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GOD KNOWS HOW WE SPEAK WHEN WE’RE DESPERATE (Psalms 38-39)

Psalm 39 is a Psalm of Lament:

But instead of ending with a resolve to trust God

in the midst of suffering, it ends:

Look away from me,

that I may smile again,

before I depart and am no more!

Photo by Gerard
Photo by Gerard

Tim Keller, in the message you will hear this week, says that this psalm used to trouble him. But then he read what Derek Kidner wrote and it ministered to him deeply in a place he needed to be reached:

The very presence of such prayers in Scripture is a witness to His understanding. He knows how men speak when they are desperate.

fuzzy shot of Rebecca, Dee, and Christy
fuzzy shot of Rebecca, Dee, and Christy

Recently our own Rebecca, who handles the administrative side of my ministry, and Christy, who often travels with me (and is trying to tutor me in technical aspects of my computer) came to Wisconsin for a “working vacation.” Shortly after Rebecca arrived, she learned her sister-in-law committed suicide. Her sister-in-law knew Jesus, yet had tried many times to take her life. Is she with Him now? Yes, we are confident. God is merciful to His desperate children, even, as Luther confirmed, when they take their lives in those times of desperation. We must pray against suicide, for it is an act that reaches back from the grave, piercing the hearts of those left behind. And though it is hard to understand, it is one of those “sins of the fathers” that research shows is often repeated by children and by children’s children.

Yet still, God is merciful. Suicide it is not the unforgiveable sin.

I came into Rebecca’s room the next morning and found her in tears. She said she had been trying to lament, but first found herself fearful to really lament. She realized then that the Lord was showing her that He was not like her earthly father, who was so critical. If she had lamented to her earthly dad, he would have been unkind or distanced himself emotionally. God wants our honest expressions. He can take it. He wants honesty as He wants intimacy. God knows how men speak when they are desperate. God led Rebecca to Lamentations and helped her express her great sorrow. He understood her desperate heart.

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Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 36:5)

He is the friend of sinners, a friend who cares, who understands our weakness, who was desperate Himself. When He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” it was because for that time, when He was bearing our sins, He was forsaken. He was forsaken so we will never be. God has received Rebecca’s sister-in-law into His arms. And He came to Rebecca and comforted her. Even the timing of bring her to this quiet spot in Wisconsin was a gift from God for quiet, for healing, for experiencing Him.

During the week, Rebecca wanted us to watch Ragamuffin, the new movie on the life of Rich Mullins. Though a low budget film, and at times a little cheesy, I recommend it. I think the director did a great job in capturing the essence of this man, how he understood and communicated so well that God loves the ragamuffin, God loves the outcast, In a few weeks I’ll have a few discussion questions for those who desire and have time to watch it. Here’s the trailer of Ragamuffin, and I’d like you to particularly note Brennan Manning’s words to Rich at the end of the trailer:

Sunday Icebreaker:

1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

2. Read Psalm 39:13 and then comment on Kidner’s quote: God knows how men speak when they are desperate.

Monday-Wednesday Bible Study:

To prepare your heart, sing along with Matthew Smith’s rendition of Jesus, What a Friend of Sinners

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Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.

Psalm 38 is a “penitential psalm,” and Psalm 39 is a psalm of lament. What ties them together is a sense of desperation — the first for sin, and the second for circumstances. In a penitential psalm, because of your sense of the Lord’s holiness and realization of your sinfulness, you may feel desperate, as Peter did when He realized who Jesus was after a miracle. He said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” In Psalm 38 it is David who is desperate, and yet behind David we can glimpse the suffering Messiah. The suffering has many layers: sin, disease, being forsaken by friends. It reminds me of Job, and of the GREATER JOB. The first Job was relatively innocent, but the GREATER JOB was completely innocent.

3. Read Psalm 38 out loud to yourself.

    A. What images of desperation do you see?

    B. What glimpses of the suffering Messiah do you see behind David?

    C. What resolve do you see in verse 15?

    D. What does David do in verse 16?

    E. What plea is given in verses 21-22?

    F. How is this plea similar to Christ’s words on the cross?

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4. It is right, when we suffer, to confess sin, for our hearts are sinful. Sin indeed can lead to consequences, yet not all suffering is a direct result of sin. But in this psalm we see many layers — a desperate man who is both confessing sin and pleading for mercy from his circumstances. Take this psalm and pray it for your own life, using also the resolve you see in verse 15.

Prepare your heart today with this:

5. Read Psalm 39 aloud.

   A. What phrases and pictures of lament stand out to you?

   B. What prayer does he make in verses 12-13? Why is this startling?

   C. What does this teach you about God’s heart for the desperate?

Though I myself have not suffered from clinical depression, my husband and my biological children have. My heart so went out to them during these times — often their thoughts did not seem reasonable to me, and I could not help them, could not fix a situation that in my mind wasn’t even real. The feelings of love and empathy I had for them at those times are only a drop in the great ocean of God’s love for His desperate children.

