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The Psalms reflect that “life is bipolar.”

Life is bipolarYesterday I had such a sweet time with my son and his wife and children — deep soul-satisfying conversations after a wonderful church service.

Then I came home to an e-mail that one of my dearest friends has cancer spread throughout her body.

Author William Brown says, “The psalms capture, better than any other corpus of Scripture, the bi-polar life of faith.”

First, in your quiet times in the next three days, connect with God.  Look carefully at the song, the book, and the Scriptures. When you are ready, let’s hear your thoughtful reflections on the first three questions — and then, by Tuesday, let’s see if we are ready to go on to the rest of the questions. Take your time and ask God to help you to see.

Sing the first verse of “It is Well with My Soul” by heart and let it talk to your soul about trusting in sunshine and in storms. Begin memorizing the second verse.

If you have The God of All Comfort, read pages 12 through 14 and answer:

1. What did Philip Yancey have to learn about the psalms before he could use them correctly? (For those of you who don’t have the book, I trust your sisters will articulate this for you!)

2. Finish reading Psalm 18. How did God come to the rescue of the psalmist? What word pictures penetrate your heart?

3. Share a time when God came to your rescue — the sun came out, and you wanted to dance and sing!

4. Now read Psalm 88.  How does this psalm end? This is where some of you are right now. The sun has not come out — and you wonder how you are going to make it.  What word pictures penetrate your heart from Psalm 88?

5. Can you think of a time when Jesus might have felt like this?

6. What do you think about talking to God as the psalmist did in this psalm?

7. When we honestly express fear or despair to the Lord, is He angry? Base your answer on what you see in Scripture.  What  guidelines do you see for speaking to the Lord in Scripture? Think about what made Jesus angry repeatedly in the New Testament. (This is a challenging question, so cry out to a holy God for wisdom. (I will share — but want to hear from you first!

8. In The God of All Comfort, on page 14, I share my testimony on what I learned through the psalms. What was it? Have you experienced this?

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58 comments

  1. Dee, I’m so sorry about the news from your friend. It is good you had a good time with your son this weekend. Praise the Lord for His precious gifts of family and relationships especially in the storms of life.

    I can’t do #1 as I don’t yet have the book. #2 is thrilling. In a storm of power and anger that exposed the ocean floor He routed the enemy. He reached down from on high and pulled me out of the deep water. He rescued me because he delighted in me. Because of my righteousness(wrong!)He rescued me. But,oh,what blessing, He has imparted to me His righteousness! HE was blameless, not me. He shed His own blood for my soul. This makes me cry. It’s just too wonderful!

    Word pictures I love are so many. I think my favorite is Him reaching down from heaven and pulling me out of the deep water. The storm and earthquake of His power and indignation are frightening, for the enemy, comforting to me. In 25 and 26 I see that He is well aware of the intent of my heart. This too is scary, but after my dip in the drink, I think my eyes will be on Him alone.

    He places me on the heights and secures me there. widening my path and giving me sure footing like a deer. Like a mighty warrior, He gives me the strength to war with the enemy and win. This is far from the depths of the deep!

    In 43-50 I see a king with ruling authority. The enemy is destroyed, pulverized. When I think of real people enemies in my life, I don’t really want them destroyed, I just want to be delivered. Even when I do want them destroyed, I don’t feel this is right. This is something that has always bothered me about the Psalms. What does everyone else think about that?

  2. Dee. for your friend we pray: Jehovah Rapha our precious God who heals us. Lord, we don’t understand, as Your ways are so much higher than ours, but we trust You. Lord please be with this sister so dear to Dee and to You. As the enemy comes at her with all his fearsome arrows, storm to her defense Lord. Keep her in perfect peace even as the waves crash around her. Minister to her by Your precious Spirit and through your people. Give special grace to Dee. Enable her to minister to her friend in this time as if You were right there beside her in the flesh. Raise up an army of mighty warriors to pray for this sister that Your will may be done in this situation. We boldly ask these things in the Name of Your Son Jesus Christ and because of His shed blood. Amen

    We love you Dee.

  3. Hi Dee! Hi all!

    In your first question you asked, “What did Philip Yancey have to learn about the psalms before he could use them correctly?” On page 13 of your book you said: …”Yancey came to understand that the Psalter is not a book about God, but a journal written to God. We do not read it like the other books of the Bible. Instead, we use it to help us dialogue with God. In the opening of this chapter you read my prayer journal “over my shoulder.” In the same way, when you read the psalms, you are reading someone’s prayer journal “over his shoulder.”

    What I thought was excellent was what you said on the next page. “God wants honesty from us because He wants intimacy with us.” Excellent Dee.

    Your second question, “How did God come to the rescue of the psalmist?”
    What word pictures penetrate your heart?” There are so many great word pictures there, a few that stand out to me are: “He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.” …”He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.” “He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.”

