It’s been a rough year in many ways, bordering apocalyptic.
In July our daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. We spent August in the hospital. We self-quarantined our family in the fall and by the time we hit Christmas, our little girl had lost her hair.
We endured a dark winter and the year 2020 couldn’t come fast enough.
The new year would coincide with the launch of a new ministry, the healing of our daughter, and a new chapter in our life. I couldn’t wait for 2020. I was pumped for 2020.
And then it came.
Plague. Death. Civil Unrest. Chaos.
There are glimmers of hope to be sure. Sometimes the foundations of our faith and society need to be shaken to understand who we are, the true nature of the church, and our identity in Christ. It’s often through struggle and pain that we build the fortitude required to go the distance and enact lasting change. To quote James 1:3, “the testing of our faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you might be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.
But can we be honest for a moment? It’s been a tough year. God has been SO faithful in the midst of it all and we have much to be thankful for but I need to offer a lament.
If you want to hear it, keep reading.
In the dictionary a lament is described as “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow” and it doesn't come natural for me. I've needed a tutor to help me along and my guide has been the first half of the book of Psalms.
I have my perfect lament for 2020. It was written by the Sons of Korah.
Korah was a bad dude.
He lived with the generation of Israelites that wandered in the wilderness for forty years and in Numbers 16 he led an uprising against Moses and Aaron. God’s judgment was swift and thorough. 14,700 people died.
Fortunately, the Sons of Korah rewrote the legacy of their forefather. They rewrote what it meant to be a Korahite and redefined his name by equating it with praise.
“The Korahites stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.” 2 Chronicles 20:19
I like to think of The Sons of Korah as the ancient equivalent of Hillsong United. They were worship leaders in the temple and they often wrote much of their own music.
Their title track on their feature album was Psalm 42.
It's my lament for 2020.
More than likely, it was a psalm written in exile. The Sons of Korah hadn’t worshipped corporately in quite some time and they longed to be back in the presence of God with other brothers and sisters worshipping with them. They were tired of being away from the temple. Their souls needed to be refreshed.
Not only does the American church feel a growing sense of exile in our post-Christian culture, but we have also found ourselves in physical exile with Covid-19. Only recently have we begun to gather again for corporate worship and yet, because of the restrictions and in our case because of our daughter's medical condition, we can't worship as a family in a large gathering.
Psalm 42 begins…
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.”
They longed for the way things used to be when they would gather corporately at the house of God and sing shouts of praise with other worshippers. They remembered when they used to worship “among the festive throng”.
No social distancing.
No groups of 50 or less.
They are thirsty to meet with him again. They remembered the Mighty One and had a deep desire to praise him once again.
But their lament is not only a longing to worship. There are other dynamics at play. They find themselves distraught over the oppression and chaos in their society. They are downcast and disturbed by what they have seen and witnessed and the lament continues.
“5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
6 My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
8 By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” 10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
The Sons of Korah have experienced deep levels of internal depression and external oppression. They've taken a look at the world around them and feel downcast and disturbed. They’re struggling to reconcile his sovereign care with their situation.
Since the death of George Floyd, there has been a national outcry for justice and an end to racism. At the same time, on many streets of the US, chaos has reigned and the enemy has sown seeds of discord and violence.
There is great confusion. There is great anger.
I’ve personally experience all of these emotions...discouragement, anger, and frustration. I see our society spiraling. The answers aren’t clear and the way forward is complicated. This won't change overnight. The Sons of Korah felt the same way. Perhaps they even wondered at times about their great, great, great grandfather and whether his sin had somehow caused their situation.
But in this lament, the Sons of Korah fought discouragement by speaking to their soul. They talked back to their depression and they engaged in a fight for their faith.
Sometimes that is the first battle that must be won. It is the battle for our souls. The psalmist tells his soul on a regular basis to put its hope in God. In the midst of the chaos, he reminds himself of what is real and what is true. If the Sons of Korah were living after Christ, they would have reflected on the promises of the gospel, the fact that Jesus is greater than anything the world has to offer, and that he always provides. The Psalm ends in repetition.
“11 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Let's put that final refrain on repeat and sing it over and over again.
Put your hope in God.
Put your hope in God.
Put your hope in God.
Where is your hope these days? FOX, CNN, MSNBC, Democrats, Republicans, Trump, Biden, Cuomo, Black Lives Matter, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal? I hope not. Politics is the religion of a post-Christian society that has lost it's hope in God. That's not me. I hope that's not you. Our hope is in God and only God can change the condition of the human heart. Only God can change the mess we are in.
Only God can make all things new.
What does that mean for us today? It means we need to pray more fervently. We need to fast more regularly. But we also need to remain hopeful. We need to acknowledge that he is in control.
Psalm 42 is my lament for 2020. Maybe it's yours as well.
The Sons of Korah felt the pain we are experiencing.
They knew what it was like to desperately want God to move. They knew what it was like to be away from the temple. They experienced our discouragement and they've known the disturbed feelings that you and I possess. But they also knew where to find hope and in the middle of their lament, they decided to talk back to their soul by saying these five words.
Put your hope in God.
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