Call & Response: Hearts Poured Out
“Why have you forsaken me?”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” wrote King David out of his deep despair, “why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22:1-2). This poem, poignantly captured in divinely-inspired text, reflects the utter brokenness of Israel’s mightiest king. From slaying a giant to fleeing his own son, David moved through life’s chaotic motions. Though he is remembered as a man after God’s own heart, this Jewish king was not immune to the fluctuations of his own heart.
Seasons of life
Life is anything but predictable. We plan for the future, yet we never know what the next day will bring. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, the Preacher describes the range of circumstances life will throw our way. These shifting scenarios he calls seasons. From birth to death, we are guaranteed success, failure, and everything in between. Each season offers life, loss, and sometimes both recklessly meshed together. Given this uncertainty, how do we respond?
Seasons of the heart
The shifting seasons Solomon describes evoke a range of responses in our hearts. When spring’s warm winds begin to loosen winter’s frozen grip, the excitement of new life blooms in our hearts. At other times, the approach of autumn cools our passions. From grieving to rejoicing and joy to anger, the shift of life conditions the responses of our souls. What are we supposed to do with these emotions?
The God who listens
In a story found in Genesis 16, the writer offers some keen insight into the role of our feelings. According to the text, Hagar, Abraham’s mistress, was found to be with child. In a fit of jealousy, Sarah, the patriarch’s wife, began to mistreat her husband’s mistress. Unable to bear the abuse, Hagar fled with her unborn child. Together they struggled through the parched deserts of Canaan. With each step, despair invaded Hagar’s heart. The Lord, however, “is close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18). He reminded the sojourning sufferer that he knew her grief. He is a God who hears and who sees.
A Psalm for every season
Like Hagar, God is intimately attuned to our hearts, whether happy or sad. To help us in our journey, he gave us the Psalms. These poems remind us that our emotions are valid. Moreover, these lyrical Scriptures teach us a vocabulary to express our hearts to God, for emotions can be difficult to translate into words.
When the Psalm writer was overcome with joy, Psalm 4 flowed from his quill. In the moment that anger arose, however, the poem author composed Psalm 69. In his grief, he wrote Psalm 22. In his hope, he penned Psalm 23.
The beauty of these divinely-inspired poems is that we can pray them directly, or we can use them as a pattern to shape our prayer life. Either way, God yearns for us to love him wholeheartedly, and invites us to pour out our hearts at his feet.
God at the end
As we offer the spectrum of our emotions to God, what hope do we receive in exchange? To what end do we undertake heartfelt prayer? As the Preacher carries through his discourse in Ecclesiastes 3:9-22, we read that God, in the end, will judge every time and season. Reflecting on the significance of this, pastor David Gibson writes:
“But now the Preacher adds a wonderful perspective…the times of my life are not the only times there are. There is a time to be born and a time to die, and there is a time for judgment. One of the ways we learn to live…is by realizing that death means judgement and that this is a good thing. It gives my present actions meaning and weight, and it gives my experienced losses and injustices a voice in God’s presence. What is past may be past, but what is past is not forgotten to God, and because he is in charge and lives forever, one day all will be well. Every single thing that happens will have its day in court” (Living Life Backward).
When you pour your heart out at God’s feet, he gathers every tear and stores them in his jar. He remembers your joys, recollects your losses, and imbues them with meaning. David, the forlorn sovereign who mourned God’s abandonment in Psalm 22:1, offers another beautiful reflection in the next chapter. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” writes the shepherd king, “and surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:1,6). The heart poured out to God will never run dry.