"I will extol you, O Holy One, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
O God, my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Holy One, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit." - Psalm 30:1-3
Wise teachers who spend deep time with the Psalms say that this collection of writings resonates with almost all of human experience: from heights of joy to depths of anguish.
Psalm 30 remembers the latter. Friends and family who are in recovery have said that this particular reading speaks truth. They had hit bottom. They had gone to a place you might call the "Pit": they were drawing breath, even seeming to function, but in meaningful ways they were no longer alive. Those who are able to tell the story say that they found life again through a power greater than themselves.
My first ministry was as a chaplain serving persons with HIV disease. At one of our sites, the Narcotics Anonymous facilitator asked me to sit in the weekly meetings. He noted how the presence of a chaplain had a certain effect on some of the sharing: there were more references to God. Fernando had a sharp ear for addicts talking about piety more than the last time they picked up drugs. He’d usually retort, "God’ll save your soul; you gotta save your a**." There was no sympathy for behavior other than resolutely refusing drugs: "That’s another nail in your coffin."
I’ve come to believe one way God brings us up from the Pit is the truth-telling of Fernando and those like him. He now has gained eternal rest, but he died fully alive, with years of hard-won sobriety.
O Holy One, right now you are at work restoring souls and bodies. Thank you for Fernando and the other angels who know what the Pit is like, and what your healing is like. Thank you for their holy song of life. Amen.
John A. Nelson is the Pastor of the Niantic Community Church (UCC/UMC) in Niantic, Connecticut.