Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Joy comes in the morning

I've been wandering of late through a bit of a dry spell spiritually, feeling adrift and occasionally abandoned. If you live the Christian life long enough, such times will creep in on you. In one of my favorite stories of womanly wit, Martin Luther's wife Katie once appeared at the breakfast table in full mourning clothes and, when questioned, declared that God was dead. Her pious husband was horrified until she explained that his doleful demeanor day after day could be accounted for in no other way. "You have convinced me, Katie, dear," he said. "So if you ever see me again with a melancholy countenance, remind me that God is living, that he will live forever." Reminders are good. (And if you haven't seen the movie Luther, go see it! I plan to watch it this week as part of my annual Holy Week observation, which also includes watching Jesus Christ Superstar. Since the latter ends with the crucifixion, it's a Good Friday tradition for me. Luther is a new tradition, but it's a powerful reminder of the reasons for the Reformation and convicting if you wonder whether you'd have the nerve to die for what you say you believe.)

Some years ago, a friend gave me a devotional consisting of morning and evening readings of Scripture each organized around a central theme. Originally compiled by a father and husband who was leading his family's devotions, this little volume of Scripture drew me in the other night as I prayed to God for a boost out of the miry pit. Here's what I read:

O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me! [Is 38:14] Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak. My soul also is greatly troubled. [Ps 6:2-3] Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help. [Ps 22:11] For You cast me into the deep...all Your billows and Your waves passed over me. The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me. [Jonah 2:3,5] When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. [Ps 61:2] My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word. [Ps 119:25] You have heard my voice; You drew near on the day I called on You, and said, "Do not fear!" [Lam 3:56-57] You are near, O LORD. [Ps 119:151] A very present help. [Ps 46:1] He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. [Is 40:29] Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. [James 5:11] The LORD has anointed Me...to comfort all who mourn...to give them...the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. [Is 61:1-3] Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. [Ps 30:5]

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