    The third question you ask is, “Share a time when God came to your rescue – the sun came out, and you wanted to dance and sing!” I think I shared this story before but it’s such a great story of God’s deliverance. When I was younger, I had gotten involved in drugs, so much so that I lived and breathed for them, I did not care about anybody, or anything else, the only thing I cared about was where I was going to get more drugs. It had gotten so bad that I had started passing out, not remembering who had brought me home, how I had gotten to places, etc. One night after doing drugs for like a week straight, My boyfriend at the time and I went to my friend’s house, and when I got there, my heart was racing and I afraid that I was going to die. My friends didn’t know quite what to do. They asked if they should call my parents, or take me to the hospital. I didn’t want them to do that for I feared my father. So I asked them if they would pray for me, and not being Christians, they didn’t have a clue. I went into the other room where my boyfriend was to see if he could pray for me, and he was totally out of it. So then I just cried out to God to rescue me, to forgive me. I knew if I had died I would not go to heaven. I prayed until I passed out. Why God would hear such a person as me, is beyond me. Then next morning, I had woken up, I did not know how I had gotten home, I assumed my friends had taken me. But when I awoke, I had such an evil feeling about me, like darkness and evil that you can feel. My boyfriend was there and I had told him, if I have to live like this I will commit suicide. “The cords of death had surronded me, and my enemies were too strong for me.” There is so much more to the story, and I don’t want to take too much space here, but I called someone up and they came over, and asked if what I was feeling was about God and I said yes. As soon as I said that it was like shakles falling off of my eyes, and like seeing the world new for the first time. That same night I had a dream, and in my dream Satan and God were fighting over me, and Satan was saying to me, “if you follow me, I will give you that feeling of the drug you like – all the time.” And God was saying to me, “if you follow me, I will give you what is real.” When I woke up, I wanted to make sure that God knew I choose him, I got down on my knees and asked God to forgive me, to come into my heart. God had come to my rescue! Following that, God had filled me with his joy and peace – he had filled me with incredible joy in my heart. I know that I didn’t choose God, but he choose me. And he delivered me and rescued me from “deep waters.”

  4. Dee, sorry about your friend. It seems when things appear to be going along well…boom…a bomb is dropped on us again and we have to deal with it and keep going. I was just reading past entries in my journal from 4 years ago and we were going through this same thing at that time.
    No. 1 reminded me to do just that to read my journal as that’s how we are to remember to read the Psalms…funny how everyone does tell you to read them if you are sad. Even without thinking about them as a journal I have always found comfort in them.
    No.2 I see the strength God gives us..He destroys our enemies..He delivers us..He takes hold of us..He brought us out of the depths.
    And I love when David praises the Lord for all He has done.
    No.3 After a difficult first marriage and time as a single parent, God blessed me with a godly man. After 15 years I still love him as much as the day we got married. He is my best friend and we laugh and enjoy life together. We have been through the deaths of our parents, cancer, depression with a daughter, etc. yet we know that God reigns, He is in control and He loves us soooo much.

  5. Next time, I might do the questions in order even if it does involve walking to another room to get a book 🙂 I was getting annoyed with parts of Psalm 18 before I read the Yancey info. (Thanks, Fellowsojourner, for quoting the book. I didn’t realize when I first ordered the God of All Comfort Bible Study guide with CD that the Bible Study guide and book are different books. I’m ordering the book, but similar info is on p. 30 in the Bible Study guide). Now, I am less annoyed with the psalm, but I am still confused about some of the verses (but someone who reads some of my journals most likely would be annoyed, confused and/or freaked out, too).

    I’ll post the verses that have me “stuck.”

  6. Praying too Dee. So sorry to hear about your friend.

    1-Loved how Yancey voiced this(Psalms being depressing until understanding they are a journal to God) about the Psalms. I have always struggled with how to articulate that. I do love Psalms because I learned to look at them as a way to pray. They teach me greatly in this.

    2-LOVE how God bursts forth in all glory power and slendor coming to the
    rescue…then the Psalmist was able to carry on and praise. Word pics I loved is v.8 (God really does get angry when we are hurt-this is a passionate picture.) and v. 35-God’s hand supporting me. v.33-feet of a deer because I love Hinds Feet on High Places and the book of Habakkuk! 🙂

    3-It is kind of funny but this is how God did this one time in my life-though I can tell you of so many other times. I said earlier that one of these suffocating places was being rejected in the church. I believe we are to remain God centered at all times and in every area of our lives. Because of this some felt it necessary to complain about me.One time I was being gossiped about and as it continued during one gossipy conversation I found out that the wind whipped up and around the conversationalists making the strangest sound. One of the ladies said we really need to stop talking about this. Then told me the story. As much as that pains me to know, I know that God did have my back and
    always does. He in a gentle way gave them a warning to stop.

    I like this example because often I feel like vindicating my own name but in the New Testament we cannot just go and crush our enemy. We need to leave room for God to work in that but then also leave room for His saving grace to reach them as well. Eventhough I may voice in passion to destroy my enemy-really the true enemy is satan who sadly has taken the person captive for that time. He is the real enemy. Then that gives me freedom to love and forgive the person.I too have been in their place of gossiping about others and I know that living that way was not a happy place. I feel bad for them and pray for their very best that God will grab ahold of them and show them His way. Yet to be absolutely honest in prayer with God I do voice the same bi-polar like prayers. 🙂

  7. Please set me straight— I don’t want to be disrespectful of Scripture; on the other hand, I am CONFUSED). The verses below are from the ESV, copied from biblegateway.com. My “commentary” (confusion) is in parentheses throughout the text. (The verses after this felt more hopeful to me).

