“I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint.” Psalm 77:3
There have been times in church when I nearly lost my wife. Maybe I should say she nearly loses herself. Maybe we attend too often. Maybe we’ve attended for far too long—both of us, for our entire lifetimes. Maybe it’s the people around us—a wonderful place full of happy faces; but there have been times when I nearly lost her. She doesn’t sing, doesn’t read along, doesn’t appear to be in it. At the end of the sermon last night, she was looking down at her hands and had been for a long, long time.
She is my wife, and I think I understand her, although with each passing year of my life I’m less sure of anyone’s being able to enter the corners of any one else’s secret places. But because she is my wife, I know something of what she is feeling. After all, I too feel the weight of what’s on her shoulders.
We’ve been through times both of us hope never, ever to experience again. “No young man thinks he shall ever die,” Hazlitt once wrote, one of my all-time favorite aphorisms. But neither does any young man ever understand what he will go through when he experiences the suffering of his children. Watching kids hurt is nothing you can prepare for; and when it happens, when it’s bad, a black hole threatens to swallow everything around it.
It is the lot of parents to worry even more than their children do, even when children create the worry—and even when the children themselves do worry. We don’t live in our children’s skin. We don’t know what they’re feeling from moment to moment, so what we’re left with is the deadly sting of those few moments when we witness the poison. They may well go back to their places, turn on some music or watch a movie, and walk out of the darkness. Not so, us. We’ll spend the rest of the weekend in a midnight winter.
Their hurts inflict wounds on us, creates bleeding that doesn’t stanch easily because the older one becomes, the fewer coagulants one’s insides create. Blood spatters all over, on everything. It smears the walls in the living room and pools in the bedroom. And when we go to church, we leave tracks right into the pew.
And that’s why I say that there have been times in church when I almost lost my wife. I almost lost myself.
I know of no better way to understand what Asaph is recalling in his own life here in Psalm 77. In the night, hands extended, he hoped and prayed for blessing that simply didn’t come. What he knows all too well is being lost, which is the very language of his groaning. And he knows that sound because he knows blessings, oodles of them. When those blessings seem not to exist, the spiritual, mental, and even physical pain is excruciating. His groaning takes words.
Most of us suffer the moments when our deepest cries and most fervent prayers seem as bootless as Asaph’s. When it seems to him that God has grown deaf, he experiences the pain unique to those who know the Lord. When God doesn’t pick up the phone, believers feel unspeakably alone, even in worship, maybe even most alarmingly then. Then there are no words, only groaning.
“I remembered you, O God, and I groaned.”
Been there, done that.
The psalm's real blessing, even in distress, is that we're not alone. No, never alone.