Scripture Reading: Psalm 77:1-20
I got the call on a Tuesday. The son we were going to graft into our family through adoption was now staying with his biological family, to be raised by his grandmother. I had already packed a bag for the hospital. We were less than a week away from his due date, and now, there was no due date in sight.
It’s hard to describe the pain of that moment. Four years of infertility. Months of adoption preparation. All the finances invested in growing our family disappeared in an instant, but that paled in comparison to watching our future go up in smoke. The little boy I’d pictured standing between my husband and me, with this dark skin and curled hair, was gone. The thoughts kept pounding at the place between my eyes: I’ll never know what he looks like. I’ll never even know his name.
I’ll be honest: in the moments after that call, I didn’t open up the psalms. Instead, I walked upstairs to the little nursery we’d yet to complete and grabbed the handmade quilt my mother’s best friend had made for the boy. It was meant to warm him as he slept, but now I buried my face in it and wept. I screamed. No one was home but me, and so I let myself go—until my throat quivered and the cries sounded eerily like that of a child wailing for its mother.
The Message translation of Psalm 77 says, “I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs… my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal” (vv. 1-2). I know what that feels like. I’d guess many of us do. But how often do we give ourselves permission to yell and cry out like this? How often do we express our sorrow and the fullness of our pain? Not often.
In an effort to bypass our grief—in fear that God’s silence will be too much to bear—I believe many of us never ask the questions the psalmist so brutally lays down: Where are you, God? Have you forgotten me completely? I thought you were supposed to be compassionate. But this doesn’t feel like compassion.
Instead, we try to end the pain as quickly as possible, either through secular comfort (read: retail therapy) or spiritual practices (read: small groups, counseling, meditation, and yes, sometimes even Bible reading). But Psalm 77 shows us that we can bring our raw emotion to God. We can ask our honest questions without fear. We can scream at the top of our lungs, and God will still listen.
But the psalmist does not stop with his questions. He asks them, and then he gets up off the floor. It is essential that we bring our honest selves to God, in all our brokenness. But it is just as essential that we are honest about who God is to us. In a place of pain, truth is a hard pill to swallow. But it is the medicine we need most. We need to remember that all His ways are good, even in the midst of our sorrow and pain. The Message translation of the psalm goes on to say:
Once again I’ll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders;
I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts (vv. 11-12).
I have a history full of examples to pick from to remember God’s character. After all, the psalmist didn’t know Moses and Aaron—he wasn’t present when God parted the Red Sea—but he praised God for it anyway. Jesus hasn’t ended my sickness, but the stories of when He walked on earth prove that He is our Healer. The ancient wonders remind me of the truth: my current circumstances do not outweigh God’s eternal promises.
This is the rhythm of faith. Yell out, and then remember.
Claire Gibson is a writer whose work has been featured in publications including The Washington Post and Entrepreneur Magazine among many others. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Patrick, their son, Sam, and their dog, Winnie. Her debut novel, Beyond the Point, will be published next year.