Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Week Forty-Three - The Pity Party

Do you remember the song, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to?" It might make a great theme song for 2020. We've certainly had plenty to moan and cry about.

Asaph wrote a psalm with similar lyrics. "I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so trouble that I cannot speak"  (Psalm 77:1-4).

Obviously, pity parties are not new.  Ahab had one, Absalom had one, and even King Saul had a few.  But when I read these first three verses of Psalm 77 my eye catches several specific phrases that make me think.

"My soul refused to be comforted." Have you ever refused to be comforted?  Refused someone's offer of help or kindness because you were too busy pouting and crying?  Have you ever turned your back on support because you enjoyed your misery or were too stubborn to admit you needed help?  This idea of refusing to be comforted paints such a picture.

"I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed." Have you been complaining?  I know I have. 2020 gives reason to complain, but what happens when we give over to a complaining spirit?  We get the feeling of being overwhelmed.  The negatives loom larger and larger.  The nightly news, Facebook posts, and general confusion leave us flabbergasted, exhausted, and weary with the whole process.

"Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak."  I don't know what Asaph was crying about, but he was definitely struggling.  He was not sleeping--that's what "mine eyes waking" means.  And he was dumbfounded by the trouble in front of him, he saw no solution.

In verses five and six he grows nostalgic and introspective. "I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search."  Has this been your experience?  I know it has been mine. 

Pity parties usually lead to looking back and looking inward. We begin wishing things were as before.  We long for the good ole days and start looking inward to find encouragement or the answer to why we feel as we do.  Then, just like Asaph, we start accusing God of abandoning us. Look at verses 7-10a.  "Will the Lord cast off forever? And will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah. And I said, This is my infirmity."

"Poor me!" Asaph is saying, "Poor me.  God has forgotten me.  He doesn't love me anymore. I am stuck with my weakness, bowed down in my depression. It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." But I'm so glad Asaph didn't stop his song here.  It's a really sad place to be.

In verses 10b-12 he cancels his party and changes focus. "But I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings."

Just like Asaph, we might be down in the dumps, refusing to be comforted, facing sleepless nights, and an overwhelmed, complaining spirit, but.  And there is the keyword - but.  But - there is another way to look at things.  There are things I am not taking into account.  I don't have to stay in my weakness. I can think back on how God worked things out for me in the past and I can meditate on the greatness of all He is doing and begin talking about His goodness.

Asaph had a choice, and so do we.  We can cry and whine or adjust our thinking and attitude. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy pity parties for very long.  They are hard work and soul-destroying, but when I allow my mind to think about my good, good Father and all He has done for me, the spirit of complaining lifts and I begin partying with praise.

If you read the remainder of Psalm 77 you will find Asaph begins praising God, too. He points out God's greatness, and ends with, "thou leddest thy people like a flock." God led Asaph to a brighter prospect and a happier party full of hope.  God will lead us thee, too, if we lay aside our pity and put on the garment of praise.

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