A sermon preached by Dr. Patrick H. Wrisley, July 3, 2022.
1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.[i]
One of the many reasons I appreciate the faith I am gifted with is that honest Christianity embraces the totality of one’s life. In other words, our faith, when it’s not distorted and littered about with prosperity gospel offings, is one that embraces the honest flow of life. The tide flows in and the tide flows out. The clouds come and bring rain and the sky clears and the sun appears again. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. A woman dies but her granddaughter is born. Life has a rhythm to it. Like the wise teacher who wrote the biblical book, Ecclesiastes, reminds us, that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.[ii] I say all this to not belabor the obvious but as a reminder. For some reason, scores of Christians believe in the notion that because they are beloved by Jesus, Jesus will then suspend the natural forces and prevent them from having tough times in their life.
“Preacher, I’ve lived a good life and treated others nicely, so why is God doing this to me now?”
“Preacher, I have faith, so why did cancer take my child from me?”
“Preacher, I’m a good person; why did God allow me to get fired?”
“Preacher!”…what would you and I say?
This morning’s Psalm contains one of the most profoundly beautiful statements in the Bible. It’s a statement that proclaims the sheer consistency of God’s presence in our lives during their ups and their downs. It’s right there in verse 5: Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
The biblical paraphrase, The Message, reads it, “He gets angry once in a while, but across a lifetime there is only love. The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.”
Finally, a Catholic version of the Hebrew Scriptures, The Knox Version of the Bible, says, “Sorrow is but the guest of a night, and joy comes in the morning.” Now that’s a translation that gets the point across! Hard times, sadness may be our house guest for a night but in the morning, they’ll have their bags packed up and head on down the road.
Growing up, being the youngest of four siblings, whenever in-laws came over, I was the one that got kicked out of my bedroom so Aunt Louise or Uncle Jack could have my bed. I loved Aunt Louise and Uncle Jack but I was delighted when they finally left so I could get my room back! This is what the psalmist is trying to tell us. Weeping, the hard realities of life may overwhelm us now, but with help from the faithful ones in the congregation, we are to hang on because those times of weeping and sadness will also check out and leave us be. The sky will clear, and the winds will calm down and the sea shall once again be calm.
The psalmist gives us two tools within Psalm 30 we are to use while we wait during those dark moments and difficult times. First, we are to surround our circumstances with thanks and praise. The second tool we are to use is brutal honesty with God.
The very first and last line of our text today is about praising God with a worshipful heart. The psalmist looked back over his life and remembered how God answered his prayers before by lifting him out of the depths of despair and helped maintain his honor in the presence of those who hated him. He praises God for delivering his life from the pit, literally Sheol – the place of the dead. He called out for God’s mercy and presence and then thanks God for always being there.
It’s right here, beloved, we all can learn a lesson from the psalmist. He doesn’t sing praises and prayers to God to keep him out of life’s messes; rather, he is exalting others in the congregation to join him in thanking God despite of life’s messes and hardships. Our life in Jesus is to be lived with bookends of thanks and praise whether good times or bad.
The second tool available to us in the psalm is the psalmist is brutally honest with God and calls God out in the midst of the difficulty. He reminds the Lord that should evil befall him, and he dies, the dust of his grave is not capable to sing God praises like he can. During distress, he’s honest with God and prays what he deeply feels. God can take it and understands when we grow impatient with answers to prayer we are waiting for in our lives.
When my oldest daughter was about three years old, we were out on a playground. It was getting late, and dinner was about to be ready so I said, “Okay, Lauren, we need to go wash up for dinner.” She responded with an emphatic, “No!” and she just plopped straight to the ground. Lauren was a fiercely independent little girl, so I said one more time, “Sweetheart, momma’s got dinner ready. We need to go inside now.” Again, she retorted with, “No!” but this time flipped on her stomach in the dirt. The only thing left to do was to reach down into my daddy tool chest and pull out the deep-voiced, stern, “Lauren, we are going in now” which seemed like a good thing to do at first, but it flipped a switch in her and she began kicking and pounding the ground with loud wailing tears. I shook my head, bent over, and picked her up. Her hands were still pounding, and the feet were still kicking and flailing. I turned her to face me and now I was the target of her blows. The thing is, the harder she kicked, pounded, and wailed, I simply pulled her closer to me and enveloped her in my arms. She finally went limp and stopped and hugged me back. Beloved, this is what God does with us when we get angry or hurt and raise a fist to God demanding, “What gives?” God can take it. God can absorb it and simply pulls us tighter into his chest until we calm down and instinctively hug him back.
There’s something about those two tools, thanksgiving, and honesty, that give us the ability to say with firm belief, “Weeping, sadness, heartache may be a houseguest for the night, but the dawning new day brings renewed confidence and joy the nighttime prevented me from seeing.” Weeping may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
This is a lesson my life has learned this year as I watched my wife slowly die. Holding her hand, stroking her hair, giving her sips of water as she struggled to breathe had filled with my heart and soul weeping at what was happening to her and my loss. And yet for Kelly, it was her death that brought her joy in the morning. In wonder I remind myself God was with us both at the same time.
This is what our Supper is about. The night Jesus died, he and the disciples wept. He experienced pain and cried to the Father, “Take this cup from me!” His Father didn’t. Like all people, just like you and me one day, the Son of God died. All seemed dark, lost, and scary. But then something happened.
Easter! Sunday morning came and Heavens tears of sadness were turned to tears of wonder and joy! All of Jesus’ troubles, all his pain, all his suffering were no match for new, resurrected life. The simple meal given by him at night to his disciples in tears is now a joyful celebration of a new day, a promise of new life. Come, my beloved. Let us examine ourselves and with thanksgiving, come to the Table of Heaven’s new, bright day! In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So be it.
© 2022 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
[i]The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[ii] See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.