In early November, I went to California for a writers retreat. There were only four students and the woman leading the retreat. I learned so much and hung out with a few other wonderful writers. And yet, the poem below is what I wrote the first night after our opening session.
The next day I read it to one of my new writer friends, a woman who has been on this writing journey for a lot less time than I have. She was touched because she had been feeling inadequate and that the rest of us were so much more accomplished than she was.
I do love when God allows me to remember the dark night of the soul in a way that brings cheer and blessing to others.
Why so downcast, Oh my soul?
I understand the psalmist's plea.
Here I am with new friends of gold
But feelings of sadness needle me.
Am I just a fraud pretending to be
One who has something worthwhile to say?
When truth be told, or a lie of old,
Never will I point to God's way.
How I feel runs hot and cold;
Now I am weak when once I was bold.
Powerless and useless are words I hear
Echoing deep in my mind as fear.
Wounds that run deep still bleed
I know they're not true, never were.
But still, still these words Oh Lord.
You are the truth, the life, the way.
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
Trials are hard, at times they seem to suffocate us and weaken our walk with God. David shares with us his own difficulty in these six verses.
Buckle your seat belt folks!
Commentary, Psalm 13
For the choir director: A psalm of David.
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? 2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
V. 1-2, David believes that he has been forgotten. A phrase is repeated an astounding four times, “How long?” It seems that impatience is a significant issue for him. Often when it gets this bad, we desperately look around to find anything to fill the gap. Anything.
Something else struck me. Within these two verses, you’ll find five hard questions. Whenever you find a question in the psalms especially, you must stop reading and take a closer look–why is he asking this?
V. 2,“Anguish…sorrow, every day.” Somehow David is alert enough to recognize (and admit) that his life is saturated with real difficulty. It seems it comes and when it comes there’s no relief– it’s a constant, gnawing, challenging pain which can be physical, emotional, or spiritual (or all three).
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. 4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
V. 3,“Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.” (I love this version–“sparkle“). David knew that life could be exceptional, it was meant to gleam and shine. There is much more than just breathing in life. He speaks of being restored. He looks toward God to change his world again.
V. 4, Also, he is quite aware that his life is being threatened. The word, “gloat” is an interesting translation. It has the idea of relishing someone else’s failure. The dark prince savors your defeat. He has been looking forward to this desperate moment. The enemy rejoices at his failures.
But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. 6 I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.
V. 5,“But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.” The Lord has covered David with His hand. His life has been saved by a love that never falters or weakens. Never! He knows that God has rescued him.
Notice how David responds to the wonderful goodness of God.
V. 6, Tremendous verse; it is really wonderful. When we finally get to this last verse, we see that we have “run the gauntlet” with David. And we have learned how to sing.
Often good jewelers display their diamond necklaces on a black background. The darkness intensifies the brightness of the jewels. They become even more beautiful to look at. David is singing and praising the Lord in His nearness. The darkness has only strengthened his faith.
I truly believe that this is what we were made to do.
“As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.”
Psalm 84:6 (NIV).
In Hebrew, the word “baka” means tears.
In Psalm 84, the sons of Korah write their praises of God and note that those whose strength is in the Lord will travel through the Valley of Baka and find His peace there. For some of us that Valley of Tears seems never-ending, but we must remember we are not alone in it. I wrote this poem to remind myself of that truth. I hope it blesses you as you pass through the valley of tears, too.
The Valley of Tears
My Savior will dry all my tears The Lord God knows all my fears As I trudge onward many years I pass through the Valley of Baka
Great pain and agony oppress I feel heavy weights of duress Praying for dear Jesus to bless I pass through the Valley of Baka
I see that this valley is long I need You to make my faith strong That Lord I might sing a praise song As I pass through the Valley of Baka