.

    2. In The God of All Comfort, on the opening two pages, how do my journal entries reflect the feeling of Psalm 18:4-5? i think in the way you describe what thoughts were going through your mind and the mind of your daughters, the shock, the initial shock of it all, and the deep pain.

    What thoughts do you have about these entries?

    3. Behind the psalmist in all the psalms of lament, if you look hard enough, you can see Jesus. How do you see Jesus in Psalm 18:1-6? i guess in the way he died and paid for our sins dying on the cross, and death being like a cord around his neck, being on the cross and tasting death for all of us.

    4. What does it mean to you that Jesus understands this kind of engulfing fear and pain? It means alot that he can understand, he is someone who I can go to and pour out my heart to.

    5. I spoke at a retreat right after I learned of my husband’s cancer and Kim Hill led us in “It Is Well With My Soul.” I was crying as I sang it and had the fleeting thought of trying to be a better witness. Why was that a false thought?
    because you were going to be like not honest with your feelings. you would tried to bury what you felt so people wouldnt see that you were hurting. and then they would not have seen how god could be your comfort.

    6. Memorize the first verse of It Is Well With My Soul and write down any reflections on it. the only thing that comes to me is the state of the soul in this first verse. “it is well with my soul”. it says that no matter what comes, that the soul at peace is a well soul. without that peace, we don’t make it.

    7. Is there a key insight, question, or reflection you’d like to share with others on the blog? Then please do!
    I ve just experienced that peace a few weeks ago. I comment on it because I had never understood nor experienced the peace of God like that. There is a freedom in that peace that you know that everything is going to be alright
    8. Respond to your sisters’ thoughts.

  34. Question #6.

    The hymn says, “Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.” It struck me that saying “it is well…” no matter our circumstances does not come naturally, we need to be taught to respond the right way. And our teacher is God!