The Turnaround Artist
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.
King David’s life was far from the life of ease we picture a king having. He dealt with enemies who were attacking him, poor health, and discouragement and hopelessness. In this psalm, he recounts a time when he felt especially depressed because, just after he had bragged about doing so well, it seemed God had abandoned him (Psalm 30:7). But David didn’t stop looking for God. He cried out to Him, and eventually, He turned his life around.
Even a casual reading of David’s psalms shows us that David wasn’t afraid of being honest with God. Over and over again, he poured out his heart, sometimes in praise, but often complaints that God seemed to be mistreating him or abandoning him. In almost every painfully honest Psalm of David, we read in the end about God’s resolution and relief.
The lesson for us is clear: God wants us to be honest with Him. He doesn’t want us to be “plastic” Christians who always put on a happy face. David’s example is that only through gut-level honesty, expressing our hurts and hopes to God, can we find Him. In this psalm and in many others, David doesn’t tell us when or how the answers come. He just tells us they did come, and that’s all we need to know. God delights in turning our mourning into dancing, but first we have to trust Him enough to be completely honest with Him.
Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces. Sanctifies afflictions are Spiritual promotions.
The writer of the old song “Tell It To Jesus” invites us to bring everything to God and lay it out before Him in the raw. We are told to withhold nothing from God and thankfully we don’t have to even try to make a good impression, we can just be ourselves. What we learn from the psalms of David is just that. As you read through the psalms, you will find they often begin with dark, discouraged, angry, and even depression words. Sometimes it seems that David finds himself in the pit of despair, sometimes he begins by questioning why God is allowing his suffering, sometimes he is asking why his enemies are prospering while he is struggling. In essence David in his honest approach to God reveals that most of us have these moments in our lives. The power of the psalms is that they let us know that we are not alone in our struggles nor our initial response to them. As you progress through the psalms, you discover something powerful that is taking place. As David begins by honestly bringing his situation before God and sometimes asking God to exact vengeance David’s way, something begins to happen on David’s heart. It seems that once he pours out his hurt, his anger, his despair and all the other things he feels about what is going on, the Holy Spirit begins to bring into the equation the goodness of God. As David reflects on the goodness and the blessings of God, the tone of the psalm changes from complaint and despair to trust and worship and praise. Many people miss this turn because they stay in the state of denial. Sometimes we have been taught to not express our feelings, especially those of anger or disappointment, to God as though somehow He isn’t already aware. What I’ve learned is that when I am totally honest with God even in the deepest hurt or the darkest place in my life, the Holy Spirit is liberated to begin the healing, restoration, and transformation in me. It is after pouring out everything, including my raw emotions and feelings, emptying myself of hurt, bitterness, and anger that I begin to experience the “balm of Gilead” being poured over my soul and oh the sweet peace and presence that washes away those feelings and fills my soul with hope again.
As I grew up, the impression I had, even after being saved and answering the call to ministry was that no one should “question God.” After all He is sovereign and He can do anything He wishes and if something is happening in our lives, even if it’s something terrible, we ought to just accept it as the will of God with some undisclosed purpose. Perhaps it has been the rebellious, questioning child in me, but I’ve learned through my pursuit of God that He doesn’t get offended when we question things. As a matter of fact, I think He wants us to come to Him with our questions, our doubts, our struggles and just openly talk to Him about it all. I don’t know about you, but for me this seems to describe what I perceive as a best friend. Don’t we have that someone in our lives that we can just go to and unload on without the fear that they will judge us or break off our friendship? And if that is thru for an earthly friend, how much more so is it true for our Heavenly Friend- Christ Jesus. It was in one of the most painful places in my life that I discovered this powerful truth. The day after my 25th birthday, my father chose to end his life. The emotional and spiritual battle that raged in my soul was indescribable. All my life, I had seen a Godly man who loved God, who read his Bible, and when he prayed it was as though God was sitting in a chair in the room. He had been battling health issues for many years including the excruciating pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Though he had experienced the healing power of God many times before, for some reason, God never healed him with the arthritis. I don’t know to this day why he chose to end his life and I’ve left that with God. Up to that point I had been told that those who commit suicide went to hell because it was a sin and there could be no forgiveness. And so here I was torn between the witness of a godly life and the teaching that those who end their lives don’t go to heaven. The death was difficult in itself, for the loss of a dad by a 25 year old is traumatic. And on top of that loss was the way it came about. I diligently sought God, with a broken heart and spirit and hidden in my heart was an anger toward God that I couldn’t admit to because “we aren’t supposed to feel that way.” So I kept it bottled up inside me until one day as I was trying to pray and getting nowhere, the cork popped. I remember literally yelling at God through my sobs. I rehearsed all the reasons that it shouldn’t have happened and why I thought it was unfair and unkind and in the midst of all that my anger surfaced. I must confess that even while the words poured out, I was terrified that somehow I was offending God. And then something incredible happened. I remember one of the questions I asked God was, “Who will be my dad now? Who will I go to when I don’t know what to do? Who can I trust like I trusted my dad?” Those were were actually more accusatory than questions. And in that place of honesty, I heard God speak. I do not know whether it was actually audible or not, but the power of those words filled my soul with peace and hope for I heard God say, “I will be your Father. When you don’t know what to do , ask and I’ll give you direction. You can always trust Me that I have your best interest in My heart. And for forty years now I have found that promise to be true. God has given me peace about my dad and has shown me His mercy and grace in unimaginable ways. Most of all God has given me the understanding that it’s ok to be honest with Him. It was later after this experience that I begin to read the psalms of David and discovered that the Bible says it’s ok to be honest with God.
So if you’re in a difficult place today and perhaps you don’t feel comfortable sharing your true feelings with anyone else, we have a Friend who is ok if we are totally honest with Him. You will find when you fully open up to God that His healing peace fills your soul. The situation may not change or at least it may not change in the short term, but you will find the burden lifted and you can know that God is working on your behalf. You will discover that God loves you without condition as you openly tell Him what He already knows.
Dr. John Thompson