After the five-bypass surgery I had one year ago, one thing I was warned to watch for are feelings of deep sadness.
Apparently, that is a common occurrence. For the most part, I have stayed on an even keel. I have had plenty of happy days since. There have been a few days when I have felt emotionally down.
But, recently, I got rather concerned about how sad I was feeling. There was not an apparent cause. I reasoned that maybe a plate of biscuits and gravy would bring a cheerier feeling to countermand a deepening sense of sadness in my heart and soul. My Nurse Ratchet still frowns on my eating biscuits and gravy. Nonetheless, I made it a point one morning early to attend my favorite restaurant across the river in Ohio.
While eating, however, I felt a darkening perspective growing over me. Of all places, I felt on the edge of panic because the internal struggle was worsening. I could feel myself going down the emotional tubes. There seemed to be in me some sort of unconscious paralysis. I did not want to move. I did not feel like moving. The waitress said, “You seem to be lost in deep thought, sir. Is there anything you need?”
During those moments, one thing I noticed I was doing — I kept thinking in my mind about God while I wrestled inwardly with whatever it was that was astounding me. It was what I was thinking about God that kept me from plunging deeper into an unreasonable sense of sadness.
I thought in particular about one of the Psalmists, who wrote absolutely the saddest psalm that could be written. The superscription of the psalm indicates that he told the chief musician to play his sad lyrics on the saddest sounding instrument in the Temple orchestra with the saddest sound possible.
The writer was clearly feeling really sad. But, he does not give a clue as to why. He does not say how God helped him, either — and, I wondered, why is this psalm even in the Bible? Why was it included in this collection of worship songs? Can you imagine trying to sing this sad psalm during a worship service? Are not worship services always supposed to be a Heavenly, cloud-nine experience? The Psalmist was not on any cloud, for sure.
But, it is in the Bible for a beneficent purpose because sometimes people feel really sad and, during those times, wonder how they should react toward God when they do. The inclusion of this psalm tells us at least two things.
First, we can still worship God when we feel really sad. It is clear that the Psalmist had in mind to worship God even though he felt really sad. The statement he starts out with, “O Lord God of my salvation,” is a great statement of worship.
When it comes to worshipping God, we are too influenced by how we feel. We feel that if we cannot give God our emotional best that worshipping God is useless. But, that is so untrue. Times are that when we are really sad that worshipping God, despite how we feel, takes on a more spiritual context because it keeps from being faked and generated with the wrong motives.
Second, we can still pray to God when we feel really sad. That is exactly what the Psalmist shows us. He said, “Let my prayer come before thee. Incline thine ear unto my cry, for my soul is full of troubles.” He prayed with hope. Even though he felt really sad, he prayed with hope. All praying may be done with hope — not the kind of hope that expresses wishful thinking, but hope that is based upon the greatness of who God is, based upon His loving kindness and willingness to minister to our hurting souls, and based upon His sure promises to us.
Sometimes God’s people feel really sad. Sometimes we know the reason. Sometimes we do not. Another of the Psalmists said, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
By the way, the biscuits and gravy did not help. But, I will have another round before too long — that is, if my Nurse Ratchet does not take the keys to the car away from me.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.