Rarely do you get advance notice that trouble is about to strike. One day a person has plans and hopes but the next day everything is shattered. Today is so different from yesterday; a huge frightening freefall into an abyss of darkness. Their world has been abruptly turned upside down. Swirling around them are thick, dark clouds of despair. A completely different universe. Their ears hear nothing but the screeching tires of life hitting the side of a mountain without notice – the horrific sounds of the mettle (not a typo) of life crashing and crushing upon impact. The sounds are replayed in a non-stop repetitive loop.

“Is this life? What will ‘normal’ look like in the future? Will I ever be able to smile sincerely again, or will it always be forced? Will this suffocating heaviness ever leave me? How long will I have to pretend that I am being strengthened in the trial? Will the well-intentioned words of consolation ever sound real or will they always be shallow, hollow and irritating to me?”

In my distress I cried to the LORD, and He answered me. Psalm 120:1

“In my trouble, distress, anguish, extreme discomfort, affliction, adversity and tightness, I called and cried out to the Lord.” Which word best describes your situation and your feelings today?

In this first of the fifteen Songs of Ascents (Ps. 120-134), the poet is crying out to the Lord in his intense distress. It seems like he was the target of vicious lies and malicious slander – character assassination! No, it wasn’t the horrible news of disease; or the crushing shock of death or the heart-breaking reality of the bad choice of a child or the loss of a job.

No, the poet is careful to say: “In my distress. My distress is my character has been attacked. It doesn’t cut any deeper than that. How can I fight back? Others may feel their trouble is the absolute worst, but for me, my distress is that I’ve been falsely accused; it goes to the very core of who I am.”

But as you read this, you’re thinking – I wish that was all I had to worry about. I could handle slander and a vicious attack on myself or our family. But my distress is so much worse and so hopeless — as far as I can see into the future.

Whatever my distress is – the resource is still the same: The Lord. He doesn’t specialize in just dealing with certain kinds of distress. It’s not that He’s better dealing with one trouble over another. He’s a specialist in dealing with all troubles and responding in times of crisis – regardless of the nature of the distress.

“And He answered me.” Isn’t it amazing? Away up there, He hears our cries away down here. That’s God!  Of course, you know, dear child of God, He’s much, much closer than that. He’s not really light years away!!  And He is good. When He responds to the cries of your anguished heart – His response is not merely a good response – as if it was one good response among several good options. But His answer is the good response.

Maybe you’ve never noticed this verse in your Bible:

Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their God.  Isaiah 50:10

There are times in Christian experience when there is no light. Total darkness. What do we do then? The verse anticipates this period in our lives and says: “Trust in the Name of the Lord and rely on God.”

Perspective is so important. We lose it quickly. Calendar time allows us to regain perspective; but more profoundly, time alone with God, heaving out the sobs of a broken heart in His Presence, provides the deeper perspective.  That deeper perspective is His response – His answer. The cries from Gethsemane didn’t change the circumstances of Calvary but who would ever question the infinite value of the intimacy experienced and the joy amidst those sorrows during those dark hours?

“In my distress, I cried to the LORD, And He answered me.”

Walk carefully and closely with the Lord today.

Warmly in Christ
Peter Ramsay

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