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6. The only other psalm of lament that ends like this, and on which you will hear the Keller sermon, is Heman’s cry of darkness, Psalm 88. Look at how it ends.

7. If you are feeling desperation, use Psalm 39 to pray for yourself. If someone you love is feeling desperate, use this psalm to pray for them.

Thursday-Friday: Free Keller Sermon: Heman’s Cry of Darkness

8. Listen to the Sermon and share your notes or comments: Link

Saturday:

9. What’s your take-a-way and why?

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329 comments

  1. Hi Sisters…just asking for prayer, please! My daughter is having two teeth pulled this morning, and my son is driving with friends to PA to camp and white water raft this weekend…leaving this morning and rafting on Sunday. Please pray that the tooth-pulling goes without complication and for safety for my son driving, camping and rafting!

    1. Lord, please look after Susan’s daughter this morning. May the appointment go smoothly. And I pray for protection for her son and friends in travel  in all aspects of the weekend in all the choices and all the circumstances.

      1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DIANE! I’m so glad you’ve got your family there to celebrate with you this weekend. And, thanks for praying…we’re already home from the oral surgeon and all went well – she did great!

        1. Yes…Have a very happy birthday with all your family there with you!!
           
          Your so loved here Diane!!

    2. Lord,  you know how our hearts as moms can fear for our children.    We are using this fear as a prompt to entrust them to you this morning.  Help us Lord.   
       

      1. I agree Nila…how is your son doing?  Prayers for him 

    3. Praying everything went well Susan!

  2. 5. Read Psalm 39 aloud. 
    A. What phrases and pictures of lament stand out to you?
    “Surely every man at his best is merely a breath.” 
    “Surely they make an uproar for nothing…”
    “And now Lord for what do I wait?”
    “…thou dost consume as a moth what is precious to him.”
     
     B. What prayer does he make in verses 12-13? Why is this startling? v. 10-13 remind of the moment before the gospel. Our transgressions justified perishing, justified His plague of condemnation. In this light why wouldn’t we ask Him to turn from us, to ease the burden of judgement? But then the gospel comes and we realize that He does hear our prayer, He does remove His plague, we may smile because He gazes on us. This lament sounds very much like a sinner realizing his need for a savior but right before he realizes the love. In verses 12-13 he is asking for mercy from a God he realizes is real and holy but the lamenter does not yet realize the mercy granted through the gospel. This is startling because as someone who knows (beginning to know) the gospel I end all my prayers on the foundation of forgiveness, thanking Him for mercy, having hope and trust in Him to not despair. I forget that some do not know He loves us so much that He does forgive us. 
     
    C. What does this teach you about God’s heart for the desperate? That even if we do not know to ask for mercy and love, He gives it. We simply need to realize and rest in it and receive it. Trust that He is God and He is good. Nothing changes that. The intent of the heart plays into this, this lamenter wanted to be forgiven. He wanted the gift he did not know was given, but it was given, freely. 

    1. Jill,
      the moment before the gospel ~  Love how you put this.   And so I have “moments before the gospel” even throughout a day/week/year/, as problems/hurts arise……. and  I am learning to run to Him more often…   Thank you Jill.

  3. 8. Listen to the Sermon and share your notes or comments: Link
    The one thing that really stands out to me is the question : “Did you get into this relationship to serve Me or to get Me to serve you?” So convicting. How often I come to Him for me! =(  I know that He desires us and our desires but…..oh how selfish I am. He is sweet to come and to gently guide and love and change my heart through saturation of love and grace. 
     
    The other thing that resonated with me is that even though Heman was desperate he still came to God which spoke of his continued faith even though he felt abandoned.  He lamented TO God. Which meant he still knew God was there, listening even if He wasn’t responding. How often we walk away from God because we think He isn’t doing anything so I need to at least do something. Oh I am wrong and am slowly learning and seeing: Trust. Wait. Be still. It is in His hands, do not wrench it back. Pause. Stop. Trust. God, help me and those who feel desperate and run in fear of…. Fear of what, Lord? The unknown. It is better in our feeble human minds, God, to choose known “bad” rather than wait for your ultimate good so we run, not trusting. Give me patience, pause, give me trust. 

  4. Diane! Happy birthday!! =)
     
    As I catch up on comments this afternoon I am praying for each of you. 
     
    Nila- I am from Billings, MT! (But we are stationed in Savannah right now.) Small world.  =)

    1. Jill,
      Wow!  Wonder if we have friends in common?   Please feel free to email me if you like.   tnmulford@gmail.com   I would love that.
       
