The Comfortless Time
“In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
I think of God, and I moan;
I meditate, and my spirit faints.” – Psalm 77:2-3.
When I was eighteen years old my mother died. She was 53. That was fifty years ago yesterday. Her funeral was in the little church I had grown up in. I’d like to be able to tell you that my Christian faith was a great comfort to me at the time but it wouldn’t be true. I wasn’t sure about this God who could let such a thing happen.
So later during my long ministry I had heartfelt sympathy with people for whom God seemed absent during a time of great grief. I know what it is like to be so grief-stricken that you can barely function. And sometimes the church makes it harder for grieving people by offering cheerful comfort that really isn’t helpful.
On top of that when God seems absent or remote one can feel guilty that one doesn’t have a stronger, more heroic faith in the face of adversity.
The psalm portion for today acknowledges this reality of being in a comfortless time in one’s life. The Psalmist admits: “My soul refuses to be comforted.”
Certainly the people of ancient Israel had plenty of opportunities to feel God had abandoned them. The wisdom of the faith expressed in this psalm is that even in their roughest of rough patches they remained in conversation with their God. That is why so many of the psalms are complaints or laments. They keep asking, “Where are you, God?”
But they never stop asking, questioning, calling, seeking, while they wait in hope for a time of comfort.
Jesus promised he would never leave us comfortless. Stay close, O God, even when our souls refuse to be comforted, and give us patience and hope.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A writer and author, his most recent publications are Romans, Parts 1 and 2 (with Michael S. Bennett), new titles in the “Listen Up!” Bible Study Series. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.