“I believed; therefore, I said. . .” Let’s pause there for a moment. How would you complete that sentence?
“I believed; therefore, I said . . . thank You”?
Or “. . . I’m so glad I’m Yours”?
Or, using the words of the psalmists, “. . . His mercy endures forever”?
The psalmists often do praise God for His faithfulness and love, but this time the psalmist doesn’t choose any of those ways to complete this sentence. Instead, he ends it this way, “I believed; therefore, I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted” (Psalm 116:10).
At first it surprises me. If the psalmist really believes, why is he still focusing on his troubles instead of on God?
Then I realize I’m seeing here something I’ve been learning for years: one mark of real trust is honesty. A related one is vulnerability.
“I believed; therefore, I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’” Inherent in the psalmist’s words are these declarations to God:
I believe it’s safe to bring my most raw emotions to You, God of compassion.
I believe You always want me to come as I am, not feeling I need to clean myself up first.
I believe You are a God who is for me.
I believe You are Love.
I believe that when I cry out my suffering, You see and hear and come down (c.f. Ex 3:7-8; Psalm 18:1-19)
In other words, “I trust You; help!”
Lament is its own form of praise, a courageous declaration that God can be trusted with raw honesty even in our heart’s most painful places.
Thanksgiving and more upbeat forms of praise can, of course, also be marks of courageous trust. Paul and Silas singing in prison. You and I looking back over the day to notice God’s presence even in the hard places and give thanks. But if thanksgiving and praise are pasted on over anger, sadness, or fear that don’t also get expressed in God’s presence, even such good things as thanksgiving and praise can be ways to hide from God rather than open our hearts to Him.
In Psalm 116, as throughout the Psalms, the psalmists hold together lament and thanksgiving. They often come crying out in anger, grief, fear, overwhelm, or just about every other emotion. And, as they bring their most raw and honest emotions to God, they find him loving and saving them, and then they are brought to honest praise and thanksgiving.
We can see it happening right here in Psalm 116.
“The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grace came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD;
O LORD, save me!” (v. 3-4)
And then, as the psalmist cries out his anguish and overwhelm to God and finds God hearing and answering him, his cry turns to a grateful declaration of the love of this good God:
‘The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me” (v. 5-6).
So what’s going on in you today? What, today, as an act of courageous trust, does your heart most need to say to God?
“I believe; therefore, I say . . . ?”