I’ve been “stuck” at Psalm 137 for a week or so now. Despite turning to a new psalm each day, my mind keeps returning to this particular psalm’s words of lament.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
It’s an exilic psalm, written by Jews during (or perhaps afterwards in remembrance of) their captivity in Babylon. They are far from home, having been torn away from everything familiar. They have been violently relocated into a foreign country with a foreign language with a foreign culture with foreign food and foreign customs. Anything good about life seems to be in the past with little hope for the future.
Where is God in this mess? they ask themselves.
Psalm 137 does not answer the question for them. But it gives voice to their grief and pain. It also gives voice to our grief and pain. Michael Card writes in A Sacred Sorrow how “those who are truly intimate with the Father know they can pour out any hurt, disappointment, temptation, or even anger with which they struggle” (p. 31). When I am filled with hurt or anger or pain or grief to an extent beyond words, the words of Psalm 137 can become my words.
Granted, the words of Psalm 137 are not very pretty. But neither is life. And the words of Psalm 137 don’t exactly sound very “churchy:” It’s hard to imagine a worship team welcoming the thronging worshippers on a bright, warm Sunday morning with a rendition of this lament. And yet, God invites me to use these words and to say them, to make these words of pain my own. Why? Because He can handle it. Since it’s in the Bible, He even welcomes it.
God is isn’t interested in my “plastic happy face” that might fool other people. God desires for me to real with Him. If that means exuberant praise, great! If it involves tears or even yelling in frustration, that’s fine, too. Psalm 137 proves it, for which my emotions are grateful.
(To be continued.)