A short reading and prayer for today
O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out to you by day. I come to you at night. Now hear my prayer; listen to my cry. For my life is full of troubles, and death draws near. Psalm 88:1-3 NLT
This is possibly the saddest of all the psalms. The psalmist cried out to God in a state of total despair. Many of the psalms are referred to as psalms of lament but this one goes even further and is full of absolute desperation. It is painful to read the psalm because it is so bleak, but I am so glad that it is part of the Bible. It reminds us that God is there for us, whatever the circumstances. His love reaches out to us even in the darkest of places. It reminds me of Psalm 139 where the psalmist declared that it is impossible to escape from God’s Spirit. “I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.” (Psalm 139.7-8) We are all different and it may be that you have never been through such desperate times and never will. But from time to time we will all meet people who are struggling with life and it is important for us to be able to point them to psalms like this. For amidst his battling the psalmist knew that he could turn to God and be totally honest about his situation. He didn’t need to dress up and put on a good performance for God. He could come to God just as he was with all the sharp edges of his confusion and disappointment.
I fear at times that people perceive the church as a place for good people who have resolved all the difficult issues in their life. The truth is that the doors are open wide to people who are struggling and who are willing to be open to God. I used to work in a church which had a huge notice on the front of the building declaring, “Welcome. No perfect people allowed.” Of course, since none of us are perfect, the church was saying that everyone was welcome! Whether we are in debt or wealthy, disappointed with life or fulfilled, friendless or surrounded by friends, in employment, unemployed or retired God gladly welcomes us. All of us are welcome, just as we are!
Is your church good at welcoming every kind of person? If not, why not?
Loving Heavenly Father, thank you that your arms are open wide to people whatever their circumstances. Amen
Photo – Parish church, Ballycastle