    20 The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. (Umm, life would be much worse if this were the case).
    21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
    and have not wickedly departed from my God.(But I haven’t always kept the ways of the Lord; I’m not sure exactly what is meant by “wickedly departed” but I certainly have not focused on him at all times)
    22 For all his rules were before me,
    and his statutes I did not put away from me. (I was saturated in Scripture, even during the worst times, because God was faithful in bringing what I had memorized earlier into my brain — even when I couldn’t read)
    23 I was blameless before him, (because of Christ)
    and I kept myself from my guilt. (No, I didn’t)
    24 So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. (this reinforces all the confusion above).

    I know I can’t be righteous, clean, keep the ways of the Lord, keep myself from guilt etc —but I sure tried, and trying (but failing) was exhausting. I’m stuck between the tension of knowing that my daily life in Christ is through the power of the Holy Spirit and affirming the verses above. I used to be more competitive and I know all about achieving more and more — and burning out. What I’m feeling when I “get into” these verses borders on fear of repeating old patterns of trying to be godly in my own strength (legalism?) — and crashing. For some reason, the verses following these seem more hopeful to me.

      1. How could David, the psalmist, be claiming righteousness in Christ when Jesus had not yet come into the world? I think he is claiming his own righteousness, his rightness of heart in loving God and attempting to live his life following God’s precepts. He says, “The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousnes, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.” When God uses His sight to look upon us, He sees something different from what we see when we look upon each other or ourselves. I believe that God sees our intention, the condition of our heart. And God sees the whole picture of the consequences of what we do. Sometimes something we do that seems wrong at the moment was just what was needed to begin a chain of events that made something good come to be.

        1. I think you are right in that Janet, I agree with you. I think David was claiming his own righteousness. I think of it sort of like a child talking to his parent, claiming his own righteousness in a matter, God looking at his heart in the situation, much as a parent would do with his child. The child is not “all together” righteous in all his actions, but perhaps in the moment he cried out he was. God looked upon his heart.

        2. I believe that Scripture is true and beautiful and in such cases as these when things confound the reader that other Scriptures help to clear the water.

          In the Psalms, there are actually visions of Christ, and I do think one can approach them in a Christocentric way, because although David was not aware of Christ, the Spirit was, and it is He who directed the Psalmist to write what he did.

          Verses 20-24 come just after the verse saying, “He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” I think this is the key that opens it up.

          Because God’s delight (looking forward to the time when Christ would die for the Psalmist) was in the Psalmist, all these other things can be true.

          The Scripture says that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. The Psalmist is no different. He is rescued by God and because of this is able to be one of the blessed who endure (as the Scripture says about Job in James 5:11), so that he does not abandon or fall away, he does not “depart from [his] God.”

          In other words, the Psalmist is saying his relationship with God and his righteousness is proven in his history with Him. Does this make sense?

          My deep friend Lucia told me about this study. I am a little late joining, but she thought I would enjoy it, having learned out of my grief over many years how truly lovely and faithful He is!

    1. This is a late reply, but as I joined the study late, I am trying to work through it from the beginning (so as not to cheat! but mostly because I want to get the most out of this study). I have a New American Standard Bible translation and it identifies Psalm 18 as a Psalm of David who “spoke to the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” So as we read this as a “prayer journal” of David to God, the context is how God delivered him from the hand of Saul when Saul was chasing David and trying to kill him.
      Although David had an opportunity during this time to kill Saul, he was reluctant to lay his hand on Saul whom he knew was God’s annointed king, and David would not sin in this way against God. He was waiting on God’s timing and for God to deal with Saul, and for the time when God would make him the king. So I think that is why David could say to God that in this circumstances, his hands were clean and he kept himself from sinning and therefore was rewarded by God for his righteousness.

  8. Monday , January 4, 2010

    Here are two contemporary versions of “It is Well With My Soul”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJpeylRl68o&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPPSG_SpojY

    1. What did Philip Yancey have to learn about the psalms before he could use them correctly?
    He had to learn that the Psalms were written to God and not about God. He learned to read the Psalms as if he was reading someone’s journal.
    2. Finish reading Psalm 18. How did God come to the rescue of the psalmist? What word pictures penetrate your heart?
    God came down from His heavenly residence to rescue the psalmist. God’s anger at injustice penetrates my heart, the way that He thunders His voice from heaven, and how He draws the psalmist out of many waters and delivers him from the enemy.
    As I live through this current “storm”, feeling the overwhelming waves of sorrow rush over my head so often, it calms and comforts me to know that He hears my cries and He attends my soul (calming me as He delights to deliver me) and draws me out of the many waters – and even while I am sobbing, I can lift my voice to praise Him because He is worthy of praise at all times!

    3. Share a time when God came to your rescue — the sun came out, and you wanted to dance and sing!

    During the last trimester of my first pregnancy my doctor had me lying down every so often to monitor the baby’s movement. On one of those days, I did not feel him moving for at least an hour. I called the doctor’s office and she wanted to see me immediately. As I drove to her office praying and crying (about 45 minutes away), I started singing praises and the Lord gave me a beautiful song:

    My hope and my trust are in You, Lord
    I will not faint for Your presence will sustain me
    I won’t grow weary for I wait upon you day and night
    Oh my hope and my trust are in You, Lord.

