Faith, intellect and will, do not deny emotions, they do not ignore them, they simply guide them.
Have you ever felt utterly alone, exhausted, abandoned? Have you ever found yourself in situations that are out of your control, and felt lost, without any apparent aid close at hand? This is how the psalmist was feeling when he wrote this psalm. He was in distress, feeling on the verge of fainting from the tension and fear. He was worried over the ‘hidden traps’ that might be awaiting him. He looked around and could not see anyone willing to acknowledge him. He could see no escape, and felt that no one cared for him.
We have all felt things like this. Maybe we feel this way at this moment in our lives. The psalmist does exactly what we do when we are feeling this way; “I cry out to you, Lord.” Even in the midst of these powerful feelings there remains a small ember of faith burning yet within him. “When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way.” There is still a spark of that hope that comes from faith deep within him, that recognizes that even though things are really bad all around him in his life, God is near. Someone does care for him with a faithfulness and an intensity that cannot be suppressed by life’s troubles, no matter how great they are.
Still, we hear in his prayer the desperation of our humanity. As a human being, he is overwhelmed with strong feelings. Like the psalmist, our emotions can sometimes become so intense and powerful that they threaten to overwhelm us with fear, or doubt. Our emotions are great gifts from God too. They make our lives rich and sensitive, they allow us to feel the deep intensity of love and compassion. They make it possible for us to empathize with the suffering of others. But sometimes we get caught up in them and are swept away in their hurricane force winds. We are like sail boats. When things are smooth, these winds are gentle and sweet. But when life gets difficult, like it has for the psalmist in today’s reflection, our sails billow with ragged, intense emotional winds and those winds threaten to take us where they will, especially if there is no rudder, no tiller to guide the craft. As Christians we have such a rudder. It is our conscience and our will, which are formed by the capacity of our intellects and by our faith. Faith, intellect and will, do not deny emotions, they do not ignore them, they simply guide them. Our emotional lives are still just as intense, but with faith, intellect and will, we can use the energy of our emotions for good ends. We do not fall victim to a, “come what may,” thoughtless emotionalism.
This is why the psalmist, even as he is in the depths of these intense feelings of abandonment and loneliness, can still cry out to God in hope. “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” (Verses 6&7) This is the pronouncement of hope. It could come from nowhere else but the depths of a rich faith. If our faith is like that of the psalmist here, we too can cry out for God’s aid and it will be ours. He will strengthen us. He will help us guide the boat of our lives through the many storms that come our way. His promise is true. He will never abandon us. He knows the sea of troubles that life can bring. He lived them. Remember, too, when the disciples and Jesus were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee and a fierce squall came up. The disciples were terrified and woke Jesus saying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Then Jesus got up and rebuked the furious storm saying simply, “Quiet! Be still!” And the storm winds calmed. Then he said to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4: 39-40)
What the psalmist had, and what the disciples needed to be reminded of, was faith. It is our faith in God that saves us. He is always there, always willing to save, we just need to believe it. Lord, in our weakness we cry out to you, “We believe, help our unbelief.” (Mark 9: 24) We pray this believing in the power of your holy name, Jesus. Amen!
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