       

    2. Thanks, Jill. Yes, I had a nice birthday! 12 for supper – fresh corn! Yum!

  5. Jill,
    Wow!  Wonder if we might have friends in common??    I just tried posting my email here and forgot that it won’t show.   If you would like to correspond, maybe we could find a way to do that.   

    1. You could post your email in the fb group…or here if you use the word “at” rather than the symbol 🙂

      1. Thank you Renee 🙂

    2. Contact on Dees private facebook!

  6. Praying lament for blog readers with long lasting, treatment resistant depression and their loved ones. No Wi-Fi now and only slow data connection when standing on back road.  Might try to drive to some town tomorrow

    1. Traveling Mercies Renee

  7. Heman’s Cry of Darkness 
    Sermon by Dr. Timothy Keller
    Psalm 88:1-2, 6-18
     
    Almost all of the Psalms end on a note of hope.   Psalm 39 and Psalm 88 end without any hope. 
    The word darkness is used 3 times: verses 6, 12, 18.  In Hebrew the word for darkness is the last word of the prayer.   
     
    Christians, particularly American Christians, are naive about the inevitability of suffering in this life.  When things go wrong, we are overthrown by it and we do not know how to process it with spiritual disciplines.  If we listen to its message that it shouts at its center, we will also be able to discern the messages that it whispers softly.  
     
    1.  Spiritual and personal darkness can last a long, long time. 
    2. Times of darkness are the best times to learn of God’s grace.
    3.  Times of darkness can be the best situation for ou to grow into someone great.
    4.  Darkness can be relativized. 
     
    1.  Spiritual and personal darkness can last a long, long time. 
     
    You can pray and live rightly and still be absolutely plunged for a long, long time into both outside and inside darkness.   Outside darkness is darkness of circumstances in life.  The man of this psalm has huge problems out there in his life.   We don’t know what they are.   What we do know is all of his closest friends and loved ones have been taken away from him and he is facing imminent death. Inside darkness is spiritual darkness, internal darkness in his heart, in his feelings.   He feels God’s wrath.  He feels abandoned by God.   He feels trampled.  He has no sense of God’s love, care, or presence with him.   He prays and prays, and when all is done, he is still in darkness.   Doesn’t the Bible say that God works everything out for good, that God has a purpose for everything?    Yes, but the Bible also says you may go all your life and you may never know what the good purpose is.   
     
    Martin Marty, a church theologian, scholar-type from the University of Chicago says “Whoever tries to devise from the Scripture a philosophy of life that everything always turns out alright in the end, will have to begin by tearing this page out of the Bible.”     American Christians are so naive about this.   Expectations have so much to do with how you process things.    If you enter a room, having been told it is a honeymoon suite, you may think it is awful.  However, if you enter the same room, having been told it is a prison cell, you may think it is not so bad.  Expectations control how you see it.   
     
    Jesus was a good person and he didn’t have a very good end, did he?   What makes you think you are above Him?   Naivete has bigger dangers than the trouble itself.   This psalm will give you a wiser heart. 
     
    2.  Times of darkness are the very best places to learn about God’s grace.   The psalmist of Psalm 88 in verses 10-12 is praying – talking to God, but not controlling his temper, tongue, or emotions.   It is as if he is cross-examining God.    He is saying “I want to be able to praise you, to tell of the deeds of your righteousness, and declare your faithfulness to the world.  Instead he feels trampled to the ground, deserted, and killed.   In verse 15, he is saying “You have never been there for me, God.”  He is not speaking reverently.   Some would call it blasphemy.   This only makes this psalm show greater evidence of God’s grace.   
     
    Derek Kidner commenting on Psalms 39 and 88.   Psalm 39 ends with the sufferer saying “Turn your face from me, God.”     Psalm 88 ends with “the darkness is my closest friend.”   In other words, darkness is a better friend than you are, God.  Kidner says “The very presence of these prayers in the Scriptures are a witness to God’s understanding.  He knows how men speak when they are desperate.”    By keeping the prayers in the Bible, it shows he identifies with them.   God didn’t take them out.   God is still the God of this man in spite of the way he talks.  
     
    In verse 1, God is saying “I am your God not because you put on a happy face every morning, not because you say everything just right, not because you do everything just right, not because you always speak to me reverently.   I am your God because I am a God of grace in spite of the fact that you do everything wrong.   We need that, to be honest, how liberating!
     
    3.  It is especially in times of absolute darkness, where not only do you not see God working in your life, but you don’t see God working in your heart either, when you don’t even feel His presence – these times are the supreme opportunities for you to become something great.  
     
    Looking at the Book of Job, it starts with Satan taunting God.   Satan asks “Does Job serve God for nothing?”   He says, “Look at your devoted believers in God, they are not serving you because of who you are, they are serving you because it pays  They are doing this so you will answer their prayers.   They are totally self-centered, really serving themselves.”   Satan says he can prove it.    “Plunge some of them into darkness.   Don’t answer any of their prayers for a long time.  Take away all of their earthly comforts.  Set things up so serving you, praying to you absolutely pays nothing – no benefits at all.   Then you will see–they will curse you.”      They are not servants; they are mercenaries.
     
