insecurity, loneliness, prayer, preaching, psalms, relationships, Scripture, sexual sin, worship
I Cry Out Day and Night Before You
A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.
1O LORD, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
2Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
3For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
Psalm 88 has long been one of my two favorite psalms of lament. The other, a close second, is Psalm 13.
Today’s lament really started in earnest yesterday afternoon. I was driving away from school and there was a runner with an amazing body standing at the intersection that I didn’t just lust over…I was full-on envious.
Then this morning, I saw two or three guys who I find myself being very intimidated by at chapel. They seem very articulate and talented and like they’ll be good pastors. And they’re all really attractive on top of all of that. And they wear that attractiveness like it doesn’t really matter to them…they could take or leave it.
Oh, to be that bold. To have the security to hold one’s looks loosely in one’s hand like they seem to…it’s a pretty impossible task. How many idols have I just rattled off? Probably five or six.
I just feel very alone; I couldn’t really concentrate in Sermon Preparation & Delivery today…I sort of phased in and out on what the sub would say (though he had excellent things to say, and the stuff I did hear seemed very insightful). If there’s one class I never check out of, it’s Prep and Del. But I just couldn’t focus.
I unfriended someone on Facebook this morning. The past few times I’ve gone to his page to see what he’s up to, he and his cute boyfriend are all over the place. The guy himself looks like a model. I get that life isn’t fair…but like Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame), I ask, “but why can’t it ever be unfair in my favor?”
I suppose it has been, come to think of it. I have wonderful friends. I got a great compliment from someone at the seminary the other day. I was greatly encouraged by a friend on Sunday when I had a really difficult day. I got to see another friend on Sunday for lunch. I have a great friend as a roommate who prays for me.
And yet, even now, as I think about my blessings, this ache just won’t go away. I feel like verse 4 talks about above. Even more, I resonate with the last verse, which reads,
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; darkness has become my only companion.
And then to make it worse, I went to chapel this morning, hoping to hear of the forgiveness of sins. Instead, the sermon was about taking a common-grace outline of grieving and artificially super-imposing it upon the text of Genesis 4, the story of Cain and Abel. The sermon didn’t need a crucified and risen savior. His advice? “Let yourself grieve.” Oh yeah. Then what? Didn’t get an answer.
I realize I just crossed the line from hurting individual to angry blogger. But allow me to back across that line, saying that I’m sure what he said was helpful. The trouble is, we’re not supposed to be preaching good advice…only good news. I needed good news. Truth is, I’ve been grieving now for almost two years over a variety of things in my life. I don’t need someone to tell me to grieve…I need hope in Christ and I need it preached, not simply referenced.
And I’m worn out from having to preach it to myself endlessly. It can’t be too much to ask to want it to be preached to me by someone else. It would be a refreshing change.
Instead, I feel as if darkness has become my only friend. I know that’s not true at all…but the stabbing gut-pain tells me something different. One friend asked me if I’d consider getting counseling at Covenant. I think I would…and I plan to at some point. But I know that sometimes counseling makes things worse before they make things better. I’m really concerned about being able to stay on top of things and if things get more emotionally volatile for me, I’m not sure I could stay on top of things. This is just me thinking out loud now…but I would totally do counseling.
There aren’t many expressions of lament like Psalm 88 in the Bible. But it’s a strange comfort to know that I don’t have to say I’m “gonna trust” or “I’m doing much better now” in a song for it to be acceptable worship.
Praying for you. And it’s true. Whether you get counseling or ultimately work through stuff on your own, there’s a good chance you will get more emotionally unstable before you get better. But the better is so worth feeling more messed up first…. It’s the only way you can heal. God has to break deeply ingrained mental habits and reveal inner sins that you don’t even know you have. As somebody who doesn’t know you at all :), I would recommend doing it now rather than later, even if it hurts your grades. Even trying to find more and more ways to help and love those around you instead of focusing on homework is helpful, since it gets you out of your loneliness and self-pity and into the lives of others. Sometimes, there are things in our lives more important than our goals, like our mental health and our ability to live the Christian life in peace, joy, and love.
Sorry, for so much advice from somebody who doesn’t know you. I just was in your place a few years ago. I didn’t go to steady counseling (which I should have done), but I did radically re-prioritize my life and let school slip so I could love others more and deal with myself. It was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.
Wow Dave ya those verses are so gut wrenching. I also am glad verses like this are in the Bible! Its good to know others have cried out to God and wrestled with God even more then us in some cases! And the fact that they are in the Bible must mean God knows that its a normal part of being human to have great pain and questions at times so these verses are here to remind us of that!
