Devotions for Psalm 13:1-6–Dark Night of the Soul
June 12-18, 2017
Monday, June 12, 2017–Dark Night of the Soul
“Will you forget me forever” (Psalm 13:1a).
At ninety-two, Clyde Holthauser could no longer live alone. Clyde’s two children and their families couldn’t provide adequate care for him either. So the decision was made to place Clyde in an assisted living facility. Clyde’s family had promised to visit him regularly, but after two years their visits were infrequent—usually occurring around Christmas and Easter. Now, Clyde sat alone in his room pondering his fate. He wondered if he would see his family again, if his family would forget about him completely, or remember anything about him when he died.
We make many excuses for not visiting our elderly family members. We may not think that they are aware of our visits. Often we simply get so caught up in the daily demands of life that we forget about them. We sometimes wonder if the same thing has happened in our relationship with God. We feel so alone and we think that God might have forgotten about us completely.
Our feelings of being abandoned and alone are real. In the midst of our separation, though, we are challenged not to focus on our feelings but on our faith. We have faith that God is true to God’s word and God will never leave us nor forsake us.
“Jesus, remember us when you come into your kingdom.” Amen.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017–Dark Night of the Soul
“How long will you hide your face from me” (Psalm 13:1b)?
Juanita and Jaylene had been friends for years. Suddenly, Juanita felt that Jaylene was distancing herself from their relationship. Jaylene would reply to texts or return phone calls. When they were together, Jaylene didn’t respond to Juanita’s attempts to start a conversation. Juanita didn’t know what was wrong and Jaylene did not appear to want to talk about it. In desperation, Juanita had confronted Jaylene. Jaylene had simply turned her back on Juanita and walked away.
There are times in our walk of faith when God is silent. At these times it appears to us as if God has turned his back on us, or as the Psalmist writes, “turn God’s face from us.” We assume that we have offended God and that God is purposefully giving us the silent treatment.
We always have the opportunity to enter God’s presence and confess our sins. We do so knowing that “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Another possibility is for us to quietly wait upon the Lord, knowing that at the right time God will move and allow God’s presence to be made known in our lives.
Holy Spirit, enable us to wait patiently on the Lord and to trust that God will never leave us or forsake us.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017–Dark Night of the Soul
“How long must I bear pain in my soul” (Psalm 13:2)?
“Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior,” cries one TV huckster, “and you will experience success beyond your imagination!” Another purveyor of the prosperity gospel points out the Christians are ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), and ambassadors drive primo cars like BMW’s, Mercedes and Lexus. These messages, though common, are contrary to the Psalmist’s experience (not to mention the teachings of Jesus).
St. John of the Cross was a sixteenth century Carmelite monk. He wrote extensively on the walk of faith. One part of the walk of faith, of which St. John of the Cross wrote, he called, “The Dark Night of the Soul.” This was a time of deep spiritual pain, swirling doubts, a sense of God’s absence and overwhelming darkness. St. John of the Cross wrote from experience. Even a devoted follower of Jesus experienced such times. In fact, St John of the Cross understood such an experience to be a normal part of the life of Christians. Seen in this light, the mark of strong faith is not success, but steadfastness.
Like the dawn of a new day, we cannot hurry its approaching. We can only sit in the darkness and anticipate its arrival.
Lord, even when it is dark and we can neither see you nor sense your presence, we trust that you are near us. Amen.
Thursday, June 15, 2017–Dark Night of the Soul
“How long shall my enemy be exalted over me” (Psalm 13:2c)?
It is an uncomfortable and confusing time for us, when God is silent in our lives and it feels as if God has turned God’s back on us. Our pain and consternation are multiplied when we see others, especially our enemies, experiencing good times. Our question turns from, “Why me?” to, “Why them?” Certainly this was what was going through the writer’s mind when he penned this Psalm. His enemies could also have been surrounding nations that posed national security risks.
Our first thought is that we are God’s chosen people and God is on our side and not the side of our enemies. We should be the one’s whom God’s blesses, we reason, and not our enemies. Jesus expresses a different perspective in his Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon, Jesus reminds his listeners that God, “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). God does this because everyone is a child of God and not just us. Instead of being envious and unloving when our enemies are blessed and we are not, Jesus encourages us to pray for our enemies. Such actions on our part demonstrate that we truly are followers of Jesus and conduits of God’s love and grace.
Lord, move in our lives and help us to remember that we are all children of God and to pray for each other. Amen.
Friday, June 16, 2017–Dark Night of the Soul
“Give light to my eyes” (Psalm 13:3).
Thirteen year old Chau sat in the doctor’s office while the doctor told her and her parents that she had bone cancer. Thus began a journey of several months. Chau would need to have her leg amputated. She would also need radiation and chemotherapy. It was all confusing and scary. The fear and despair that Chau experienced were eased by her team of doctors. They took the time to sit down with Chau and her parents, explain what was going to happen and why and answer any questions that the family had. The doctors brought light to a dark and foreboding situation.
We call it enlightenment and it is a gift. The Holy Spirit moves in our lives to give us understanding, helps us to see our situation from a different, more helpful perspective. Our darkness is made a little less dark. Our situations do not necessarily change, but we are better prepared to endure, because the Spirit has brought light to our eyes.
Lord, grant us ears to hear you speak to us, eyes to see what you see and willing hearts to understand and obey. Amen.
Saturday, June 17, 2017–Dark Night of the Soul
“But I trusted in your steadfast love” (Psalm 13:5).
The mood of the Psalm changes as it nears its end. No longer is the Psalmist focused on the fear and despair that the situation inspired. Instead, he began to remember what enabled him to walk a walk of faith and to experience the highs and lows of being a child of God. God’s steadfast love was what empowered him to live through the good days and the bad days. God’s love was what comforted him, encouraged him and gave him hope.
As followers of Jesus, we live our lives in the same way. We celebrate God’s steadfast love that is expressed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Each day we live in the reality of that love. As we go through the day, we remind ourselves that we are loved. God also reminds us as God sends us love notes that range from the words of Scripture, to a rose blossom, to a hug from a friend, to the laughter of children. We go through our lives resting in God’s embrace.
God of love, no matter what happens, help us always remember your love for us. Amen.
Sunday, June 18, 2017–Dark Night of the Soul
“I will sing to the Lord” (Psalm 13:6).
Akihito stepped out of the shower singing an “oldie but goodie.” It fit his mood. Akihito was looking forward to a day spent with family and friends. Karen hummed a jaunty tune while she waited for the bus. In three days she would be on vacation and headed to an island resort with her husband. Akihito and Karen still faced the challenges of work, and the pressures that comes with life in an industrialized nation. Yet, they were happy because they had something to look forward to.
The situation for the Psalmist has not necessarily changed. At least we have no indication that it has. The Psalmist’s attitude and outlook on life have dramatically changed, though. No longer is he wondering if God has forgotten about him and wondering how long he must endure his pain and suffering. The Psalmist is now saying that we will sing to the Lord.
The Psalmist changed his focus and it transformed his life. He started to remember God’s steadfast love and envisioned how God’s love had encouraged and empowered him in the past. The Psalmist realized that his darkness would be turned into light and God’s steadfast love would change from a memory to a present experience. This new perspective caused his heart to sing and enabled him to give thanks and praise to God. This works the same way for us today.
Lord, may you always inspire songs of thanks and praise in us. Amen.