    When things get tough, we question why God isn’t coming through.   We all start with that shallowness of character, because Satan is right about the self-centeredness of the heart.   But something has begun to happen to this guy.   As bad as it looks, as badly as he is acting (bitter and despondent) – it is before God.   All of it is a prayer to God to the very end, even though he is getting nothing from God.   Therefore Satan has been defeated.   He is staying with God for nothing.  
     
    When we go through these periods of external and internal darkness, it is a test to see if we got into this relationship with God to serve God or basically to get God to serve us. In this situation in the darkness just hold on.  Maybe your prayers are as bad as the psalmist’s, but talk honestly with God.   Say “I’m going to continue to pray and serve and obey as best as I can, because you are God–not because you are my servant.  I’m going to be with you.”   If you do that, you have defeated Satan and you are growing into somebody great.   Because when the darkness lifts or lessens (and it will), you will see that the pressure of that choice will have turned your heart into something wonderful like the pressure turns a lump of coal into a diamond.   You will have fortitude and unflappability.  Only in darkness can you develop an indomitable spirit and undaunted soul.  
     
    4.  Darkness can be relativized.   
     
    When you are in darkness, you feel it is absolute and permanent.   It is not.    Heman was a musician, the leader of the Korahite guild of musicians and poets who wrote psalms.   The psalms of the Korahite guild are Psalms 42-49 and those in the 80’s.  If Heman helped to write some of the greatest psalms in the Psalter, it was because of his darkness, and that darkness turned him into an artist who helped millions.   God had not abandoned him – it was subjective.  
     
    Keller asked of whom does the end of Psalm 39 and Psalm 88 remind you?   In Matthew 27:45: From the 6th hour to the 9th hour darkness cam over the land.   At the 9th hour, Jesus Christ cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”   At that moment the earth shook, rocks split, and tombs broke open, and the bodies of holy people who had died were raised to life.   
     
    Jesus was truly abandoned, because God wanted to forgive us.   When you forgive someone, you have to absorb that debt.  Jesus paid the debt himself.   So our darkness is only apparent.   If Jesus didn’t abandon you in His ultimate darkness, why would he abandon you in yours?  
     
    In your darkness, God is still there as your friend. He is not going to abandon you.  He is not going to take two payments for the same debt, and Jesus paid for your sin.  And now He loves you.    Jesus was really abandoned so you can only feel that you are abandoned, but you are not.  He is working in that.    
     
    The answer to the psalmist’s sarcastic question:   Do those who are dead rise up and praise you?
    Because Jesus died for your sins, the answer is “Yes!”   Someday we are going to rise up from the dead and praise Him.   Because He took the penalty upon himself.    You can’t know that and still remain in darkness.   
     
    A chronically ill woman who appeared to suffer a lot, when asked how she is feeling, replies “Nothing a resurrection won’t cure.”    If you know the resurrection is coming, you can’t remain in darkness.       
     
    Conclusion:    There is a man who wrote a commentary on Psalm 88, and he concludes his commentary like this: 
     
    This darkness can happen to a believer, the psalm says, it doesn’t mean you are lost.This darkness can happen to someone who does not deserve it, after all it happened to Jesus–that doesn’t mean you have strayed.   This darkness can happen at any time as long as this world lasts, because only in the next will such things be done away with. And this darkness can happen without your knowing why.   But there are answers.  There is a purpose, and eventually you will know it.    

    1. Love your notes on the sermon, Deanna. I listened to this sermon when Dee recommended it a while back. I will not have time to listen to it again this week, but just reading thru your notes is an encouragement to me.

      When things get tough, we question why God isn’t coming through.   We all start with that shallowness of character, because Satan is right about the self-centeredness of the heart.   But something has begun to happen to this guy.   As bad as it looks, as badly as he is acting (bitter and despondent) – it is before God.   All of it is a prayer to God to the very end, even though he is getting nothing from God.   Therefore Satan has been defeated.   He is staying with God for nothing.  
      This darkness can happen to a believer, the psalm says, it doesn’t mean you are lost.This darkness can happen to someone who does not deserve it, after all it happened to Jesus–that doesn’t mean you have strayed.

      It is OK if we do not understand. There are answers, and a purpose. 

  8. As always, Tim Keller enlightened me on these difficult psalms. What I like about Keller is how he points me to God and His Word. Nothing about himself-always pointing to our One and True God. “Satan is defeated when you make the choice to serve God in the midst of darkness(something to this effect)”. Oh, what victory! I pray this for my sister as she continues to battle her cancer. And for those of us here on the blog who have our own personal darkness.
    My take away: I can talk to God about anything without having to work up a filtering of my words so they sound proper to Him. He can take my cry of desperation and anger and disappointment. Lord, you know- even before a word or thought comes out of me. There have been times I have been angry at you but withheld talking with you because of fear. Here in Psalms 38-39, you are telling me, “It’s OK, Bing. Let it out. I am here. I hear you. Look to me. I love you.”

