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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, November 7, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 119:137–144         

You are righteous, O Lord,
   and your judgments are right.
You have appointed your decrees in righteousness
   and in all faithfulness.
My zeal consumes me
   because my foes forget your words.
Your promise is well tried,
   and your servant loves it.
I am small and despised,
   yet I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
   and your law is the truth.
Trouble and anguish have come upon me,
   but your commandments are my delight.
Your decrees are righteous forever;
   give me understanding that I may live. (NRSV)

I’m a stage actor, and the best way for me to understand this psalm was to say it out loud, like a Shakespearean sonnet. At first I had a hard time with the vastly different feelings the speaker juxtaposes: Things are terrible but I’m completely happy. My enemies are laughing at me but it’s totally fine. I’m in huge trouble but I have certainty I’m in the right. I thought, How on earth does one get to this place of confident trust when things are so bad? I wish I had this speaker’s faith. 

But perhaps she makes those statements because she wants to feel that way; she’s seeking feelings of trust, confidence, faith. As I worked the psalm like a soliloquy, the tone for those “happier” statements became full of longing, fear, hope, desperation. 

This character is in a very bad place. She’s losing battles; she has little evidence that things are going to work out. She is trying to get to a place of assurance. She utters statements of faith in order to keep herself together. They don’t work right away; that’s why she keeps talking. She admits that things are bad, describes aspects of just how bad, then attempts to steel herself. She wants to trust, but it’s hard. She praises God out loud to keep from falling apart. She finally asks for understanding, because she doesn’t. 

Now I have a text to say over and over again when I need reassurance.

Dear God, please speak to us through your texts; help us work through terror and bad times. Give us understanding so we can live. Amen.

Written by Kat Evans, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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