Really sorry to learn about the pain you are going through. 😦 I am going to be praying for you!
I would not be surprised at all if those three good looking guys you are sometimes intimidated by at chapel also think to themselves that you will make a great pastor! Try not to underestimate yourself! You seem to be as articulate as anyone!
Anyways I will be prayin!
Sorry to hear that you’re currently living at the Resurrection interface my friend. Our human frailty exists so often at the intersection of sin, death, and the devil. Waiting for the power of God can seem like an eternity. But we do not see Christ leaving us alone, even if we are stuck in the observation that His body laid lifeless on a rock for 3 days in the tomb. Christ is still among us. Christ is still at work in you. Christ will be faithful to bring the good work He has begun in you to completion.
Even in the midst of suffering, Christ on the cross proclaims that He desires to enjoin Himself to our suffering. In the lows of my own life, I cannot escape Christ on the cross saying, “I’m right here for you.”
Brandon Davison said:
Hey my Brother in Christ, I am here just to give you an encouraging word. Stand strong sir, there are many who have SSA just like you but instead of being open and real, they hide it and lie about it. I applaud your courage brother. I am a minister and man of God. I am not gay, I have never been gay, nor have I ever desired to be gay. I am a married man with a child and another one on the way. But everyday of my life I’ve struggle with lustful thoughts for females. I know its wrong and I know what the word of God says concerning it. So I struggle….I can relate to you and how you feel so please don’t stop holding onto Jesus. I have come to find out that I will never be without these desires and that I need to take up my cross daily and deny myself. I wish more people would stand up and be real like you. Because even in your struggles God has help you sustain and not give in. Stand strong my brother!!
This is such an encouraging comment from a hetero pastor no less. Praise God for men like you who realize that SSA is just another human struggle. We are all sinners, like Brandon states, called to take up our cross. Go to Jesus. Look to Him. He knows our loneliness, our despair, our anger; He has been there and done it. What a wonderful High Priest we have in Him!!
Branson Hall said:
Hey Brother, I’m encouraged by your openness and honesty. I, too, struggle with same-sex attraction, but was not able to talk about it openly until just recently. There are several differences in our situations; for instance, I am married, with three kids, and most likely in a different place on the continuum of same-sex attraction. However, the Gospel of Christ is the hope for both of us. I don’t really know what to say, except that my heart rejoices to see you fighting. I know, first-hand, what you are suffering. I can understand with vivid reality the pain you feel. But you are treasuring Christ above all other pleasures. You are pressing into Christ and being upheld by his power.
I’m not sure if you ever read any John Piper stuff, but I’ve put the web addresses for two of his sermons below. I found them to be encouraging.
Press into Christ. He is your joy, sufficiency, righteousness, and reward. One day, brother, he will make it right. The fallenness of our flesh will no longer cause these disorders. We will be whole (and I don’t mean heterosexual.) We will be complete in him.
Maybe you could turn that into a sermon. 🙂 I don’t mean to be glib, but seriously. Preach that gospel of unconditional, unmerited grace to yourself and others at the same time. You’re probably not the only one in a seminary preaching class who needs to hear it. That God loves us, forgives us, and died for us, and will deliver us even when we are full of despair and have nothing to give him except complaints.
No, I don’t think you *are* being glib, Josh. I know for a fact that EVERYONE needs to hear this and as I’ve been working through my sermon this semester on Hebrews 12:1-3, I’ve had exactly that idea in mind. I’ve never preached before, but I know where the sermon must end up (Christ) and I know that if my endpoint DOESN’T, for some reason, require a crucified and risen Savior for it to be true, then it isn’t Christian preaching. I went through a draft or two of my conclusion before I got it the way I want it.
Thanks for the encouragement and reminder to that end, Josh. You should come up to STL and look around Covenant some weekend. 🙂
i’m kinda hesitant to say this, but i’ll frame it in a bad news/good news kind of way. ready? bad news: it doesn’t get easier. it just doesn’t. good news: you get stronger. god gets faithful (at least in your eyes — he already is the superlative in that regard, we just don’t always see it).
i just wanted to offer that, in case you’re getting stuck in the place where i sometimes get stuck. sometimes i labor under the delusion that one day, (insert earthly event) will happen and suddenly things will be easier. yeah, that MIGHT happen, but i can’t spend all my time and energy yearning for it. it does weird things to my head and heart and tends to replace the bigger, more-than-earthly event that i really need to be hoping/yearning/praying towards.
ps: we haven’t really had an intentional conversation in awhile! have dinner with me soon? i’ll cook something.