“How do you live with the pain?” he asks.
And then I read this to him:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
I can’t lay hands on your heart or mine and make the pain easier to bear. With mock gesture and the most impressively religious voice I could muster, I waved my hand over his heart and then gently struck his forehead. “Change your attitude. H….O….P….E.”
They don’t need to be studied or analyzed.
They don’t need to be read like you’d read any book you might pick up.
They must be prayed, sung, groaned, creaked, croaked, danced, dirged.
You’re out of words. Others’ words lie flat and flaccid.
The Psalms give you the words. Start masticating them. Gnawing them. Ingesting them. Absorbing them.
They’ll direct you to the inner “river whose streams make glad the city of God” in the midst of an outer world going to hell. Fast. When you’re in pain, and the world around you is going to hell, we grit our teeth and fight it. We rebel. We resist. We refuse to let go. We will fight. We will fix.
But the Psalmist says “Sink.”
I read the definition of that Hebrew word translated “Be still” in the classic injunction, “Be still and know that I am God.” Such a peaceful, easy, restful, comforting word, “be still.”
The Hebrew is הַרְפּוּ (har-poo). It’s a good word to say slowly, imagining yourself falling backward into what you are trusting are waiting arms. The summarized meaning of the word? “To sink, relax, sink down, let drop, be disheartened.”
Gotta love it.
“Have you seen Finding Nemo?” I asked. “Do you remember when Marlin and Dory are in the whale’s mouth, and then they find themselves pitched precariously over the abyss of the whale’s throat? Dory tells Marlin to let go (har-poo!) and Marlin yells back ‘How do you know something bad won’t happen?’ and then Dory replies, ‘I don’t!’ and then they both let go. Do you remember that? That’s Psalm 46:10. That’s ‘be still.’ We are determined not to be swallowed by this pain and we kick and curse at it like Quint being swallowed whole in Jaws. But what if you need to be swallowed by this – so like Marlin and Dory you can be blown out the blowhole of the whale that just happens to be taking you closer to your goal?”
That’s what I said as he stood there in his pain.
And then I took another breath…