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  • Larry Payne

Joy after Despair

Yea! Woo-hoo! Alright! Cool! Hoorah! Praise God!

Whatever the word, the exultation of success feels the same for every human being. That sense of gladness filled the Psalmist in Psalm 30. She shouted her feelings in the first verse, “I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.”

She had come through hard times, lingering at the brink of death. Her faith wondered whether she had been abandoned by God. Despair filled the lonely night. “When you hid your face, I was dismayed,” she lamented.

It’s hard to walk with the hurting and broken, isn’t it? Sadly, some may turn away from those who are suffering. Elderly are left in nursing homes, alone. Refugees are walled out. Minorities of color or orientation are stigmatized and shamed. Would my Bible class have gone to the home of this despairing worshipper should she be on the computerized member list today?

The Psalm shows the spiritual struggle seemed like a “night” would never end. In that ancient culture, others were sure that some sin was being hidden, prompting the judgment of God. She found only one place to turn when no one else cared, crying out, “Lord, be merciful to me!”

Questions and doubt are not tolerated well in our congregations. Some fear a struggle of faith will taint others. Our discomfort may leave the searching heart outside the warm comfort of understanding by faith leaders.

But the Spirit of God did not turn away. “I called to you for help and you healed me!” One can still hear the joy leaping in this surprised and awestruck heart. “Weeping may stay for the night but rejoicing comes in the morning!” Her body, mind and soul soared to new heights!

Will we dare to join in the Spirit’s redeeming work with the broken, the powerless or the shamed? That’s where this worshipper found God. From questions and despair, to exaltation and joy, she lifted her voice to the God who would not leave her. “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.” Her joy may be the call we need to find God at work.

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