Ash Wednesday and Our Hope

As I write, at this moment, men and women are going about their work, children are learning in school, mothers are caring for their babies, people are talking with loved ones on the phone, others are getting updates from doctors, and some are waiting to hear news about a particularly difficult situation. We respond to the myriad of life circumstances with emotion and search for insight into what we should do and how we should do it. There are many times when what we face obscures our vision and we don’t know what to do, where to turn, or how to respond.

The writer of Psalm 42 can sympathize with us as he faces difficulty, attacks from enemies, physical suffering, emotional grief, and emptiness within. Over all of this, he doubts God’s presence and care for him and feels the loss of a better time in the past. Does any of that sound familiar to you? Is any of that your experience in life and faith? How could it not be? Life is difficult, confusing, and full of uncertainties, pain, and unspeakable loss.

Today as we remember that we are made from dust and we will return to dust, it is easy to feel the futility of life and say with the psalmist to God our Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?”
Thankfully, our destiny is not dust, but hope. We have the love of God, demonstrated for us in Jesus, who was forsaken so that we could be included. We have the song of God to comfort us with the Holy Spirit’s presence through the darkest nights with the truth of his life-giving power. His life is for us and so we can faithfully respond with praise in the midst of our circumstances.
As we memorize Psalm 42 together this Lent, let’s be a church that despite all we face, understands our hopeful destiny, established through the saving power of God’s love for us in Christ and continues to respond in praise, to reveal the stability of God who is our Rock for all eternity.
O God our Rock,
Grant us mercy to see your saving power amid our circumstances. Help us to praise you even as we face the difficulties of our struggles and feel the deep emotions of our trials. Let us find our hope in you as we live and pray. In Christ’s name, Amen

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long “Where is your God?”

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” 
My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, 
“Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
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