Posted On February 10, 2020

The Bird and the Stone

by | Feb 10, 2020 | Suffering and the Christian, Featured

There was a period of several years, where I cried every day.  Every quiet time, every women’s prayer meeting, every church service, driving in the car, sitting in my office, walking across campus between classes.  Suffice it to say, the subject of my sorrow was a big weepy deal.  And I was the Big Weeper.

The poet of Psalm 119, likely David, was no stranger to depression.  He says, “I am laid low in the dust… My soul is weary with sorrow” (Ps. 119:25, 28) and again, “I have suffered much… Look upon my suffering and deliver me” (Ps. 119:107, 153).  Often, despite relentless prayers, we fail to see any response from God.  How can He be so slow? At those times, we pray with David:  “My soul faints with longing for your salvation… My eyes fail, looking for your promise… how long must your servant wait?” (Ps. 119:81, 82, 84).

The Apostle Peter tells us that God “is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.”  (2 Pet. 3:9).  What appears to be slowness is actually God’s patience; grief must do its work in our hearts.  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4).  Likewise, the sage of Ecclesiastes:  “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.”  (Ecc. 7:4).

I readily admit that grief has been good for my prayer life; it forces me to seek God as my only hope.  In fact, David writes this hum-dinger:  “It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees.”  (Psalm 119:71).  Good?  To be afflicted?  Yet, even as I shout, “No!” I can see God bending my proud heart toward his holy and mysterious will.   I can feel him stretching my compassion for brothers and sisters in hurt.  “I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”  (Psalm 119:75).  Is it you, Lord?  Are you behind this terrible affliction?  And can it truly be a sign of your faithfulness?

At a certain point, it hit me that my severe grief must somehow end, if I was to embrace the life God has given me.  To quote Ecclesiastes again, “There is a time for everything…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecc. 3:1,4).  I thought of the command to “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!”  (Phil. 4:4).  And I felt… guilty.

A dear friend, a witness to my constant wailing, texted me. “Please don’t apologize for grieving.  I haven’t been through this exact thing, but I definitely know that juxtaposition of having a stone in your heart, sometimes right next to a flying bird.”  Her analogy was perfect.  When pain drags on, part of our heart longs to fly, knows it needs to fly.  But the other part sinks solidly into the mud.  The tension threatens to snap our fragile faith.

In Psalm 119, David has somehow made peace with the bird and the stone.  It is a very long psalm, after all:  one stanza for every letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  All the way down, joy interweaves with sorrow.  “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches… Your statutes are my delight… I delight in your commands because I love them… I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil… Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” (Ps. 119:14, 24, 47, 162, 164).

In the midst of his struggles, David experiences joy, delight, and praise.  What can be the source of these emotions, so incongruous with his circumstances?  David tells us plainly:  he rejoices in God’s statutes, promises and laws.  In fact, the whole of Psalm 119 is a poetic tribute to God’s word.  Affliction brings us to the word of God:  our joy and our salvation.

And so we cry out to the Lord:  “May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.”  (Psalm 119:76).  We must marinate our raw and broken hearts in God’s word, until they soften and absorb sacred flavor.  This is the place where God promises to comfort us in our afflictions, as he did for his servant David.

Related Posts

Standing on the Authority of God’s Word

Standing on the Authority of God’s Word

The challenges before us each day may seem daunting to us. We live in a culture that relies heavily on hunches, intuitions, and feelings. The emphasis on the subjective has led many to deny biblical Christianity and reject any notion of truth. The witty British...

Israel’s Temporary Hardening

Israel’s Temporary Hardening

Romans 11:25-27, “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive...

The Miracle of Restoration

The Miracle of Restoration

Romans 11:23-24, “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive...

The Matter of Whether Necessary Evil Is Biblical or Not

The Matter of Whether Necessary Evil Is Biblical or Not

On today’s episode, a listener writes in and asks Dave, “Is a Necessary Evil Biblical?” What you’ll hear in this episode How Scripture Speaks of Evil. Three Helps for Facing Evil and Suffering. Subscribing, sharing, and your feedback You can subscribe to the Servants...

Dave Jenkins- The Relationship Between Scripture and Tradition

Dave Jenkins- The Relationship Between Scripture and Tradition

On today’s Equipping You in Grace show, Dave considers the meaning of Sola Scripture, tradition, and the value of church history, the authority of Scripture, Christian conscience, and tradition, and why the Church has good answers to the issues of the day. What you’ll...

0 Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Gold Star Friday-ish – stirfrylaura - […] New article on Psalm 119 and suffering:  https://servantsofgrace.org/the-bird-and-the-stone/ […]
  2. Gold Star Friday – stirfrylaura - […] This world of wonder and woe:  https://lookingtotheharvest.com/wrestling-with-beauty-and-loss/; see also, https://servantsofgrace.org/the-bird-and-the-stone/; […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share98
Tweet3
Reddit
Email
Buffer