This week, we have a guest blogger, Chaplain Mark Wenzel. Chaplain Wenzel serves from Wisconsin Lutheran Institutional Ministries at the Milwaukee House of Corrections and Froedert Hospital. Here are his words to you this week.
Despite its use at funerals and at deathbeds, which usually evokes many tears, Psalm 23 is a celebratory, victorious psalm. THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD! I SHALL NOT WANT! EVEN THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL! This Psalm is a bold proclamation of faith in a loving, powerful, protective God. The pinnacle of faith in God, isn’t it? This is what we strive for, what we judge our own faith against. Maybe even what we judge others’ faith against.
We sure don’t want to be like this guy:
I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
Or this guy:
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Those guys sound defeated, weak, definitely not faith-filled victorious Christians. But wait a second. Isn’t that the same guy? Sure, that’s David.
It is really great to hear what David wrote in Psalm 23. Those are comforting words. But they might not be all that comforting to someone in the middle of a really bad time. When David was facing difficult times, he didn’t spout the words of Psalm 23. More likely it is that he was muddling around saying: “how long o LORD? Have you forgotten about me God? When are you going to do something about these problems I have? Are you listening God?” David’s journey to Psalm 23 was ugly. It was whiney. It was fraught with anxiety and weariness and drama.
I prefer life to be filled with a lot less drama and I believe there are many of us who want life to appear much more like Leave it to Beaver than the messed up reality taking place inside or outside our doors. But life doesn’t fit into tidy 30 minute timeslots and all the loose ends are wrapped up before we go to bed every night.
Life is filled with great messes, and they don’t get cleaned up as easily and quickly as Bounty paper towel.
The good news is that when we find ourselves in these dark places we are not alone and without hope. God is there and he invites us to turn to him. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened.” “cast all your anxiety on him.”
If you happen to find yourself a Psalm 23 Christian, thank the Lord. But remember, not everyone is there. Remember what it might have taken to make you a Psalm 23 Christian. Can you have empathy for Christians who are still struggling with the challenges?
Those who find themselves questioning life, questioning their faith, and questioning God feel as if they are all alone in their struggle. Sometimes we make them feel that way, not on purpose, but we do it all the same. We do that by not listening to their struggle, but trying to talk them out of their feelings,
I’m betting, that if we’re honest with ourselves, we still cry out like David did.
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