  9. Take-away:  the title, that God knows how we speak when we are desperate, AND SO MUCH pondering. This week stirred up so many questions, some survivor’s guilt, guilt for not being a better advocate for others. I believe that God’s hand was in my Internet impairment. He is the ONLY answer to my concerns and questions of the week…need to continue to seek forgiveness from Him, even for “false” guilt –which is, at least in part, indicative of a desire to control what is not mine to control. I also was tempted to use the lament as a way to control outcomes, to control God.  There is so much I don’t understand, but I do know most of the “human” answers — and they aren’t sufficient.  I’ve thought a lot about the believers I’ve known who have taken their lives. I suspect that each of them rationalized that suicide was the best way to love, to not be a burden.  We do live in a fallen world… that has resulted in problems at so many levels, the lies of depression, “help” which is harmful, long waiting periods to get the most skilled help (unless you’re a very persistent help-seeker, which is particularly difficult when depressed).  If it weren’t for God’s grace and mercy, suicide would be much more common (which leads to many other questions without answers, but does lead me to pray for God’s grace and mercy in areas that have been hard hit). Father, protect us and grant us your grace and strength to serve with love.

  10. 8. Listen to the Sermon and share your notes or comments: Link
    Times of inner and outer darkness are going to happen so we must adjust our expectations. Martin says about Psalm 88-who ever tries to devise from the scripture where everything always turns out right in the end will have to begin by tearing this page out of the Bible. :))
     
    Derek Kidner wrote a commentary of Psalms. In Psalms 39 it ends with the sufferer saying turn your face from me God so I will have peace before I die. He is saying God the pitch darkness is of more comfort than you. 
     
    I loved this:  Kidner said the very presence of these prayers in scripture are a witness to God’s understanding. He knows how men speak when they are desperate. God didn’t censor the prayer in scripture-he didn’t say I didn’t want to be identified with people who pray like that. He says I am still God of this man despite the way he talks. He knows how we talk when we get like this-it doesn’t matter, he is still our God. It is God who saves, not me. God is saying, I am your God, not because you put on a happy face this morning, not because you say everything just right, not because you do everything right, not because you always speak reverently to me. I am your God because I am a God of Grace despite all the things you do wrong,  I am your God.
     
    Even though he is yelling at God and despondent he is doing it before God. He is staying with God even though he is getting nothing out of it, he is staying with God for nothing.  Whenever you have dual darkness-it is only in times of darkness where serving and praying to God gets you nothing a great choice comes to you-a question from God. Now, in this situation we will see finally whether you got in this relationship to serve me, or basically to get me to serve you and now we will know because I am not serving you. Even in that situation, in the darkness you just hold on-even when you say, God I don’t like you, I am mad at you but I am not going anywhere. I am going to pray, to serve and obey the best I can because you are God-because you are who you are and I am who I am and I am going to be with you.  If you do that, you have defeated Satan and you are growing into somebody-because when the darkness lifts or lessens -you will find the pressure and that choice to stick with God will have turned your heart into something wonderful as pressure turns a lump of coal into a diamond.  Only in times of darkness have I seen myself as someone who serves God for nothing. It is only in times of darkness you get an indominable soul-a soul that can’t be dominated or daunted.
     
     He took the darkness the ultimate darkness so that our darkness is only apparent-Jesus was truly abandoned so we might feel abandoned but we are not.  If Jesus didn’t abandon you in his ultimate darkness why would he abandon you in yours? In your darkness God is your friend-he won’t abandon you. 
     
    This darkness can happen to a believer-it doesn’t mean you are lost. This darkness can happen to someone who doesn’t deserve it-it doesn’t mean you have strayed. This darkness can happen without your knowing why but there are answers, a purpose, and eventually you will know it.
     

  11. 9. What’s your take-a-way and why?
    It is a huge comfort to me to be reminded that He knows how we speak when we are desperate-that these laments are even in scripture shows His great mercy and Grace. That alone is proof that God gives Grace to the suicidal.
     
    I admit I feel a sense of heartbreak that I didn’t lament to God like this when I was in my time in the wilderness several years ago although I missed His presence and desired Him..but even then His Grace abounded for I am His and He knew the reason why so what did He do? Did He abandon me? No. Because He went to the cross and suffered horrific abandonment I will never be abandoned. He rescued me through His Word and through leading me to Dee’s blog and our new church!
     
    what is blowing me away this week is that honest lament-in darkness when I feel abandoned is telling God I LOVE HIM FOR HIM not for what He can give me. So I am showing Him I am sticking with Him even though I don’t sense His presence, even though I feel he has abandoned me in my darkness. I love him back that much not to turn my face from Him. That means so much to God because God loves me for who I am, not for what I should be because no one is who they should be. So God sheds His Grace and Mercy on me despite me..I can freely come to Him and be honest-be angry-for He will never abandon or make me feel silly. He actually LOVES IT.
     

