I did a funeral today. Can you guess what psalm I used?
That’s right. Good ole Psalm 23. The psalm people who don’t even know scripture probably know.
It’s so well constructed. So heartfelt. What could beat images like the gentle shepherd, and the valley of the shadow of death, and dwelling in the house of the lord forever? I don’t know for sure who wrote Psalm 23, but it’s earned its place as Top-10Bests.com’s 2nd most famous scripture, right under the reigning champion “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
But just once, I’d love someone to suggest something different. Maybe accidentally ask for Psalm 13 instead of Psalm 23.
Have you read Psalm 13 recently?
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me
Psalm 13 has a lot going for it. It’s about the same handy size as Psalm 23, has a nice ending, but most importantly, it SOUNDS like me. Like the frenzy of thoughts and emotions that can race through my head in a tough time.
Psalm 23, for all it’s glamour, sounds like a perfect vision. Psalm 13 sounds like a perfect mess. And when I’m in a serious time of need, that’s what I closely resemble.
Here’s some of the ways Psalm 13 resonates with me:
“Will you forget me forever?” A flat out accusation of God. An irrational declaration of abandonment. CHECK.
“How long must I wrestle with my thought/have sorrow in my heart”. Yes! When I’m in a bad way I can’t seem to control my thoughts or feelings. I’m just stewing in my fragmented juices. CHECK.
“How long will my enemy triumph over me?” Defeated. Lost. Weak and Helpless. CHECK, CHECK, CHECK and CHECK.
“Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death”. Overdramatic much? Yeah, been there too. CHECK.
And then, right when it seems I’m throwing in the towel, like I’ve dug myself a hole darker than any shadow of death, then I come to my senses.
“I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he’s has been good to me.” CHECK. Yep. Wallah! Like a deathbed conversion, I realign myself with God. (Could you say ‘Grace’?)
So that’s it. For your consideration. Psalm 13, although far less poetic, and lacking the compelling narrative of other Psalms that end with “3” , really speaks to the crazy messy faith journey I find myself on time and again.
As I understand it, that’s what many of the Psalms are designed to do — hold themselves up like a mirror to our own irrationalities and uncertainties.
Okay… reading Psalm 13 at your funeral? Maybe not the best choice. Better to pick something flowery and King Jamesy.
But to help steer you out of the jumbled mess that is your rocky faith life?
You could do worse than Lucky 13. (CHECK!)
Have a great week,
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