Feb 4, 2012

A Cry for Help

“LORD, help!” they cried in their trouble,
     and he rescued them from their distress.

Psalm 107 reminds us to “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!” (107:1). The bulk of the psalm consists of four vignettes that illustrate God’s saving grace, in response to which we owe thanks and praise. Whether people were lost and hungry, or chained in gloom, or suffering from sin-induced illness, or tossed about in a stormy sea, the Lord demonstrated his “great love” by delivering them.

At the center of each vignette comes a desperate prayer: “ ‘LORD, help!’ they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress” (107:6). This sentence appears three other times in Psalm 107, with stylistic variations of the verbs “to cry out” and “to rescue.” The cry for God’s help serves as the centerpiece of a common story: people were in deep trouble; they cried to the Lord; he saved them. His response to people’s cry for help provides a foundation for praise, not only from those who received the help, but also from all of God’s people.

Psalm 107 reminds us of times when we have cried out to God in desperation and God has answered. I can remember many such times: when my children were terribly sick, or when God seemed very distant or even nonexistent, or when challenges at work overwhelmed me and sapped my strength, or...I could write my own version of Psalm 107, and perhaps I should! What a timely exercise for the upcoming season of Lent.

To be sure, there are times in life when we call out to God and his answers are painfully slow or not what we would like. Many psalms deal openly with the problem of God’s apparent silence (for example, Psalms 10 and 22). Yet Psalm 107 encourages us to reflect upon the times when God’s deliverance has been obvious and miraculous. When I remember how God reached out to me when I was filled with despair, when I think of how many different ways God has rescued me, then my heart gladly accepts the call of Psalm 107: “Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.” Remembering God’s goodness to me stirs me to offer thanks and praise, to worship the Lord with all that I am.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When have you been in a desperate situation, crying out to the Lord? What happened? Could you write a personal version of Psalm 107? What are some of the major ways you have experienced God’s grace and mercy in your life?

PRAYER: All thanks and praise be to you, O God, because you are good. Your faithful love endures forever. Yes, Lord, you have redeemed me, in the biggest way of all, in countless other ways as well.

When I found my faith waning and could not prop it up with arguments and reasons, you reached out to make yourself known to me. How I praise you for your great love!

When I struggled with deep discouragement, bound in the darkness of my hopelessness, you reassured me with your presence and rescued me from my emotional chains. How I praise you for your great love!

When I wandered away from your ways and made a mess of my life, you forgave me and helped to rebuild what I had shattered. How I praise you for your great love!

When I felt tossed about by the waves of human inconsistency, when friends betrayed me, you calmed the storms of my life, protecting me and encouraging me. How I praise you for your great love!

All praise and thanks be to you, O God, because you are good! Amen.
 

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