Have you ever had one of those moments where you didn’t know what to say? Maybe your teacher caught you off guard with the implication that you had plagiarized a part of your term paper – untrue, but how to respond? Or you had one of those awkward burgeoning-relationship moments where you heard, “I love you” but you weren’t really ready to say the same. Sometimes it’s just one of those situations on the news; those jaw-dropping stories that leave you a bit flabbergasted, “I just don’t know what to say about that…”
In this last year, surely you also had the other type. Let’s call them “dark moments”. Moments in which you didn’t know what to do and therefore didn’t know what to say. Did you find out terrible health news this year – news that put you in the dark about what will come? Did you have work difficulties that boxed you into choices you did not wish for? Did you experience persecution of some kind – where the enemies of God – your friends, a co-worker, a journalist – came after you and what you believe so that you ran to hide? Do you know what it’s like to have no friends, so that it can sometimes seem like everybody’s an enemy? Have you heard confession from someone else about their thoughts or their struggles, their doubts – things for which you just didn’t feel like you had an answer?
Sometimes we don’t what to say. Oftentimes it feels hard to speak. A new year of more of those moments is quickly coming. But in 2017, let’s resolve with King David to remember what to say in situations like these. Do not be shut up. Do not be silent. But lift up your voice in 2017 like King David did.
David lifted up his voice for support from the Lord. We didn’t print it in the bulletin, but the heading for the psalm reads, “A teaching/meditative/contemplative song by David, when he was in the cave; a prayer.” David had his own dark moments. Moments where he was hemmed in. Do you remember jealous King Saul really hated and finally tried to kill David – because he was popular and capable? Twice, when he was on the run, David holed up in a hole – a cave in a mountain – for safety. He hid in the dark and waited for his enemies to either find him and kill him or pass by. What does he say for those dark moments?
Notice that David lifts up his voice – he doesn’t just quietly wait, doesn’t say nothing – he counts it valuable to say something to the Lord. He lifts up his voice “to the Lord for mercy.” This is why he can do it. This is the merciful way of God that David describes. In v.2, the implication is not just that you can do it, but that God wants to hear it – he wants you to “pour out [your] complaint before him…tell him [your] trouble.” Through Peter he said, “Cast all your anxiety on [Me], because [I care] for you.” In fact, we can and should cry out to the Lord because he has the particular answer to the problem we feel in our dark moments – we don’t know what’s coming, where to go, what to do, what to say. When we’re faint and weak like that, v.3 “it is you [Lord] who knows my way.” He sees the enemies in your path. He knows the troubles you deal with. None have escaped him. You can’t hide from him – not your sins, not your fears, not the embarrassing things – he knows them all. He knows when it’s absolutely true that escape is dead and when no one cares about you and when it just feels that way.
David says that to emphasize what’s true – David may not know what to do or say but he doesn’t have to worry because God knows what to do. And with David we do know this in our dark moments, “You [Lord] are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Isn’t this God’s promise? He doesn’t promise your job will be perfect or your marriage always bright or your finances always good. He may bless by righting those situations. It is right for you to ask. But he promises when all else fails us, he does not. From Isaiah you heard it: “ the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies – [my stuff, your family members, our friends, our plans – they’ll all die, but God says,] my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.” And Peter personalized that truth saying that you are not just people lost in the dark, you are not just people struggling to know what to do or say. You are people about whom God says, “you have been born again…through the living and enduring Word of God.” You are people born into God’s family, his children, for whom he has unending love in Jesus. In Jesus his Word brings salvation in forgiveness of your dark sins and bright peace and joy with God.
When you are hemmed in, stuck in the darkness not knowing what to do, do this. Don’t give in to the temptation to say nothing. Don’t give in to the temptation to only look around here for comfort, in this world’s wisdom for answers. Lift up your voice. You may have nothing else and know not what to say, but you can speak to the Lord for support. In mercy, he knows everything you need and is everything you need – your portion, your safe place, your salvation from all these things – and that will not change in 2017.
But you know, when you Google something like “don’t know what to say” fully half, maybe ¾ of the results are things like this: “What to say to someone who’s grieving,” or “Five things to say when someone dies.” A lot of our anxiety isn’t just about ourselves but about what to say for others. David seems to imply that that’s part of his problem in this Psalm – that the righteous, the family of God maybe wasn’t gathering around him for help. He basically says, “God, you know and you’ll bring salvation…AND THEN…”the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.”
Think about the perspective of “the righteous” who should gather around David but didn’t. Maybe they were afraid of Saul’s wrath or that their help would really hurt. Think about your perspective as God’s righteous people who look out on the troubles of others in this year coming. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say, isn’t it? Sometimes it makes us afraid – selfishly that we’ll look stupid or caringly that we’ll cause damage. Friends, don’t be silent with your family of God. Lift up your voice in 2017 for support of those in distress.
David says the righteous will gather around him “because of [the Lord’s] goodness to me.” The one in need, like David, would say, “The Lord is good, so the righteous [God’s people] will gather around me.” Do you know what the righteous say? “I will gather around the one in need because of the Lord’s goodness to me.” I know it’s daunting, but friends it’s that simple. How good God has been to you! You know he is merciful to listen to your complaint, your worry, your doubt – if you know it, might someone else not need to hear it from you that God wants to hear their worry? You know he knows your way – all the things you don’t know and all the things to do so that you don’t have to worry – if you know it, might someone else not need to hear it from you that they don’t need to worry either? You know he is your portion – your everything when there is nothing, love that will outlast the strongest foe – if you know this and it comforts you, might someone else not need to hear it from you, so that it will do the same for them?
In the words of our gospel, wouldn’t you say, “The Lord is good to me…and this is the fruit he will see.” Isn’t this exactly what Peter said tonight? It wasn’t just that you’re God’s family. No, it’s this… Now that you are God’s purified holy people who love his Word, sincerely love your brothers and sisters, “love one another deeply, from the heart.” Why? Because you have been born again out of this world and into God’s family. Because you are people who have heard the comfort in his Word. And God’s family shares that comfort with one another. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Don’t be quiet. Don’t be afraid. Speak what has brought comfort to your own hearts so that others might be comforted too. You, the righteous, gather around those in need. Consider the lives of your brothers and sisters in this new year. Do not be afraid when they are sick or alone or lost or afraid. Speak to them in love. Lift them up in prayers. Encourage them with your words and your deeds. Give to them your support – that God supports you and them with his saving love – that if they have nothing you have everything to share from God who is everything you need.
This is it brothers and sisters, family of God. Do not be quiet in this New Year but lift up your voices. Look to the Lord for support and support one another.