    1. Rebecca…your take a way ….blow me away!!!
      I love your honesty…………….” So I am showing Him I am sticking with Him even though I don’t sense His presence, even though I feel he has abandoned me in my darkness. I love him back that much not to turn my face from Him”.

  12. Another take-away was the question about resolve.  Still haven’t fully pondered this (and won’t explain well with one thumb typing), but I believe in both the importance of behavior out of response to the Gospel AND behavior based on exercise of the will, I.e. that resolve is part of response to the gospel. I was leaning toward & hoping I could give up on my will, that God’s work in me always will feel so amazing that right behaviors just gush out. Surprisingly 😉 he sometimes has worked that way and areas which used to be a big pain don’t take as much effort. But I think there is still a place for the will, shaped by him, when I resolve to do what is right because I want to honor him. That resolve, which included promises to him many years ago, has led to persistence that I couldn’t have comprehended at that time.
     
    I know God is faithful, and I also know that it may take months or years for treatment of episodes of depression. God is merciful in erasing the depth of the pain (or numbness) in my memories.  I can’t fully imagine depression when  I am well. I still tend to trust too much in health insurance ( am thankful I have it). I certainly can’t judge those who have ended their lives because depression varies so much, I don’t fully understand, and I have been pretty desperate — and may be again. I’m not “better” at seeking God than those who have died from depression.
     
    I’ve had some excellent mental health care providers and some bozos. I do stupid things now that I never would have considered before (e.g., want to trust a nice Christian counselor, not even one I am seeing,  who doesn’t believe in antidepressants, and tried to decrease the dosage this past winter/spring)… then after several months of cutting the dose, I couldn’t figure out why I was “maybe” depressed!  My perspective already was so distorted that I couldn’t see the obvious. Right now, it is resolve that keeps me from testing the theory that if I eat EVERYTHING organic, I could get off meds.  My curiosity doesn’t help, but I like to think I am a little brighter in some other areas of life. I NEED God’s patience and grace every day because I am so prone to wander…from him and from basic intelligence.  Will ponder this resolve business more!

    1. Renee, I appreciate these musings. 

    2. … haven’t seen the whole discussion here or heard the sermon yet, as I’ve been gone, but  your first paragraph impresses me.  I had not thought of the variations of reasons why sometimes we DO need to exercise our will and discipline it.  I had lost that thought recently…..

    3. So sorry for all that youve gone through:(…Praying for you!

      1. I meant that for Renee

        Can’t get to sleep yet!

    4. Renee, I think you make such a good point in your first paragraph. This sentence, “I was leaning toward & hoping I could give up on my will, that God’s work in me always will feel so amazing that right behaviors just gush out.” this just hits me right between the eyes. There are many times that I just don’t feel like doing the right thing; my flesh is fighting hard to be number one. Perhaps resolve isn’t the answer long-term, but at times when you have to make a decision one way or the other, it may be you have to grit your teeth and do the right thing.

  13. Another takeaway: Resolve (just tried posting on this. Kinda relieved it didn’t post ;). )

    1. oops..there now 

  14. Thanks to you who posted notes!

  15. I’m glad it posted Renee.

  16. 4. It is right, when we suffer, to confess sin, for our hearts are sinful. Sin indeed can lead to consequences, yet not all suffering is a direct result of sin. But in this psalm we see many layers – a desperate man who is both confessing sin and pleading for mercy from his circumstances. Take this psalm and pray it for your own life, using also the resolve you see in verse 15.
     
    Lord, I know your anger at sin, yet I pray that You not rebuke me in Your anger or discipline me in wrath. I am not asking You not to discipline me, because You know what is for my own good. I only ask that You discipline me in love, only believing that to be possible because You poured Your wrath out on Your Son for my sin, the wrath that I deserved. Lord, I have sinned; choosing to preserve my own comfort and security and to be in control of what I will or will not do. I did not love You enough to obey You. I chose my own way instead. My heart is wicked and stubborn. This psalm tells me that it is sin that leads to feeling unwell, not hard work. And though I may look good on the outside, fooling others, You see my sin as festering wounds in my soul; ugly, repulsive, like pus-filled sores. I confess my sin to You, and I wait for You, Lord, to speak words of forgiveness. I can hardly believe that You can look on me, a wretch, and love me as I am. Lord, do not forsake me; come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior. I desperately need a Savior. I will look to You and trust in Your mercy and love.

