Psalm 61: Through Lament to Trust
February is the shortest month of the year and yet it feels like it never ends. I’m tired of ice and snow and cold. I’m longing for warmer weather and an escape from winter. In the same way, I’m tired of all of these psalms of lament, one after another. Will it ever let up? But March is around the corner and with it surely will come spring. And Psalm 61, another lament, will be followed by Psalm 62, a psalm of peaceful trust. We just have to get through winter to spring, through lament to trust.
The writer of Psalm 61 is affected by a general malaise. There is no mention why he is distressed, he just is. The shortness of this psalm and its lack of specificity makes it perfect for everyone. It’s a lament for anyone who is down and depressed. It begins in common lament form “Hear my cry, O God” (1). Then continues, “From the ends of the earth I call to you.” (2) Perhaps the writer is in exile, far from home, or perhaps it is a state of mind—feeling far from God. “My heart is faint,” the writer states. He is wasting away; his strength is gone.
The writer asks God to lead him to higher ground, take him out of the dumps of depression. He asserts his trust in God, “For you are my refuge.” (3a) He asks God to keep him safe under the shelter of his wings where he would like to stay forever. “Let me dwell in your tent forever! Oh to be safe under the shelter of your wings!” (4) Kind of like me and winter—I would like to escape to some place warm!
Psalm 61 is then interrupted by a prayer for the king. It’s like an aside, or maybe a commercial, breaking into the body of the psalm. And now a word from our sponsor, the king. Perhaps the writer was reminded of the need to pray for our leaders, something worth remembering for they do need our prayers. Then the psalm concludes with words of praise, “So I will ever sing praises to your name.” (8a)
Winter in Michigan is a mixed bag. There’s temperature fluctuations, bitter cold, ice and snow, but also a lot of grey days with clouds, dirty snow and mud. Still there’s beauty in the sun sparkling on new falling snow or on ice coating trees and wires, as long as you don’t have to drive in this or lose power. This grows old.
I’m glad winter doesn’t last forever. Soon winter will give way to spring and spring to summer and summers in Michigan are a little bit of heaven! I appreciate them more because of having survived the winter. In the same way, I will appreciate the psalms of trust and praise all the more because of having survived the laments.
My winter funk can hardly be compared with someone dealing with depression because of the loss of a loved one or loss of health or some major trauma, yet that’s the beauty of Psalm 61. It speaks to anyone who is down, from minor doldrums to major blues. It is for everyone.
Moving from Lament to Trust
Nothing in this life is perfect; nothing in this life lasts forever and that is good. Only God is forever perfect. The rest of us have to deal with our imperfections, treasuring them as part of our makeup and part of living in this flawed world God gave us. We need to trust that this too will pass, trust that just as winter turns to spring, our sadness will turn to joy. We need to turn our lamenting into trust.
These days of winter will pass and give way to other days, some better, others not so great. We need to make the most of each day God gives us, treasuring them all, but never holding them too tightly. And when feeling down, do what the psalmist says, retreat to the tent of the Lord where God will keep us safe and lift our spirits.
How do you deal with winter doldrums?
(I wrote this while in Michigan. By the time it posts, I will be in sunny Australia, helping my daughter move for her job. Sometime you do get to escape! Wishing you all the best from down under!)
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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