    I sang this chorus over and over all the way there and up the elevator to my doctor’s office – when I went to open the office door, the baby moved inside of me and I felt the sun come out and wanted to dance and sing and twirl.

    To this day (17 years later) I still have that melody in my mind and continue to sing it as trials arise and to remind myself of God’s faithfulness.

    1. Thanks Paige, loved the utube versions of “It is well with my soul.”

    2. Thanks Paige! I, too, loved the UTUBE versions of It is Well with My soul…and the chorus that God gave you..what a treasure!

    1. I agree that it is most helpful to think in terms of spiritual enemies, but if I don’t consciously make an attempt to think of spiritual enemies, I do think of people who are acting like jerks! And then I want “justice” (or my version of it) temporarily anyway. Obviously, that doesn’t bring me closer to God. But I have heard some Christians pray some of these psalms against”bad guys” who are people.

  9. If we are not careful we might find ourselves hating our enemies instead of praying for them. We do not want any enemy (person, not spiritual enemy) to miss heaven no matter how badly we might feel about them. The enemy I believe David is talking about is a spiritual enemy and in that reference we do not pray for them but against them. In fact we must take authority over them. Where people are concerned we are told to pray for them, turn the other cheek, love them, be an example of Christ’s to them. God has helped me love a woman who once I considered an enemy and because of God’s empowering love I now consider her a friend. She is still not a Christian but she has stopped cursing in my presence and taking out her anger on me.
    To answer the word picture question: I love the candle in verse 28, …thou wilt light my candle, the Lord will enlighten my darkness.
    When my sweet Dad died 10 months ago I felt the coldest darkness try to cover me. When I turned to the Lord for comfort I found Him to be a warm flickering candle lighting my way.

    1. Hi Kim! I really am blessed by your word picture of Him as a warm flickering candle lighting your way….thanks!

      1. You are welcome.

  10. 1. I don’t have my book yet, but like what others have said about the psalms being a journal, words written to God from the heart of the psalmist.

    2. God came to the rescue of the psalmist in the midst of a storm. His coming wasn’t a soft gentle touch, it was a giant rumbling angry violent storm. God blew in, riding the wings of the wind (love that phrase), shooting arrows of lightening to rout the enemy. David, the warrior, was being rescued from Saul who was trying to kill him. God came to David’s rescue in a way appropriate for the difficulty David was in. It seems to me that God usually rescues us that way, a way appropriate to the difficulty we are in. In a time of sadness and sorrow when we are particularly fragile, a soft gentle God-hug is what we need. David needed power and might.

    The phrase that spoke to me today is: “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning…” It has been a wonderful day today, immersed in this study all has been well with my soul. So many days lately have seemed dim and dismal. It would be easy to slip into self-pity. This image of God tending my lamp, trimming the wick, supplying the oil, tending to my soul, just makes me smile.

    3. The rescue I want to share has to do with this psalm. Many years ago I was at our farm and pretty low because of all the troubles we were having with our two adopted sons. Both were in and out of jail for various reasons and in and out of our home for lack of funds to be on their own. Reason (and many good friends) said to be done with them and not let them keep coming back into our home. My heart said do not abandon them like everyone else has. I was taking the youngest one to the store when we passed a box sitting along the road. He got out and brought it into the car and it contained a bunch of books. He looked through them and found a Bible. When we got home, I took that Bible into a chapel I was making in one of our outbuildings and opened it to the Psalms. For some reason I decided to read the psalm that corresponded to the street address of my youth: 1816. I couldn’t believe what I read! “He reached down from on high and plucked me out of troubled waters.” There could not have been a more perfect scripture for me at that time. I laughed and cried (probably didn’t sing and dance, not my forte)and claimed that message as my own. God had certainly rescued me that day!

    1. Thanks, Janet. I appreciated both your example with the story behind it and your sentences about God rescuing us in a way appropriate for the difficulties we are in — So encouraging.

    2. Hi Janet! I really appreciated your word picture of God tending my lamp, trimming the wick, supplying the oil, tending my soul-makes me smile too:) thanks for sharing!

    3. I also wanted to thank you for the idea that God will rescue me in a manner appropriate to my situation. It helps me to keep an open mind that the rescue may not necessarily be in a manner I am looking for but will be a rescue nevertheless. Thank you for these words that bring hope to me.

    1. Dee, Thanks for what you wrote about what Spurgeon said. Looking at the verses as more focused on a specific situation makes more sense to me, and is a more satisfying way to apply those verses. Will ponder more 🙂

    2. Yes, Dee that makes sense to me too…thanks!

  11. Oh, Dee, Thank you! I never would have paid any attention to THAT psalm —- and I love it!! (and I acknowledge being at least a little warped to like something so negative). The psalmist starts off by acknowledging the “Lord, God of [his] salvation” —- and it’s mostly downhill from there. The good news is that he remained in communication with God, and asked questions which must have been more prophetic than he was aware. The word pictures that hit me were probably polluted by my own experience, but what I saw was someone in a great deal of pain, wanting to “feel” connected with God and others. And I could see him & myself having a pity party complete with violins (but not many guests), telling God that this awful mess was his (God’s) fault. He, the psalmist (I) was so exhausted. AND even though he (I) didn’t feel God’s presence, God (in all his power and glory) was right there loving me, giving me more strength than I had the ability or energy to comprehend, and having the power of victory over death.

