If You Can't Sing Now
*This article is based off the sermon notes from the Blue Christmas service*
Psalm 13 is a Psalm of lament and sadness.
But more than that, Psalm 13 is ultimately a Psalm of hope; a Psalm for Blue Christmases past and present.
Blue Christmas is meant for lamenting and grieving, but it is not meant for lamenting and grieving as those without hope.
And our hope is a distinctly Christian hope, a hope anchored in the truth that the present state of things will one day cease and instead of lament and grief all we’ll know forever is glory and goodness and love and life and light and peace.
The psalmist begins:
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”
This is common parlance for despair, words and thoughts that afflict the sufferer.
“How long, oh Lord? How long will I feel this way? How long will this ache remain? I keep waking up in the night with this weight on my chest, this weight on my heart, this weight on my mind, how long will it be this way, oh Lord?”
If you’ve prayed this way, consciously or unconsciously, you’re praying like the King of Israel prayed when he felt abandoned by God.
Of this lament John Calvin writes:
“... when we are for a long time weighed down by calamities, and when we do not perceive any sign of divine aid, this thought unavoidably forces itself upon us, that God has forgotten us.”
And when it feels like God has forgotten us, we feel alone.
“How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?”
These pains, whatever they are, were meant to be shared with our Maker, and secondarily, they were meant to be shared with other believers. We’re not designed to grieve and lament alone.
But that’s what seems to be happening here. David’s only counsel, only solace, seemingly, is in himself. He’s alone.
But note David’s next move. Even though he feels alone and feels as though the Lord has abandoned him in his time of need, he still returns to the Lord in prayer. He bears his soul to His God. He kept, like Jesus later, entrusting his soul to the righteous judge on the throne. “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” is still prayer; still incense.
“Consider and answer me, O LORD my God…”
This is all David can do. He might not be able to get out of bed. He might not be able to keep it together at work. Whatever. But he can pray and so he does.
“...light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…”
David’s despair is to the point of death. If the Lord doesn’t intervene, if the Lord doesn’t “light up his eyes”, David’s assumption is he will perish and go down to Sheol.
It is very real for the sufferer to feel so discouraged, so downtrodden, and so hopeless, that death would be relief. The king of Israel (past and present) dealt with emotions deep as these.
It Won’t Be This Way Forever
But verse 5 and 6 bring a turn. Verse 5 and 6 are the promise of the gospel, the promise that the present state of things, of this age with its sickness and sadness, earthquakes and hurricanes, cancer and covid, depression and suicide, and funerals and death WILL ONE DAY CEASE! THINGS WON’T BE THIS WAY FOREVER!
And so David prays:
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love”
This is primary. To reap the benefits of verse 6, we trust in the Lord and in His steadfast love, and we do so in a way far greater than David could.
Because we know of the Christmas story, of Immanuel coming to dwell among us!
We know about the crown of thorns.
We know how He carried that beam up Golgotha.
We know about the nail-scarred hands.
We know the lengths God went to show His steadfast love for sinners.
Now watch the turn.
“I have trusted in your steadfast love”
Saying, “Past and present, I am trusting you because it’s all I have. No amount of money can cure what ails me, no pill, no vacation, only you and your steadfast love.”
And now he looks forward to ultimate hope:
“....my heart shall rejoice in your salvation, I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
Note David’s progression:
- “I have trusted” :PAST.
- “My heart shall rejoice” :FUTURE
- “I will sing” :FUTURE
And why can David say these things? Why can he believe them to be true?
- Because “He has dealt with me bountifully” PAST
Or, to read the phrase backwards:
“Because God has shown us mercy in the past, we know that He will also deal bountifully with us in the future!”
Just as we rejoiced when He saved our souls, we know we will also rejoice at the resurrection when He makes all things new; when he raises our bodies up out of the grave to dwell with Him forever on the earth!
But not our body only, also the bodies of those we’ve lost who have died in Him.
And when we see those things on that future day, our heart shall rejoice in His salvation and we will sing to the LORD.
The sorrow may be so great that you can’t sing right now and that’s ok.
But you better believe that you will sing later. You will rejoice in His salvation. And you will sing.
My hope is not that we stop grieving. Grief is a gift of God to remind us of the present evil of this age and point us to the age to come; to the resurrection and the kingdom of God. Grief keeps us from placing our hopes where they should not be placed.
My hope is, that as we grieve, we would not grieve as those without hope.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass.
A new day will come.
And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
And on that day, we will no longer grieve, we will rejoice and we will sing.
As the apostle Peter wrote to elders of the churches in the dispersion, now I say to you:
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
Christ will come. He will wipe every tear from our eyes and make all things new.
“It is winter in Narnia,” said Mr. Tumnus, “and has been forever so long…. always winter, but never Christmas.”
But Aslan is coming.