Musing 10.23.20

Why are you cast down, my soul,

Why groan with me?

Hope in God; I will praise God still,

my savior and my God.

Psalm 42:6

For several weeks I have asked my soul that question. It is not difficult to answer. The election ugliness continues, and November 3, doesn’t promise to be the end of it. Congress continues to be intractably divided. Cable news continues to be angry. COVID continues. Instead of abating, it increases. Schooling continues to be chaotic. Families continue to be stressed. Murders in our city continue. There is ample reason to be cast down and groan.

This verse can be read as an FAQ. The first two lines are the question. The last two are the answer. The question is easy to ask. The answer, hope in God, is hard to accept. It seems simplistic and naïve. It can be dismissive and facile. When I read the psalms, I tend to think that the lines are read with no time gap. I assume that the psalmist moves instantaneously from question to answer; there is no pause. Asked and answered. Next question, please. Reading it that way does justice to neither the question nor the answer. It may have taken the psalmist hours, days, or weeks to answer the question. He/she probably wrestled a long time with the question. Why would we think that the psalmist didn’t struggle as long with being cast down as we do? A quick answer in matters of faith is too often a shallow answer.

We need to take the time to explore our groaning. Much of my groaning comes from leaving God out of my troubles. I try to solve them by myself. This makes me a practical atheist. What I wrote in the first paragraph is realistic and true, yet it omits God. If I omit God, I don’t hope in God. If I omit God, I don’t’ praise God. If I omit God, God cannot possibly be my savior and God. If I omit God, something else will be my savior and god. To include God opens my eyes to what is praiseworthy. It sets my feet on a different road. It expands my resources for support. It places my life in the hands of the one whose love is stronger than death.