My oldest son, or my clone, was sent to the office at school for the first time as a first grader. As luck would have it, I happened to be in the hallway at the school as he was going there. In the distance, I gave him the stern “Dad Look” that I thought would be appropriate. That is, until he got closer. As he neared, I saw pain and tears in his little eyes, and he said to me and the teacher that he thought he was going to seriously throw up. In the moment, he was being serious. He was clenching his stomach and coughing. I went into the office with him and found a boy that was broken down by what he’d done. I saw how much he is like me in that moment.
As a musician, I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve. I have spent a good 30 years in various states of trouble because my emotions have shown through where they were unintended. I have felt that “sickening” feeling more times than I could recall when someone says, “Hey, Jon, can we chat?” After those “chats” I tend to put on songs that have a sadder undertone, maybe because I want to hear that other people are going through this kind of thing. It can be helpful to know that I am not the only emotional person in the world.
I am honestly sitting here looking at Psalms and going, David sounds like he gets it. He’s a musician. In Psalm 42 and 43, David wrote a song where the refrain is, “Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” He got it. That’s a song that needs a minor key and poorly mic’d acoustic guitar. And God called him “a man after His own heart” (Act 13:22). At least there is some hope in that, right?
In reality, there is a lot of hope in David’s laments. David grieves the pain and the sin in the world but more importantly he grieves the sin in his own heart. He cries out, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned.” We are “conceived into sin” (Psalm 51) and this world can be a hard place to live, but David shows us that it is ok to be sad and to grieve the pain in this world and the sin in our hearts whether through tears or through song (or both). There is a time to be sad.
There is also time to let out that huge, deep, earth-shattering sigh and get up off the ground, dust off your pants, set your jaw and finish the refrain from Psalm 42 and 43. “Hope in God; for I again praise him, my salvation and my God.” The desert can feel long, but let that refrain be your battle song.
When my son and I arrived at the office, I pulled him securely into my arms and told him that there are consequences for his actions, like going to the office or feeling sad and literally sick, but that is why grace is so amazing from our Heavenly father and why the pain and sadness will not be permanent. There is hope in the Lord.