By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local columnist
It’s amazing how often we can find ourselves within the pages of the biblical Book of Psalms. Consider Psalm 130.
I hope we’re not in this psalmist’s sandals often, but anyone who has lived very long can empathize with him. Hurting and almost hopeless, he writes, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!”
This psalmist is telling us something about the nature of this fallen world, the nature of needy man, and the nature of our mighty and merciful God.
The rendering in The Message captures the truth here: “Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cries for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.”
For the psalmist, the “bottom has fallen out.” A Latin term has at times served as a title for this psalm: De Profundis. Something that is “profound” is deep, and the word used for “depths” here has to do with deep waters.
The psalmist is saying, “I’m in such trouble that it feels like I’m sinking into the deep waters. I’m headed down into the blackness of oblivion! I can’t get myself out! Dear God, help!”
When you’re drowning, it’s not the time for polite words: “If you don’t mind, would you help me please. Ever so sorry to be a bother, but I really believe that I may be drowning.”
In Africa a couple of years ago, my son Josh and I went rafting down the Nile. We had guides and help. Most of the trip was amazingly beautiful.
But as we came to one long Class 4 or 5 rapid, we knew we’d be tossed out of the raft—again. But we wanted to ride it as long as we could. Outside the boat in that class of white water it is surprisingly difficult to get your breath even if you’re on the surface—and we soon weren’t. Cast into the depths and carried off underwater in different directions, we later both confessed that for several long dark moments, we thought drowning was not unlikely.
“O Lord, out of the depths I cry to you!”
You don’t have to go rafting down the Nile to understand the psalmist. Life has tumbled in, and gone are the illusions that we can handle it ourselves with our strength, our bank account and CDs, our professional expertise, our uncommon common sense, our noble character. No! We’re going down, and we’re fresh out of wise words and self-help strategies.
Our words are cut down to three: “O God, help!” From the “depths,” we recognize God as our only help, our only hope. No longer foolish enough to assume we deserve anything, we plead instead for sheer mercy.
In the Lord, both we and the psalmist find forgiveness and mercy and hope. And we praise Him: “My soul waits for the Lord/more than watchmen wait for the morning.”
We can trust our God. He won’t leave us in the depths.