    I especially appreciated the psalmist’s questions in vv. 10-12. They seem to be written in the spirit of cynicism or despair (e.g., “God, do you mean to tell me that you can do anything with someone who is dead?? If you don’t get me out of this horrible situation that’s your fault, do you think I can be of any use to you?”) But each of the questions can be answered with a resounding “YES.” God has already overcome death — and the most powerful (though not detailed) picture I have (not in the psalm itself, but) in response or reaction to the questions Psalm 88 is from Job and in Handel’s Messiah “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” So often, I seek meaning/purpose/hope from relationships, work, things I can accomplish, etc. and then when “my” life falls apart, I can’t work and other people get sick of me, life seems pretty bleak. In the past, it has taken extended periods of time without the distractions of people or work for me to rest (or seek rest in, even if I am not resting) in the arms of my Redeemer. The sun still hasn’t come out, but I know that it exists behind the clouds. I seem to vacillate between the pain expressed by the psalmist and comforting reminders that God is in control.

  12. Hi Dee & all!

    Dee, I was thinking about your 7th question here: “When we honestly express fear or despair to the Lord, is He angry?” “Base your answer on what you see in Scripture. What guidelines do you see for speaking to the Lord in Scripture?”

    The first verse that came to me was: Psalm 51:6, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” And Psalms 145:18 says, “The Lord is close to all who call upon him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.”

    So, to answer your question, no, I don’t think the Lord is angry with us when we express fear or despair to him. What I think he wants from us is honesty and openness. Our thoughts will not always be “right”, but if we are honest with him about them and have an openness of heart, he then can change us.

    1. I agree with Jaime on this. I think of the agony that Christ felt in His circumstance, and how He asked God if there was another way. Loving the Lord doesn’t mean we are never fearful. It means we learn to love and see ourselves loved by a God so big that we will follow Him even through the things which terrify us the most, our hope secure because we know He is there too. This is part of how we paint His reality for a watching world. Anyone else would run away.

      1. Sarah, Thanks for your response about seeing Christ in the Psalms — and for what you wrote after that. Your response does make sense. (I didn’t see any more spaces to “reply” to that one!)

  13. 4. Now read Psalm 88. How does this psalm end? This is where some of you are right now. The sun has not come out — and you wonder how you are going to make it. What word pictures penetrate your heart from Psalm 88?

    This psalm ends with death and darkness – the psalmist feeling as though he has not heard from the Lord, received an answer to his cry, or felt His presence—abandoned and alone

    “adrift among the dead” – reminds me of the scene in Lord of the Rings where Frodo and Sam are following Gollum into a swampy area and deep below the water are dead bodies just floating, drifting—Frodo gazes into the water and his focus is on the dead instead of the path and he is pulled down into the depths of the “death and darkness”

    This is exactly how I feel at present – sometimes I can only gaze at the “unknown” of my future and I give in to thoughts that I’d be better of among the dead than to live through this present storm. When my gaze is taken off of my HOPE, off of my Redeemer that is when my soul gets disquieted and upset—sometimes so distraught that she does not know that the Lord is there and He knows every fear, every thought, every ache, every longing, the loneliness, the deep sadness…
    My mind seems to know this and my mouth can form the “right” words, but it has to go deep into the inner most part of my being—come Holy Spirit and bring the revelation of my Beloved’s unchanging, unending, far-reaching love—let Him kiss me with the kisses of His Word—let me know that He is more than enough for me—help me to know the satisfaction of His continual presence.

    Despite the psalmist not feeling God’s presence or help, he still continues to cry out—day and night—daily calling and stretching out his hands—continually reaching, crying, and calling—this is how I live and will continue to live—leaning on my Beloved!

  14. Hi Ladies!

    I’m still stuck on the first three questions this morning and for that I am thankful. Last night (or, this morning really) I couldn’t sleep, but I ended up having a wonderful time with the Lord while reviewing Psalm 18 and doing this study.

    (1) As I appreciate the Yancey revelation that the Psalms have been written to be viewed more as journal entries, I have for a long time seen them as prayers. And to me, it is like sitting in a prayer meeting while one of the worshippers is having a vision while praying. It’s cool.

    For some of the ladies who were struggling with the righteousness of David, who wrote this specific Psalm, I got it! I’ll share in a bit. For I understand that David is extravagant in his worship – and maybe he even was bi-polar (as I have a few bi-polar friends that are usually either very up or very low and he sort of reminds me of them – very passionate) and he, also as a worshipper, was very artistic as well (a right-brainer for sure, as my husband would call him).

    (2) So, with this in mind, I did not see David’s Psalm as a theological text so much, as an artistic revelation that he got while he was praying (probably about some spefic event in his life) and he was painting for us a picture of what he saw God doing. For me, it was like reading something “This Present Darkness” – by Frank Peretti. And so I started to take notes and this is what I wrote, as I found myself entering into his prayer:

    Beginning in verse 7 – This is what happened, after I called out to God to save me (vs. 1-6) from my enemies.

    “Then the earth shook… God was angry that I (as His beloved) was in distress… so He (just a super hero) came to my rescue.

