Many years ago I heard an interview with Bono, the lead singer of U2. In it he was talking about the Psalms and how many of them are written from a place of despair. He stated that times of trouble are important because without the blues people do not recognize their need for Salvation. One such Psalm that deals with despair is chapter 88.
88 O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. 2 Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!
3 For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, 5 like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. 6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. 7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
In recent months I have seen people lose parents, friends, co-workers, husbands or wives, and even children. Some to COVID-19, others to cancer, accidents, or natural causes. Life is full of troubles and everybody gets the blues. The blues reminds us of our need for rescue, it reveals our longing for redemption. Our troubles in this world keep us aware that things are not as they should be.
Unfortunately many people get stuck in their blues and cannot find a way out. For those people, the pit of despair becomes a prison of fear. The fear that accompanies despair paralyzes us and prevents us from moving outside the prison walls. It makes us lose our focus, doubt our abilities, and question our beliefs.
For many in this time of uncertainty where countries are in political unrest, 1,000s are still dying because of a global pandemic, and when the economy is not as safe or certain as it once was, let us remember that God is still in control.
2 Timothy 1:7 reads: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.“
Contextually Paul is telling Timothy not to be afraid to use his Spiritual gift for the good of God’s Kingdom or to be afraid of any suffering that may come with proclaiming the name of Christ, but the principle in the text is clear. Trust in God and do the right thing.
In the 1980s when the Aid’s epidemic first happened, many people were afraid of those with the disease. They were unsure of how it spread or how easily one could contract it. As a result, many people in need of serious help were left feeling rejected by society (not unlike the lepars of the ancient world).
In our climate today there is a great deal of fear related to the idea of catching COVID, going to war, or even helping those in our community with their struggles. Instead of being afraid to help those in need, trust God and do the right thing. Instead of letting fear prevent you from making choices that could be good for you or the community around you, trust God and do the right thing.
Make your voice heard about the need to help women, foreigner, and others in Afghanistan. Be willing to get the vaccine to help prevent the spread of Covid. Give your friend struggling with cancer a hug. Provide a meal to the single mother working two jobs and trying to keep her family healthy despite COVID spreading through schools.
I mentioned the Aid’s Epidemic above because it is easy to be afraid of those around you today who may have COVID, it is easy to isolate yourself to the detriment of yourself and others just as what happened 30 years ago. Instead of going around in a state of panic or fear, trust the Lord. Do what is right. Help those in need and keep despair and fear from moving you too far into isolation. Check on your neighbors. Check on your extended family. Offer words of encouragement. Be there for those who are sick and don’t make them go it alone (even if it requires communication through FaceTime or Zoom).
Don’t give up. Psalm 88 ends on a sad note, but all throughout the Psalm the writer states that he continually calls out to God. I don’t know how long these dark, different, strange days will last. I honestly thought the pandemic would have ended by now. But what I do know is that God is good and even when we are surrounded by darkness with no end in sight, he is still worthy of our trust. God walks with us through the darkness. God is beside us when we are in despair. God carries us when we have the blues. Keep moving, keep going, keep trusting.
Dr. Scott Shiffer has a Ph.D. in Christian Theology from the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute and has been teaching religion classes since 2006. He leads Transformation Media Ministries, an organization to help believers think biblically about culture in America. Scott has given numerous presentations including one at Oxford. He has spoken at church retreats, youth retreats, conferences, and has taught discipleship classes for over 10 years. Scott is married and has three children. He has a heart for helping believers draw closer to God and for aiding them as they are faced with new challenges in America every day.