This poem is written in the pantoum form and is based on Psalm 116, which is my favorite Psalm. I find that the repetition of lines in this form lends itself well to Christian poetry of lament and praise. I hope you are blessed by this offering.
Psalm for My Savior
For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death The anguish of death and darkness entangled me I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!” Praise my God, my Savior who came to my rescue
The anguish of death and darkness entangled me My eyes filled with tears, my feet stumbled under me Praise my God, my Savior who came to my rescue Rescued me from my trouble, sorrow, and darkness deep
My eyes filled with tears, my feet stumbled under me The Lord, my God, heard my cry for love and mercy Rescued me from my trouble, sorrow, and darkness deep Now I know His grace and mercy are mine to keep
The Lord, my God, heard my cry for love and mercy He saw the anguished turmoil of my broken soul Now I know His grace and mercy are mine to keep I will forever praise His glorious name, Jesus
He saw the anguished turmoil of my broken soul I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!” I will forever praise His glorious name, Jesus For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death
I’ve been thinking a lot about tears lately—in part because Pastor Bryan pointed out to me how many hits my post titled God Keeps Your Tears in a Bottle has had, in part because I’ve cried more than a few tears this year, and in part because I’ve been listening to Johnny Cash’s Cry, Cry, Cry in my car all week—and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all here.
People cry for a lot of reasons.
Earlier this year my sister died of breast cancer at only 61 years old. I cried, a lot. It’s normal and even helpful to shed tears over the death of a loved one even if we know where they are going when they die, because it allows us to express the grief we feel over not having them in our lives any more here on earth.
I remember a time I had a previous boss say some very cruel things to me in front of other people. She accused me of having done things I had not based on motives I did not have. I was very angry, hurt, and frustrated. And I cried, a lot. I didn’t cry in front of her, mind you, but afterwards I did. And it was good to express that anger to others.
Just yesterday I experienced unexpected tears.
I was reciting the prayers of the people in church, which I’ve done many times. Our church has many prayer concerns for members, family, and friends with health concerns and more. Towards the end of the prayer I began to lift up prayers for a church member’s brother-in-law who is a pastor back in New York because he is faced with conducting the funerals of two teens who had been killed in an accident last week, and with comforting the families of three other teens who are in critical condition.
I unexpectedly had tears in my eyes and my voice cracked praying for these teens and families that I don’t even know. But they were good tears because they touched those who heard my prayer and I know they touched our Lord, too.
I have cried tears of loss, anger, indignation over an injustice, frustration, compassion, and even of joy. I sometimes cry tears of regret when I hear a beautiful song about the sacrifice of Jesus, knowing it is my sin that required him to suffer.
Tears often serve a purpose, as expressed in this poem that I wrote recently:
Tears of sorrow, anger drench my soul course without end eroding pain, anguish
Where once only aching occupied my heart now is a deep empty ravine carved by a river of tears
Tears of forgiveness water my soul’s riverbed allowing flowers of love to flourish and grow
Peace arises in my heart held aloft by God’s promises the fragrance of sweet alyssum blossoms of my soul
I think the saddest tears of all, though, are the tears of major clinical depression. These tears are so sad because the one who cries them doesn’t know what purpose they serve.
I remember when I was suffering from depression sitting in a chair and just crying. When someone asked me why I was crying all I could say was, “I don’t know.” And I truly didn’t. The tears didn’t wash away pain; they only seemed to make it all the worse.
In the midst of such tears, there is One who knows their purpose.
Romans 8:26 says: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Through prayer God can sometimes lead us to an understanding of the purpose of the tears of depression, and ultimately to healing. Often the wounds are so deep it takes years and a great many groaning prayers to heal. But we must accept our weakness and our need for God’s Holy Spirit to intercede for us.
For me, after much prayer of my own, the blessed prayers of others, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit, God led me to an understanding of the purpose of my tears. They were tears of anger and unforgiveness; they were tears of lament that I had allowed myself to remain in bondage to the sins of another for so long.
With God’s help, the tears did lead to healing once I truly understood why I was crying.
May You Know His Peace,
Linda has a good and perceptive blog that touches hearts worldwide. Please do pay her a visit.
“He saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them.”
It’s good to know that Jesus sees our labor and effort. He truly understands all that concerns us, and he perceives every issues that matters most to us. Attentive and keenly aware He comes to our boat. It’s quite common for us to think that he isn’t aware, and we may feel that He’ll pass us by without a word. But that is not the case at all.
Jesus watches over us, all the time.
He knows all about our battle, the fight we have with our flesh, the difficulty we have with the challenging people in our lives. I often struggle to steer my boat. Jesus knows when and why I labor like I do. And He doesn’t condemn me.
