My family experienced the death of a dear lady this past week, and I cannot prevent my attention from riveting onto the themes of sadness and mourning in Psalm 30. Once again, though we were assured of our preparedness, and we understand it must be, our hearts are aching at her passing.
But notice both these parts of chapter 30 involve the choice, the act of the will, to offer praise and thanksgiving.
“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30: 4-5 ESV).
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever” (verses 11-12).
Sorrow and pain is temporary. Life as we know it in the flesh now is also temporary. But trusting him and being held by his loving hand is eternal. Isn’t it interesting that the psalmist says God loosed his mourning clothing and dressed him with gladness? God gave him that gift. That’s why we can sing praises, give thanks, and not be silent. And we can dance.
What could be more devastating than to believe God has abandoned you? The first line of Psalm 22 says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1 NIV). A disciple of Jesus Christ recorded that Jesus yelled these exact words shortly before he died (Matthew 27:46). And several other verses in Psalm 22 appear to also point to Jesus’ crucifixion:
verse 7 “all who see me mock me; they hurl insults”
verse 16 “they pierce my hands and my feet”
verse 18 “they divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment”
I could never boast that I’ve felt so low, so destitute as Jesus did, though I’ve had some desperately sorrowful times. It helps me to know he understands my pain. But remarkably, the psalmist plants praise right in the middle of this heart-rending chapter.
“I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him!” (verses 22-23).
“For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him, but has listened to his cry for help” (verse 24).
It’s amazing, but the psalmist is declaring we are not abandoned, not forsaken, not alone, when we’re suffering. He doesn’t hide from us. He hears. He’s near.