Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Oh, how I wish each step of this race could be joyful; filled with moments of awe and splendor and wonder. How I wish that I could run my race without the weight of the sin curse dragging at my heart and snatching the breath from my lungs. But this is real life, and David’s Psalm aptly expresses my real state of mind today.
One of my oldest enemies, the fiendish Despair, still dogs my heels from time to time as I labor on my course. Oh,though he is sly, I know him; I know his true name — it is Pride, dressed though he may be in a darker suit of self-focus. From time to time on deserted stretches of the track, my sinister stalker will fling the well-paired bolas of fatigue and pain, entangling my legs and causing me to sprawl ingloriously onto my face.
One would think I would learn to keep an eye out for him when the way is desolate… one would think.
Always, always it is the same setup: a few weeks of relentless pain, a sense of uselessness and failure, a realization that much of the past efforts I have given in ministry was either unheeded or unneeded. Too little sleep. Too much to do. A certainty of ineptitude made more concrete by the actions of others. The reality of being forgotten. The conviction that not only do I not belong, I have passed that quirk of not belonging on to my children. The very painful understanding that sometimes to be a sojourner on this earth means that I will sojourn alone.
Well, not entirely alone.
There is One who has promised never to leave me nor forsake me… not even when I allow my thoughts to fall into the familiar old iniquity of despondency.
There is my Shepherd who will be with me even in the valley of deepest darkness.
There is the Light for my path, even if it is just glimmer enough to see an inch or two of the way before me.
There is my great High Priest who can sympathize with my weakness, for He has been tempted in all ways that I have yet without my sin. For in Gethsemane, I am certain that even He was tempted to give in to Despair… yet He fought on. And won.
So at times like this, I remember that my body is weak and prone to falter, but that my Savior is neither of these. Though I may feel cast down, discouraged, defeated, and useless; though I may not have the strength to fight, in Christ I can find the strength to stand. And I remember that the battle is not mine but the Lord’s.
When the horrible ache of being a person on the fringes threatens to swallow me in sorrow, I recall that I do belong — to the King of kings. That, too, I can pass to my children and together we can view this vast and often hostile territory with fresh eyes, cherishing its beauty and even loving those who unwittingly inflict pain because we remember that we are just passing through until the great Day of our final Homecoming.
So why are you cast down, O my soul? Rather, hope in God for I will again praise Him, for He is my King and His grace is sufficient for me.