Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
In Psalm 30 “the psalmist’s deliverance is not just from physical sickness to physical health, but it is also from a deadly misunderstanding of human security to a lively awareness of God’s presence in all of life’s events.
Surely, this is what all of us need in some way or another at this time and every time of our lives.
In 2002 my husband died suddenly and I felt lost and confused.
Our marriage was better than it had ever been. We had come to the place where we could read each other’s mind, and could appreciate each other’s differences. I had a hard time dealing with my grief, and adjusting to living alone.
As the days and months without him at my side went by, I could only rely on God’s presence with me to get me through the darkness. I began to see that God was giving me joy in his presence and assurance that I was not lost or alone, but God was my constant companion.
I began to feel God’s presence everywhere in everything, and rejoice in that assurance. I knew that God would never leave me alone and God was healing my loneliness and grief.
God helps us move from our individual dark places in life to a more acute awareness of his presence in all of life. That is a joy that emerges from knowing and feeling God’s presence. It is then we can offer our thanksgivings in the same way that this Psalm calls us to no matter where we find ourselves: in the pit of sorrow or on safe ground where everything is going well, whether in joy or in lament, in light or in darkness. Then, like the Psalmist, we can call the company of the church and even the world to join us in a song of thanksgiving, where we can offer our whole life as an act of praise because God’s love surrounds us.
When we look around our world at the widespread suffering, it may seem offensive to talk about joy as the psalmist sang. But the praises of the psalmist come out of the depth of his pain and suffering.
He sees his pain and suffering from the vantage point of faith and hope in God because he knows that wherever he is, whatever his circumstances, he is constantly surrounded by God’s love. Life in the care of the savior is a life in which the garments of darkness, sorrow, repentance, and sin are replaced with the clothing of salvation: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and humility.
Those times when I thought I was on top of things in my life, I gloried in the empty admiration and praises of others. Then, when reality overshadowed me it awakened me to my vulnerability, and I suddenly felt fragile and weak. Without hope, or faith and trust in God, I would have been lost forever. It was then that I rediscovered the joy of God’s constant support. God’s grace and mercy is always available to us even when we feel the darkness surround us.
The so-called security of the world means very little in comparison to the security that God brings.
A slogan like, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” simply doesn’t work. It puts the onus on us to overcome our difficulties on our own, and if we can’t do it, then something must be wrong with us. It is only God’s loving presence in our dark times that keeps our hope and faith alive.
We can be ever thankful for God who goes with us through all the dark places and times of our lives. And even in those shadows we can praise and thank God. Even when the tears are flowing, there is joy because God is with us, loving and supporting us.
- Have you ever found joy in the midst of suffering and can you share it with others?
- Where do you see God’s presence in the midst of your difficulties, illnesses, death or difficult moments of your life?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.