My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? – Psalm 22:1 (NRSV)
God is my shepherd, I shall not want. – Psalm 23:1 (NRSV)
Life has a habit of cycling through unpredictable sine waves of equilibrium and disequilibrium. Our hallelujahs are always followed by fresh hellscapes, if we are lucky to live long enough for life to get hard again after a healed, happy time. Consider Psalms 22 and 23, interspersed line by line:
Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but find no rest. God makes me lie down in green pastures; leads me beside still waters.
Do not be far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me, your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
I am a worm, and not human. Scorned by others; and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, it is melted within my breast. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of God my whole life long.
I often say to people in distress: “Everything turns out all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it’s not the end,” and then go on to nuance it: If it is all right, don’t try to trap it in amber. Life is not always going to get better and better. But no matter what part of the roller coaster you find yourself on—the stomach-emptying deep dip or the peak of joy—you can holler “Hell-elujah!”
Whatever hard thing I’m living through, Lord, remind me it won’t last, and give me perseverance and strength. Whatever sweet season I find myself in, Lord, remind me it won’t last, and give me mindful joy and gratitude. Amen.
Rev. Molly Baskette is the lead pastor of First Church Berkeley UCC and the author of books about church renewal, parenting, spiritual growth and more. Sign up for her author newsletter or get information about her newest book at mollybaskette.com.