In the middle of February, my area of tropical southeast Texas experienced a significant snowstorm. We awoke to find a crisp blanket of snow, inches deep, as far as the eye could see. In the midst of this deep freeze, I wondered what plants and shrubs would re-emerge once the snow went away? If you had asked me at the end of March, I would have told you that it wasn’t looking good. However, the next thing I knew, green shoots surged up all over my front and back garden. These green bursts were a mixed batch of weed and plant. I have systematically worked over various flower beds by trimming back the overgrowth and pulling out the weeds. As I began the removal surgery on one particular bed, I spied a tiny oak sapling. I tried hard to gently remove it but failed. I pulled and pulled and pulled even though it was a relatively small sapling, its roots sunk deep down into the bed. Finally, I managed to excise the tiny tree with a shovel in hand, with most of its roots still attached.
Something nobody tells you about church planting is the uprooting that occurs right before you start. Leaving behind the familiar and comfortable and exchanging it for the new and uncertain is exactly where I find myself in the summer of 2021. My husband and I have felt a call to church plant for a very long time, but it never seemed quite the right season. Finally, months ago, God made it clear to us it was time. However, obedience is costly and painful, and my wise daughter told me just days before our final Sunday at our old church, “Mom, you’ve got to feel all the feels.”
It is challenging to feel uprooted and untethered as we launch out and away from the wonderful group of believers we have worshiped alongside for over two decades. So I am going to have to leave some room for lament in this season of transition.
In the second half of Psalm 42, (I looked at the first half of Psalm 42 last week. Follow the link to see that post. https://wordpress.com/post/antheakotlan.com/416.) David started with a desperately thirsty deer, and he circles back to water again by calling to mind the sound of waves and waterfalls.
7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8 ESV)
Waves and waterfalls move with power and loud sounds. A simple flow of water carved the Grand Canyon. Water is indeed the universal solvent. Waves wear down inches of sand from beaches around the world. However, God’s love is steadfast and unchanging. It does not get worn away by the ebb and flow of tides or water flows.
In times of deep sadness and lament, I have a profound need within my soul to cry out to the only one capable of plumbing those depths. This level of need requires a supernatural remedy. Only God can handle such profound wounding in me, and when I try to call other people to meet me in the depth of my suffering, they may be pulled into something that will overwhelm them.
Sometimes I find myself wide awake in the middle of the night with worries and concerns. In the darkness, a song about God’s faithfulness can encourage me. The familiar lyrics take me on a journey to the refrain that brings truth deeply down into my heart. Music is a powerful reminder and force to lift moods and provide comfort. Singing a praise and worship song or listening to Christian music can transform the atmosphere in significant ways.
9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:9-10 ESV)
Verses 9 and 10 vividly reveal the cyclical nature of grief. I believe I have moved forward, and yet a fresh wave of grieving hits me hard again and again. My enemy, sometimes my own inner critic, gets louder in these moments. I have to counter all this with God’s truth. I choose to stand on the rock of God’s word by intentionally recalling to my mind what I know for certain. I can counter the enemy’s caustic narrative and endless questions with God’s promises to me.
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11 ESV)
This final verse acknowledges the pain and then states the truth worth standing on in the midst of the storm of grief. “Hope in God…” In response to this truth, I shall choose to praise God as I grasp a rung of the ladder out of the pit of grief. I will likely find myself here again, but I have a map contained in Psalm 42 to guide me back to the only one capable of handling all my deep feelings. He is my salvation and my God.
Lord, thank you for your kindness in providing a remedy for grief. You know me, you see my tears, and my despair is not too much for you. May I always run to you and entrust you with my sadness. Help me to take time to lament today. Keep me from stuffing down sadness and denying my loss. For in the leaving and the letting go, you have even more for me than I could ask for or imagine. You alone are my hope. Amen.