The Psalmist to their Lord:
“I remember the days of old,
I think about all your deeds,
I meditate on the works of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.”
— Psalm 143:5-6 (NRSV)
Marrying someone and promising to be with them, with unwavering commitment, in sickness and in health, is fine until the winter of disease or malevolent misfortune strikes. That is when, as they say, the rubber hits the road. But such rubber doesn’t want to be worn to the point of baldness; many winter seasons of the soul, however, can take us there.
This psalm, the last of the seven penitential psalms, is found perfect for the disconsolate mood which is, also, home to the subdued heart of humbly honest reflection. In such a mood, we just read; allowing the words, the lines, and indeed the whole psalm, to seep into our spirits; God speaks. And we simply be. It’s all there is.
God Is In The House
Right throughout the 12 verses there is the underpinning virtue: God is near and present by knowledge of the psalmist, but God does not always feel near. This prayer acknowledges many truths about God, present, in the midst of humanity, but frank distance is the pervading sentiment connoting desperation for the one in lament.
It is no different for us.
Despite all knowledge resident in God’s Holy Word, the ceaseless sight of the works of God in creation, all witness of others blessed spiritually in the Lord, or for any other evidence, we have times of farness from our living God.
However inexplicable these winter seasons may be, we still know God is in the house—the Holy Spirit dwells within.
We resolve to hold on for the emergence, and new growth, of spring.
Patience In The Shifting Season
Just that the days of winter vary in the cool and cold, the drizzly outlook and brisk clear, in darkness and pale, so too this psalm ebbs throughout.
From acknowledgement of God, through scolding anxiety, and through recollection, before a moment’s illumination, followed by periods of dryness, and then re-direction, we traverse the season. Each day is different; bad follows good and good follows bad.
When we battle for spiritual consistency we are blessed to humble ourselves before God as the psalmist does, here, in Psalm 143. Ups and downs need to be endured and, so, honed for the coming leaves of spring and then the extravagant lavishness of summer.
Patience is the practice driving the soul from the grips of oblivion into the hands of grace; and seeking the Lord, lifting our souls high to his stead, is the way there.
Periods of winter, chastening away at our spirit of hope, make their way into our experience at some stage. They are ours, however agonising, for the learning. In such a seedbed grows true character.
Enduring the winter of soul is helped to know God is close to the infirmed. Whether we feel God’s Presence or not; the Lord is near.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.