I want to preface this by saying the last thing I want to do is display phylacteries. I hesitated to post photos of my own annotations because I’m afraid the whole “look at the notes in my Bible” thing looks pretentious and pharisaical. But it gives a glimpse perhaps of my own brokenness and wrestling, just enough. I want you to know that I do not handle any of these things—loss, abuse or mistreatment, injustice, or betrayal—well. At all.

In the first draft of this paragraph, I began to describe how I actually do handle these kinds of situations, and it was so bad I can’t post it on the internet and am only okay sharing either with people close to me or people who are hurting really deeply—and even then it’s difficult. I’m all for being transparent and authentic—but I do it better over the phone or an email, or even better, over a cup of tea or coffee…or box of Kleenex or bag of chocolate (I’m thinking of former students and parents now). And it doesn’t have to be planned.

But even hell-bent people can access the internet and take something honest (or even innocent) and twist it for their own ends. Plus, I don’t want my thoughts and experiences to get in the way, and in this case, I think they would. Sometimes experiences illuminate, others not so much. I’m also still struggling and don’t have a lot of wisdom, mostly just clinging to passages like these, and even then, not very often, though it would probably help. Rich Mullins’s words “I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than to take what you give that I need” are spot-on for me.

So, below are seven Psalms—five that are grouped together—and two other passages that I’ve read in the middle of deep darkness over the past year. I hope that you are able to take refuge as well. So often they express what I cannot, though I won’t mislead you by saying that the pain goes completely away. But that’s part of why I’m sharing. You’ll see the ache of David’s heart and Jeremiah’s and Habakkuk’s as well.

One more note…

Back in the spring, it seemed as if I just couldn’t get a break from the things that had been happening. It was honestly something every week after almost two years of misery that we’ll just say resulted in several months of intense physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain. A friend recommended Lamentations saying that sometimes the only response is godly lament:

Sometimes, and maybe many times the godly response isn't, "God will rescue me from the storm." I think more often than not the godly response is "Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust - there may yet be hope; let him give the cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults." (Lamentations 3:28-30) Certainly godly lament isn't a lament without hope, but it is a lament that sees this life for what it is - fundamentally broken and corrupt.

Trust in the Lord, yes. But part of that is realizing what David wrote in Psalm 103

As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust
(emphasis mine).

All passages are taken from the ESV, but there are plenty of good translations out there, and biblegateway.com is a pretty user-friendly online tool where you can read each passage in multiple translations if you do not have hard copies.

Psalms 54, 55, 56, 57, 58

Psalm 54

O God, save me by your name,
    and vindicate me by your might.
O God, hear my prayer;
    give ear to the words of my mouth.

For strangers have risen against me;
    ruthless men seek my life;
    they do not set God before themselves. Selah

Behold, God is my helper;
    the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will return the evil to my enemies;
    in your faithfulness put an end to them.

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
    I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For he has delivered me from every trouble,
    and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

Psalm 55

 Give ear to my prayer, O God,
    and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
Attend to me, and answer me;
    I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
because of the noise of the enemy,
    because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
    and in anger they bear a grudge against me.

My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
    and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest;
 yes, I would wander far away;
    I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah
I would hurry to find a shelter
    from the raging wind and tempest.”

Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
    for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it
    on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
    ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
    do not depart from its marketplace.

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
    within God’s house we walked in the throng.
Let death steal over them;
    let them go down to Sheol alive;
    for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.

But I call to God,
    and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
    I utter my complaint and moan,
    and he hears my voice.
He redeems my soul in safety
    from the battle that I wage,
    for many are arrayed against me.
God will give ear and humble them,
    he who is enthroned from of old, Selah
because they do not change
    and do not fear God.

My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
    he violated his covenant.
His speech was smooth as butter,
    yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
    yet they were drawn swords.

Cast your burden on the Lord,
    and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
    the righteous to be moved.

But you, O God, will cast them down
    into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
    shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.

Psalm 56

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
    all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
    for many attack me proudly.
When I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
    in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can flesh do to me?

All day long they injure my cause;
    all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife, they lurk;
    they watch my steps,
    as they have waited for my life.
For their crime will they escape?
    In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

You have kept count of my tossings;
    put my tears in your bottle.
    Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
    in the day when I call.
    This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
    in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can man do to me?

I must perform my vows to you, O God;
    I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
    yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
    in the light of life.

Psalm 57

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
    till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
    he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

My soul is in the midst of lions;
    I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
    whose tongues are sharp swords.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!

They set a net for my steps;
    my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
    but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
My heart is steadfast, O God,
    my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
    Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!

Psalm 58

Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
    Do you judge the children of man uprightly?
No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
    your hands deal out violence on earth.

The wicked are estranged from the womb;
    they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
    like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
    or of the cunning enchanter.

O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
    tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!
Let them vanish like water that runs away;
    when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,
    like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
    whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!

The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
    he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.
Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
    surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

Psalm 69

Save me, O God!
    For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
    where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
    and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying out;
    my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
    with waiting for my God.

More in number than the hairs of my head
    are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
    those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
    must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
    the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
    O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
    O God of Israel.
For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
    that dishonor has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my brothers,
    an alien to my mother’s sons.

For zeal for your house has consumed me,
    and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
When I wept and humbled[b] my soul with fasting,
    it became my reproach.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
    I became a byword to them.
I am the talk of those who sit in the gate,
    and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
    At an acceptable time, O God,
    in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
Deliver me
    from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
    and from the deep waters.
Let not the flood sweep over me,
    or the deep swallow me up,
    or the pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
    according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Hide not your face from your servant,
    for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.
Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
    ransom me because of my enemies!

You know my reproach,
    and my shame and my dishonor;
    my foes are all known to you.
Reproaches have broken my heart,
    so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none,
    and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
    and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.

Let their own table before them become a snare;
    and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.
Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see,
    and make their loins tremble continually.
Pour out your indignation upon them,
    and let your burning anger overtake them.
May their camp be a desolation;
    let no one dwell in their tents.
For they persecute him whom you have struck down,
    and they recount the pain of those you have wounded.
Add to them punishment upon punishment;
    may they have no acquittal from you.[d]
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
    let them not be enrolled among the righteous.

But I am afflicted and in pain;
    let your salvation, O God, set me on high!

I will praise the name of God with a song;
    I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
    or a bull with horns and hoofs.
When the humble see it they will be glad;
    you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy
    and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Let heaven and earth praise him,
    the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
    and build up the cities of Judah,
and people shall dwell there and possess it;
     the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
    and those who love his name shall dwell in it.

Lamentations

The Whole Book…

Habakkuk 1:2-4

*The same friend and pastor recommended this book as well, and I’m reading it now—slowly despite the brevity, because honestly my initial response when I started was to write in the margin beside these very verses: “feel stuck here.”

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
    and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise.
so the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
    so justice goes forth perverted.

Psalm 116

(Click here for a beautiful song version of some of these verses by Mission House—Jess Ray and Taylor Leonhardt—that I’ve been listening to for over a year during this time.)

I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

I believed, even when[a] I spoke:
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
I said in my alarm,
    “All mankind are liars.”

What shall I render to the Lord
    for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his saints.
O Lord, I am your servant;
    I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
    You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
    in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Same passages…
Different Places and Days

*I am not a counselor, pastor, or healthcare professional. The posts and comments on this site are not a substitute for talking to a healthcare professional or licensed counselor.

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