The following is excerpted from my book, “Out of the Depths: A Songwriter’s Journey Throught The Psalms“. If Lent is a time of sharing, praying, and fasting then I guess this is my way of sharing. It’s a story of a lost follower of Jesus, it’s my story. I hope it’s a help on your Lenten Journey toward the cross.
It was the darkest time of my life so far, and I hope ever. It was my own dark night of the
soul. The brilliant theologian Frederick Buechner once wrote “Doubts are the
ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” With that thought in
mind then I guess you could say that at this point of crisis in my life I had ants
in my pants.
In my experience, God honors our doubts about Him. The mystery is that
somehow God’s presence becomes clearer in His absence. If in our moments
of darkness, we will acknowledge that we are indeed in a time of doubt, God will honor that. Our doubts, failures, and hurts are to be embraced, for
ultimately they drive us to our Lord.
I’m about to describe to you a time in my life when I felt like God was an
absentee father. I felt like a child desperately trying to find Him, but He
seemed conspicuously nowhere to be found. It’s important for us to be honest
with ourselves in these times. It was during this dark period of my life that I
completely renounced my Christian faith. Granted, it was only for a couple of
days and I never made it known to anyone but God, but it happened, and here’s
My marriage had fallen apart and no matter how hard I prayed I couldn’t
piece it back together. I was broken through and through. I was angry at my
wife, I was angry at the world, and I was angry at myself. The only one whom I
felt safe directing my anger at was God since He was the only one with
shoulders big enough to take the beating I needed to give.
At one point I stood alone in the sanctuary of my church pointing at the
cross angrily shouting something like this at God:
“I gave you everything, I did everything like I was supposed to, and
still she’s gone. I didn’t want to be a pastor. I hate being a pastor, and I would never have done it if You hadn’t called me. I did everything they said
to do. I prayed, read my Bible, waited until I was married to have sex,
married a Christian and none of that mattered. Following You has ruined my
marriage and my life. All these stupid rules that You and your church inflict
on us are crazy. That’s why she left you know, couldn’t stand life in the gold
fish bowl. You’ve ruined everything in my life, God. If you were here right
now I would crucify you myself. I did everything like you wanted and what
did you do? NOTHING! I don’t believe in You, and I will not follow You, and
I am not Yours anymore. I don’t care if I go to Hell, I’m done with You”.
I went back and sat in my office at church after praying that prayer.
It’s weird to call it prayer but it was indeed prayer. It was a strange mixture of
agonized sweat, tears, and numb ambivalence. Imagine my secret conundrum: I
was a pastor and I didn’t want to follow God anymore. When my wife left, it
broke me all the way down. There was such a feeling of uncertainty and mental
conflict in my life. I guess that’s what a crisis of faith is, an uncertainty about
things that are supposed to be certain.
The odd thing was that a couple of days later I again found myself alone
in that same sanctuary, crawling on my hands and knees toward the altar. I told
God how sorry I was, how wrong I knew I was to say all those things to Him. I
still didn’t like where I was, but I was glad to do it if He had called me there. I told Him that I knew He didn’t cause my life to crumble or my marriage to fail.
I just cried and sat with Him in the silence for a while.
I know it wasn’t a physical presence, but while I knelt there praying, I
felt in my spirit like God was holding me tightly to his chest whispering in my
ear, “It’s okay. No one else could have taken the beating you gave me. It didn’t
hurt. I know you love me. I love You.” Ironically, in those few days when I
“renounced” my faith, I experienced His closeness in the most real and
profound way I ever had. What I really needed was to be honest with a God
big enough to absorb my frustration, hurt, anger, and my sin.
During that time of life, I was at an in-between place of uncertainty. I
didn’t know how the story was going to end. That seems to be the place the
Psalmist finds himself in too. Psalm 89 is a community lament written for a
time when, in spite of the promise God had made, the future of the Davidic
dynasty was in doubt. The Psalmist was the representative of the community,
voicing its urgent prayer for help.
James L. Mays, in the Interpretation
Commentary makes the following helpful observation about this Psalm:
“The future of the community was at stake in the fate of its king. In a way,
the psalm locates the people of God where the books of Kings leave them–
with their king and their future in the power of their enemies. In the
arrangement of the Book of Psalms, this lament is placed at the conclusion of book III…It stands as the counterpart to Psalm 2 with its divine decree that the
anointed is God’s answer to the hostile turmoil of the nations, and it voices the
anguish and disparity between the reign of God and the destiny of the
I believe Psalm 89 is one of those in-between places similar to the one I
personally described above. It’s not very satisfying to end on a note of
unresolved tension, but that’s how real life goes. It works the same with
unresolved music actually. There’s nothing that will unnerve a crowd more at a
concert that to leave the final chord of a song unresolved. I’ve had audience
members that wanted to come up on stage and strum the tonic key for me just
because they can’t handle the unresolved music. How much worse is an