    Ha! – GOD is my Super Hero! against the strong forces of sin and destruction. He rebuked my enemy and drew me out of my distress (of my depression) – when no one else was there for me – God came! He was my support when I felt shut out and let down by the world.

    How did the Lord reward me according to my rightness? What was my rightness? I turned to Him – that’s what – and that has made me right – I did not take matters into my own hands – therefore I gave room for Him to do His Super Hero job of rescuing me.

    For if I had tried to solve my own problems – or to provide a covering for my own sin – it would have been like “cryptonite” to God’s super powers in my life – but instead my willingness to trust Him gave Him more power (in my life) – “in my weakness, He was strong.”

    I get it now – these are the ways of the LORD – He is God, I am a mere human, so I must go to Him for the answers – in that I will become blameless because His wrath (His holiness) eats up my sin (doubts, worry, fear, etc…) whenever I come in to His Presence – and I will walk away from this battle – refined and purified, my dignity restored.

    He lights my lamp – and I get it – the darkness is gone – woo hoo!
    Now I feel like a super hero too, for I have His power coursing through me – I can “leap tall buildings in a single bound” – I can “run with the big dogs” now – I am not afraid. God has made me all right. God’s word is proven – He is a shield to those of us who trust Him.

    Praise, Praise, Praise – let me tell you all the ways that God is good!

    He arms me with strength – He makes my way perfect – He makes my feet like a deer and sets me on my high places (this is where I hear the song… “I got friend in low places… only I hear “high places” instead) He equips me for battle, and then strengthens me to win the war (up to verse 34)

    vs 35 (The sobering moment) Peace – You have also given me the shield of salvation; Your right hand has held me up (my righteousness is You), Your gentleness has made me great.”

    (3) God’s gentleness has made King David great! What a revelation! What a thought. It’s the same thing that makes us great. I am dancing and singing now – just at this revelation. And even as I know that God is for me. As I have recently moved. I can now say with David, that He has enlarged my path under me, so my feet (will) not slip.

    1. Woo Hoo!!! Love the Super Hero image 🙂

    2. This just made me smile all over. 😀

    3. My heart is dancing and singing now too – Thanks Belinda!

  15. Belinda – thanks for that! That was awesome!!! 🙂 Thank you! Thank you!!

  16. Thanks sisters and Dee for all the wonderful sharing and insights! I am blessed as I do this study with you! Thank you!! Praise HIM!!

    1. Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 says, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. (NIV)

      I have a footnote in my Bible which asks, “What is the sacrifice of fools?” (5:1) It says it is “A sacrifice offered without faith, performed only because of cultural or traditional demands. The Teacher warned that it is dangerous to unthinkingly offer sacrifices. He advises people to be more cautious in approaching God.”

      Psalms 4:4 says, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.” And verse 5 says, “Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust in the Lord.” (NLT)

      One of the verses that come to my mind as I read these verses is, Matthew 15:8,9 which says, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” And another verse I think of when thinking about sacrifices is Psalm 51:16,17 “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

      To me, these verses just tell me that we shouldn’t be flippant with God or speak hastily, but that we should come before Him with respect and reference, for God takes our words and the vows we speak seriously. But He does want us to come to Him, He wants us to bring our brokenness to him and our hearts.

  17. A friend posted this song on her facebook page and thought it might fit in well here in talking about silence before God.

    http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Fwatch%253Fv%253DEAqKj9toFo4&h=8a7f9d74e399e62f78a45c7f03981023&ref=mf

    1. Thanks for sharing Teri – loved that presentation. It ministers to my soul. I’ll share more later.

    2. Teri,
      Thank you for that powerful song about silence. I seldom find a song that says exactly what I’m wanting to say to God…beautiful. I’m going to listen to that each day when I am preparing to do this study. I also appreciate the song shared earlier “It is well”. That was lovely.

      Dee: May I also express my gratitude for this study and your book. It is one that fits well into my lifestyle and schedule. I am anxious to read ahead but will be patient. When I read your story I feel especially blessed to have been a prayer warrior for you and your family as you were going through that difficult time. L Y!

  18. Psalm 88 – whew! This is a man just waiting for God to reach down from above and pluck him out of troubled waters. Apparently God has come through for him before since he begins with “O Lord, the God who saves me…” but God is not moving fast enough for him this time so he wonders if He will. The more he laments, the more depressed he gets. Woe-is-me is usually a downward spiral. At the end, all he has left is darkness. This psalm reminds me of my son’s vision of hell. This must have been what Jesus felt as he sweat blood in the garden, yet his darkness turned to acceptance of his Father’s will.

    Sometimes we just have to dump all our stuff on someone. Who better to dump it on than a loving God who already knows the story and has already forgiven us for our part in it all. I know it is alright to do this because I’ve had my moments with God in this situation. My first husband died at age 29 from Hodgkins lymphoma. In my despair I went to the ocean and sat on the beach screaming and hollering at God for taking this good man and leaving a whole bunch of rotten people to live long lives. I accused Him of doing this to hurt me. I was really angry at an unfair and unjust God. After hours and hours of this, I had cried all the tears my body could produce and I sat in silence with my broken heart. Out of the silence came the voice of my husband, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, telling me to go home, it would all be ok. Those words filled me with such a peace. I went home and it was ok. I began praying for someone to fill my lonliness and God led me to the wonderful man I’ve been married to for 32 years now. If I had held in all that anger and bitterness, I would not have been open to a new love, a new vulnerability, the risk of a new marriage. What safer place is there to dump all that than on our Heavenly Parent?

