You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul… I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. I have become like broken pottery. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” (Excerpts from Psalm 31)
- Are you comfortable with the kind of emotion exhibited in this diary entry of David’s?
- Is it OK with you that he, the “man after God’s heart,” felt anguish, distress, sorrow, grief, groaning, weakness, and terror?
- Does it surprise you that he had days in which he was afraid to get out of bed?
- Are we bad Christians for feeling what we feel?
- Are some emotions bad and others good?
- Shouldn’t we be happy all the time? After all, we are God’s people.
- How could we have faith and, at the same time, be depressed?
- What do we do with these intense feelings that we have at times?
- Do we disregard them, deny their reality, or try to get rid of them at any cost?
- Should we be using some spiritual formula to overcome them?
For me, I don’t think that God is as offended as we might think by our honest-hearted rantings, the ones plump with pain. My take is that emotions are part of the human condition, and they’re neither good nor bad, they just are. Granted, some emotions are more pleasant than others. Give me glad over mad or sad any day. Along with intellect and will he installed the emotions chip when he made us in his likeness. He’s a God who feels and he made us feelers.
It’s obvious that David was an incurably emotional man – most artsy people are. As they reflect some of his tragic life situations many of his songs include rather dreary stanzas and downcast choruses. His “poetic diary put to music,” replete as it is with emotional cries and outbursts, gives me a sense of permission to feel my feelings and power to process them in a healthy, God-glorifying way.
Here are some other selections from the king’s journal that reflect the wide range of emotions that he felt during his treacherous journey.
- My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Psalm 6:3
- I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Psalm 6:6-7
- I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. Psalm 38:8
- For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. Psalm 38:17
- My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught. Psalm 55:2
- How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:2
- My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Psalm 55:4
- The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Psalm 116:3
- Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don’t turn away from me, or I will die. Psalm 143:7
In my own journal I wrote…
I think my emotions are so damaged from this past year that my “hoper” is broken. I can hardly look forward to anything these days. I have to force myself to do most things that I know I should do. Lord, please lift just a corner of the curtain so I can see you, even a small piece of you.
On another day I wrote…
Psalm 41 speaks to me today in many ways…
A melding of David’s words with mine: I’m weak… I need you to deliver me and protect me and preserve my life and not surrender me to the desire of my foes… Please sustain me on my sickbed… Have mercy on me, heal me, I’ve sinned over and over… My enemies are glad that I’m sick and they wish me dead (I actually had someone express that wish)… My close friend lifted his heel against me… Empower this weak man to forgive, to love, to walk in integrity, to be a man with whom you can be pleased…
Some emotions might be painful and unpleasant, even “negative.” But to assume they’re morally and spiritually culpable simply can’t be true. What matters is not how I feel, but what I do with how I feel. How it affects my journey and I affect those with whom I journey is what matters. Am I angry or sad or terrified or worried? These are capacities with which I was endowed at birth. They’re reactions to human circumstances, and if I’m still human I’ll inevitably experience them. The question is: how will I deal with these feelings? How will I keep them from pushing me around?
Another entry from my journal…
My anguish these last few days consumes me. I’m worried about the physical consequences of the disease, the financial repercussions of it, and the future that I face. Lord, I know this afflicted thinking is not healthy for me, and I regret giving-in to it. Free me from this anxiety and fear, Father!
“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and everyday have sorrow in my heart?… How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
I guess I am in good company with David in my struggle. He ended with, “I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord for he has been good to me.” Of course he was right. Your love is unfailing and though I can’t see it today, you have been good to me too.
You’re more than worthy of my trust.