    1. Thanks, Susan. So appreciate this prayer.  You’ve also reminded me that this question was one of my take always this week. Saw again today what a Pharisee I am—so thankful for His forgiveness & love.

    2. Susan…Thank you for your prayer that should be intended for myself…not you.   I appreciate your honest, loving heart….but may I use it for myself?  love you sister!

  17. Take-a-way: 
    The question of did I get into my relationship with God to serve Him or to get Him to serve me has impacted me greatly. 
     
    The concept of “sticking with Him” as Rebecca said is also sticking with me and my thoughts. There is something powerful in not giving into the feeling of abandonment but still seeking the God you KNOW is there and trusting He is good. Reminds me of Indiana Jones taking that step of faith over the great chasm only to find there is a solid pathway despite what his eyes told him. 

  18. This is a test 

  19. Renee,
    Thank you for your honest post.   Really appreciate what you said.
     
    Susan,
    Amen to your prayer.
     
    Lord, I am so grateful for these sisters here on this blog.   You know how this has helped me over the summer.   Helped me not feel so crazy when life gets crazy.   It was no coincidence that I found this blog.   Grateful.

    1. Nila, we are blessed to have you and that the Lord led you to Dee’s blog:)

  20. Jill,
    Thank you for posting this:
    . There is something powerful in not giving into the feeling of abandonment but still seeking the God you KNOW is there and trusting He is good.
    I’ve been wrestling over some abandonment and rejection issues in recent years and have been coming to understand how precious it is that He will never leave or forsake me, despite what circumstances and emotions say.
     
     

  21. We took Kendra to a community play tonight and I was wishing I had brought my walker as we had to wait in line….which about killed me!  My pain is  back and I’m also… almost off of my vicodin.  I know this non narcodic drug helped me for 3  wonderful days…so I’m pretty sure it will be great in a pain pump for me…but they couldn’t work me in until the 18th…5 extra days from the week I was suppose to get another shot:(   Bet ya never heard of anyone begging for a shot in the spine….but me!!  Please pray I can get through until then:(Good news is we have a girl starting to help Kendra in a couple weeks.. about 30 hours a weeks in our home (helping her with daily living skills and showers…potty…dressing…eating, etc.)  and taking her out into the community to do fun things…as she learns….shopping, etc.Things I have not been able to do with her for a very long time.  Even her showers have been very hard for me.   So I’m very excited, and the state pays her starting $12.00 a hour!   This is a answer to prayer!!   We’ve had a girl…but its mostly  like babysitting.     I need the help so bad!  Thank you Father!
    I appreciate your prayers for me!

    1. Joyce, this is wonderful, wonderful news. You have needed help physically taking care of Kendra for a long time due to your back, and this definitely will be a blessing. I’ll keep praying for you to get through until your next appointment for your shot.

    2. I am sorry your pain in back, Joyce, and that you have to wait to the spinal shot. I’ll pray that they get you in sooner. Also, praise God that you have girl to help with cleaning, etc. You have really needed that kind of help for a long time. My son, Joel, now has a job where he goes into people’s homes and helps people with such things. 

  22. 5. Read Psalm 39 aloud.
     
    A. What phrases and pictures of lament stand out to you?
     
    That he tried to keep silent in the presence of the wicked, yet it only increased his anguish and “my heart grew hot within me”. I wonder if he was being accused, or taunted by them?
    The reality of how short our lives really are, “Each man’s life is but a breath…He bustles about, but only in vain.”
    “I dwell with You as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.” Where has the sense of closeness with God gone?
     
    B. What prayer does he make in verses 12-13? Why is this startling?
     
    He prays for the Lord to hear his prayer and to listen to his cry for help; to not be deaf to his weeping. This is a prayer turning toward God. Yet in the next verse, he asks God to look away from him so that he can be happy again before he dies. This is startling because now he is taking a backward step away from God, as if the presence and closeness of God is not comforting but painful.
     
    C. What does this teach you about God’s heart for the desperate?
     
    These words teach me that we can make all kinds of desperate prayers, pleas, and cries to God; that often our emotions and feelings and thoughts are so tangled and mixed up that one minute we are counting on God’s love and mercy and the next minute we are back to doubting in His love. We move towards Him and then want to run away and hide. We can have a crisis of trust in which we fear Him (in the wrong way) thinking that His intentions toward us are not good. Reading this as if it is David’s prayer journal, I learn a lot about David’s heart, and through him, my own heart. I am not sure what it teaches about God’s heart? Unless I think about what Kidner and Keller teach, that the fact that these desperate prayers are a part of Scripture shows that it’s okay with God to voice these kinds of desperate prayers. He is a safe Person to say even desperate things to, and it doesn’t change the way He feels about His children. Yet I wonder how it makes God feel when we doubt His love and that He will forgive us?