The disciples were straining very hard to keep the boat afloat.
Every oar was being used and every man had his seat. They must work together. Some were frantically bailing, and a couple gripped the tiller. Considerable effort was being expended but to no avail. The wind pushed harder against them. This is perplexing. If you remember, they’re simply trying to obey the command of Jesus to cross the sea.
Why do things have to be so difficult?
I’m intrigued by believers who expect sunshine, blue sky, and red roses because they are doing God’s will. They don’t seem to think through the issues of conflict and challenge, weakness and humility.
“It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Doing the will of God will often mean that there will be a headwind directly at us.
The seas will become impossible, and we may even be driven back. But special comfort comes when we realize we’re being watched. Jesus is doing constant surveillance on us, and He sees our toil on the oars. He comes to us, walking on the water.
Even in our storm, our hearts can rejoice.
“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”
“Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”
(1 Corinthians 14:20, NASB)
Those of us who are broken have to think through many things. Jesus is our Teacher, and He fully intends to educate His disciples. Following Him is vibrantly alive, it’s never a static thing. Instead, I must deal with the issues of living, of having a growing faith that is becoming real at long last.
This really isn’t a “one and you’re done” experience.
The Bible describes a slow growth into the image of Jesus- -painstakingly learning about our frosty hearts, and how God keeps pouring His “super-heated” grace on the broken. We’re finally becoming ‘poor in Spirit’ and we’re learning to ‘mourn’ over our sins, perhaps we realize that we’ve fallen quite short of His will for us. (Matt. 5:3-4).
This list isn’t orderly or exhaustive, and it’s written primarily for the mentally ill Christian believer:
Stigma-This is one of the basic hazards that come with being a believer with a mental illness. People will whisper and treat you like you’re a moron, even in God’s church. You’ll try to become thick-skinned and ask Jesus for His help. He understands you completely. Even the Lord’s own family considered Him mentally disturbed. You’re in good company. (Mark 3:20).
Medications– This will be a stretching time as you must determine what’s best for you, your family, and basic functionality. There will be many opinions and definite issues that ‘disciples.’ must navigate. Some say that therapy and ‘meds’ are wrong. Your patience most likely will be required and you’ll need to seek His wisdom. He will tell you what to do.
Church—“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” must anchor us. We were built for real fellowship. It’s quite easy to attempt to go it alone, but that isn’t what God wants. Not being with others is a disease of the spiritual heart. I’ve chafed at this from time to time.
Therapy— To go or not to go? I happen to believe a good counselor is worth their weight in gold, but a bad therapist can be a real challenge to your faith. Figure out your tolerance level on this. Quite often I simply need a good listener, and listening is a skill that is developed over time. (It’s also a great indicator of the therapist’s ability.)
Marriage— A good spouse is often key to managing your mental illness. God has gifted them to deal with your disability; they’re your partner in this. Bring them into some of your appointments. Talk, and listen. Learn to pray and worship together. Read the Word out loud. Remember they are learning too. Your disability is shaping your discipleship to Jesus.
Family— They’ll often feel the brunt of your issues. It is good to be aware of this and adjust to their needs. Above all, don’t flog yourself for your failings. Allow God to redeem your situation. Trust in the Lord, and try not get in His way. He wants to renew things. Always look for creative ways to love your family. (Surprise ice cream does wonder!)
Work— Not surprisingly, some employers have very little tolerance for your issues, but the law says is that they can’t discriminate against a mental illness. I hope it won’t come down to that.
Fellow strugglers-– Finding other mentally ill believers is priceless. When I meet someone who also struggles with severe depression I want to give them a big bear hug. We instantly have a rapport that isn’t easily defined. Finally, there is someone who understands my battle.
Prayer–Desperate prayers have a tendency to get answered. Start praying for five minutes a day. Pray, do not complain. Be real, not religious. Talk with Jesus like he was your best friend. Prayer is the key to making the above work. Prayer is the “heartbeat” of heaven.
We have the joy of combining our discipleship with our illness.
This is a formidable task. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit stands ready to give us His wisdom. He graces us with intense spiritual power. The battle rages and times get tough. Perhaps “grittiness” should we should add to the fruits of the Holy Spirit? I’ve now walked with Him for over 40 years now, and I know Jesus has never left me alone. He never lets me ‘twist in the wind.’
The Lord truly will accommodate your illness with His power and grace.
He always does this for His children. No believer is ever overlooked or forgotten. He is constantly aware of you.
“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.”
— Alan Redpath
These are only some of the areas that are affected by your mental illness. A wise spouse, pastor, elder, friend, or therapist can do wonders when things get difficult. Sometimes we need a new perspective as we sort things out. God will often use others to bandage and heal us. That’s the way He works.
“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”