    I guess the scripture that speaks most clearly to me on this subject is Jesus’ invitation to the heavy-laden to come to Him, be yoked to Him, let him carry the burden. If we are to surrender all to God, that means the anger, resentments, jealousies, grief, spite too. Those are the things that make us heavy-laden.

    What made Jesus angry most often? I’ve been thinking about that today and it seems to me that the thing that troubled Jesus the most was lack of faith. He got angry at the Pharisees for flaunting symbols of faith with no demonstrable actions of faith. He got frustrated with the disciples for doubting. Not practicing what you preach seems to me to be his biggest issue. Faith without works is a lie. Jesus is Truth.

  19. I’ve also been thinking about what made Jesus angry. When I initially responded to the question (which I didn’t post), I wrote something about pretense and when the inside didn’t match the outside (e.g., Pharisees). Now, I’m thinking that pride is at the root of that hypocrisy. Pride was got Satan kicked out of heaven — and it gets me in trouble, too 🙁

  20. Sorry, Dee, about your friend. May God’s perfect love heal and comfort all involved, and give wisdom and hope too.

    There is a lot to respond to, but for now I will just share my happiest moment:

    Question 3.:

    August 23, 1981. The hour I first believed. This was the day I met God, Spirit to spirit. I was so desperate to change. After confessing my sins, a literal weight lifted up and off of me. All I could do and say was, after raising my hands, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

  21. HI, Dee. Thank you for doing this study online. I will be participating, but more as an observer than as a commenter.

    Thank you for writing The God of All Comfort. God led me to this book when I was in Borders last week, and His timing could not have been more perfect. I cannot thank you enough for your beautiful example. You are a woman who has allowed her suffering to help her press into the Lord instead of away from Him (as are the other women doing this study). Thank you for your opening your heart and your struggles through this book.

    I have been praying for God to provide me with a vision of what it would look like to glorify God in my trials. Your book and your godly example has come into my life at just the right time, and given me a vision and desire to press on.

    My prayer now is that in my grief, I would follow your example and draw closer to God rather than farther away from him. He is the source of all comfort and strength and His strength never falters or fails. What a wonderful God we serve.

    Thank you for your ministry. God is greater in my life because of your book.

  22. Good Morning ladies, I am reading along when I can and enjoying comments and experiences so much. I can’t really sit down with the study because I am in the middle of some very long work days. Livingloved’s last comment about raising her hands in the freedom of true worship made me think how blessed that is. In the midst of the darkest trials, the freedom of corporate worship will bring out the sun. In fact for me that is just the experience that comes to mind when I think of breaking out of a dark time. I was in a church for 20 years and needed to change long before I did. For the last year I was there I had the definite sense that God was not releasing me to go. So I stayed and I can’t tell you how difficult that was, for I was sure that the Spirit of God was gone from that place. I went straight to the church I am in now and cried for joy every Sunday for the 1st 3 months I was there. God called me to the choir and I have never enjoyed anything more in my life. We worship 2 and sometimes 3 times on Sundays and it is never work to me. I can’t sing very well and lose my voice often. That is why the whole call is so surprising to me.

    Ive got to go. Blessings to you all today.
    What a mighty God we serve!
    Anne

  23. Wow… now here comes the bipolar crash, as this part of the study really hits me between the eyes. One of the things that I have been really struggling with are all the rash vows and promises that I have broken, yes to God, and also to others. There were so many things in my Christian life that I have set out to do – thinking that it was God leading me, only to later discover that it was something else (usually from my flesh, such as fear, or a need to be accepted, etc…) that drove me to make the vow in the first place and I can’t possibly go back and fulfill all of the broken vows that I’ve made, nor do I want to (for fear that I will be trying to be religious or somehow trying to work out my own salvation). In this, I know that I am a liar and I fear that the work of my hands will not be blessed as a result. But all I can think to do, is to keep turning to Jesus (since God’s mercies are new every morning) to accept the fact that ALL of my sins have been nailed to the cross. In Matthew 5:33-37, I can see that Jesus forbids oaths (as was mentioned in Ecclesiastes 5:1-7), but because He also knew that we wouldn’t be able to keep all of our rash promises He then told us not to make them in the first place but to simply, let our yes be yes and our no be no, that – “For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – so there, it seems to me that I have found my loophole. Now, as I repent, even though I find myself saying what Ecclesiastes tells us we shouldn’t, that “I should never have made that vow in the first place,” it seems like Jesus’ words overruled and cancelled the former rule. Yet, I am also learning to be more careful now about what I say before God. My prayer now is that He will help me to live completely honest before Him and that He will not be ashamed of me as I call out to Him for help. As I used to sit in leadership and sing on the worship team in a church, I now sit in silence in my home, still grieving over many losses of friendships, position, and unfinished/unfulfilled ministry opportunities – but I am somehow finding contentment and peace in the quiet. My words are definately fewer with God (even to the point that it seems like my prayers are fewer too) but I honestly think it’s because I am trying to spend more time listening to Him than talking to Him. With that being said, I appreciate the song that Teri posted, and what Dee reminded us about being still/silent before God. For that is where I spend most of my time – in silence. Where my house used to be filled with praise music (and the sounds of children – for I am also an empty nester), I now like it quiet – and yet, this study has just recently got me singing again too that “It (really) is well with my soul.” Thank you again for doing this study and for letting me sojourn along with you all. I’m glad that I made some of you smile earlier – although I must ask for your fogivness for all of the typos I included in all of my rashness. Please? I do see God as a Super-hero, but we all know that He is so much more!!!