  23. haven’t been able to post since friday–testing different browser

  24. 8. Listen to the Sermon and share your notes or comments

    I remember this one from years ago, but it had even greater impact this time. I’ve condensed my notes a lot, but here are main points to me:We tend to be naïve about the inevitability of suffering in this life. When things go wrong, we are overthrown by it because we think we deserve things to work out well.This psalm is a hard read–but it can give us greater understanding of Him.

    1. Spiritual and personal darkness can last a long time.

    You can pray and do everything “right”, and still have no presence of God in your life for a long time. Darkness can last a long time. Darkness outside—friends who leave, loneliness. Inner darkness-spiritually, no sense of God’s presence—only God’s wrath. Yes, God works all things for good, but we may never know what the purpose is.
    Our expectations control how we experience the same circumstances (hotel room example has stuck with me).

    2. Times of darkness are the best place to learn about God’s grace.

    He speaks honestly, desperately to God—not disrespectfully, but in anger, honest and raw. The fact that God kept these prayers in the bible is proof that God knows how we speak when we are desperate. He is not our God because we put on a happy face in the depth of deep pain.

    3. Times of darkness are often the best place for you to grow into someone great

    Sometimes you don’t see Him working around you – or feel His presence inside. It may feel like you get nothing from prayer, from serving—no benefit. Dual darkness. When we are faced with dual darkness – we have a choice. As with Job, there is the question of whether we are in a relationship with God to serve Him or for Him to serve us. And in this darkness, if we hold on, if we cry out to God, tell Him how we feel, but we stay with God not to get anything from Him, but just for Him—Satan is defeated. And I grow.

    The darkness will lift, and if I have stuck with God, I will be changed from it. It’s in the darkness that you are most likely to become “a great heart.”

    4. Darkness can be relativized.

    When you are in the darkness, it feels absolute. Heman felt that the darkness was permanent but he was wrong. God had not abandoned him. And so we can know that when we feel totally abandoned in our darkness, God is still with us.

    Jesus took total darkness , He was abandoned in his death by God so that we will never be. When He faced what was coming,in the Garden, He didn’t abandon His call—He paid the debt.The resurrection makes it impossible to be in utter darkness.

  25. 9. What’s your take-a-way and why?

    A few things from Mary really struck my heart this week. First, when she shared what God had probed her with “Where is your hope? Is it in testimonials of others who have your diagnosis… or is it in ME?” I have never dealt with a life-threatening diagnoses, but I have succumbed to searching other places for hope for my trial. Sometimes I am searching online for someone facing a similar health issue or parenting struggle…I want to find a story I can relate to, and answer, something to offer me hope—and I run, forgetting the One who is the only Source of true hope. Mary’s vulnerable sharing touched me deeply right where I have been lately in a current trial. It was the truth I needed to be reminded of.

    And then when Mary responded to my prayer with this “Nothing that touches you, His beloved, is petty in His sight, Elizabeth! So come boldly before the throne.”—I felt like it was words from Him. All my life I have struggled with feeling “forgettable”—and have only begun growing in the truth that He sees me. Her words this week were a balm to my heart.

    As I thought about my take-away, Matthew 10:29-31 came to mind “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

    I have not suffered clinical depression, but I have felt the pain of outward darkness—where things around me feel dark, heavy and it is hard to see Him at work. I love that we have a God who does not turn away from our cries, our weakness, our desperation. He does not respond the way our world so often does to suffering. He does not tell us to pull it together, plaster a smile or that something is our fault if we are in turmoil. He does not point His finger in blame. He opens His arms. My youngest had a bit of a tantrum today over doing laundry and after creating a tornado effect in his room, he came to me, as I have often seen him do, broken and weeping in repentance. He sobbed out ‘this time Mama, I know you just can’t forgive me’. And without having to think, I sat on the floor of the kitchen, opened my arms and he fell into them. He was so broken over his sin, he was desperate for a rescue, and it was so easy, so desirable in me to freely give it. How much greater is my Father towards my desperate cries. Nothing scares Him away. Nothing turns His face from me. Thank You Jesus.

    1. Elizabeth, such a good example of your son and you

  26. I am not familiar with your ministry, and it seems to be mostly women commenting so I hope I’m not out of line or intruding on a group where I’m not welcome…but this study and the Tim Keller sermon are a great comfort to me this evening. I am desperate, and sick of/in my sin. I love Jesus and at the same time terrified of the looming darkness. this evening I opened my bible for the first time in a while and it fell open to Psalm 38. It seemed to speak directly about me. I searched for a commentary and came across this site. I would very much appreciate your prayers. Thanks once again for this post.

  27. Clinton, you are welcome here. I am glad this study and Tim Keller’s sermon ministered to you. The Psalms are a wonderful source of deep, honest prayers to God. You are welcome to join in with our weekly Bible study lead by Dee Brestin. We are currently studying Gospel Transformation based on the gospel of John.