  24. I have so impressed with everyone’s thoughts. After losing my mama in May I have felt as low as David speaks of in Ps.88. I spent hours reading her journals, full of scriptures and prayers and crying out to God how much I missed her. My picture is one with water since I live on the lake and did so at another time in my youth during a crisis for me. I remember sitting on the bank and watching the water near the dam..and crying out to God again. This time as I sit I see the water I feel the drowning sensation that others have mentioned. As for fear I think when we fear we are to turn immediately to Jesus. In our fear and despair we need Him more than ever. In Mark 6: 49-50 Jesus is telling the disciples, Do not be afraid…He wanted them to rely on Him. My footnotes even say, “To recognize Christ’s presence is the antidote for fear.” That doesn’t mean we won’t fear, we do, God created that emotion I think, soooo I think we just need to turn that fear over to Him..cry out to Him like David.
    I like what you said about honesty, Dee. I am sometimes hurt because of my honesty. We become more vunerable when we are honest. I agree that God wants that intimacy and honesty. In our relationships with friends, we grow closer when we really open up and share. God desires that with us even more so, we need to give Him total honesty.

  25. Whew! as Janet H said Psalm 88 is one of a man(or woman) waiting to be delivered, rescued and the sooner the better! It is hard to read…I feel the pain, aloneness,overwhelming frustration….As I read this several times and meditated on it I realized that was me about six years ago. I felt exactly like that and maybe never verbalized it but wrestled with all of it nonetheless.
    After my annual appt. with my ob/gyn I had received the awful(oh no not me!)news of uterine cancer…that was bad enough! HELP LORD!! As I waited at my presurgical appointment a nurse came to tell me that my mammogram showed some concerns and I needed to go right then for further diagnostic tests…WHAT???!!! I didn’t think I could stand up to follow her…I had come alone(it is always best to have someone with you!)but I realize I was not really alone:) HE was with me holding me up! Although at the time I felt very much like David completely overwhelmed and why was the Lord rejecting me, hiding His face from me?? I cried out to Him in the silence of my soul like I never had before…..you can imagine my anguish at thinking of facing uterine cancer and breast cancer…
    My extreme rescue moments came over the next several days….first the further diagnostic breast tests were ok-no concerns-WHAT??? PRAISE THE LORD!!! He heard me-He reached down, took hold of me out these DEEP waters-He rescued me- I can’t even put into words MY JOY!! I was shaking! and stunned! and smiling:)
    I still faced the surgery for the uterine cancer…but even then as I took refuge in HIM I awoke to the news that the cancer had been minimal: Stage 1 with an excellent prognosis!!!! The drs. told me I could have walked around with it for a long time having it worsen right along. It was a miracle they found it when they did :):) Now as I recovered the sun was out! I was singing and dancing in my soul. I had been to a very hard place and HE alone had rescued me and held me close. WHAT JOY!!!
    As other trials in life come, as they always do, this is one of those bedrock faith moments for me that bring me back to HIM seeking refuge, strength and peace.

    1. Kris,
      I lost my sweet Dad April 19. I feel for your pain and will pray for you. Thank you for sharing that beautiful story.

      1. Sorry gals, Claudia who lost her mom and Kris’ beautiful story.

  26. I have some thoughts about question #5. The Psalms do seem bipolar to me in more ways than one. They seem to move back and forth between David and Christ. I think Psalm 88 could well describe the life of Christ on earth and the 3 days between His death and resurrection. He says He has been afflicted from His youth v15, which could have been the result of the circumstances of His birth. He mentions friends being distant v8,and repulsed by Him. He was counted with those going down to the pit v4, condemned to die. God’s wrath weighing heavily on Him, being overwhelmed with waves of it v7. Then the Lord hiding His face from Him v14. I believe that of all the agony Jesus endured, the worst of it was when He took sin on Himself and God turned away. Then there was also 3 days in the grave v18, where darkness was his only friend.

    And the question about how I talk to God. For years I have taken my complaints straight to Him. Whether I am angry, sad or questioning. Not disrespectfully, but asking just the same. I have never sensed that He was angry with me about anything I said. In fact quite the opposite.

    Well I must go to bed. One more long day tomorrow and then a long weekend.
    Blessings to you all!

  27. Thankfully my book arrived yesterday, a very inviting book to hold & to look at can’t wait to get into it’s depth…looking forward to it…I’m behind the 8ball as it were. Such depth to every comment… Glory to God.
    With all these amazingly deep comments drawn from suffering with the Lord by each one’s side,I feel as though I should be quiet, read(listen) & meditate & learn,if that makes sense?
    Thanks & bless you sisters in Christ.