My Dream Is Cracked: A Lament

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,

    and he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair,

    out of the mud and the mire.

He set my feet on solid ground

    and steadied me as I walked along.

3 He has given me a new song to sing,

    a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see what he has done and be amazed.

    They will put their trust in the Lord.

4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,

    who have no confidence in the proud

    or in those who worship idols.

5 O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.

    Your plans for us are too numerous to list.

    You have no equal.

If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,

    I would never come to the end of them.

6 You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.

    Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand[a]—

    you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.

7 Then I said, “Look, I have come.

    As is written about me in the Scriptures:

8 I take joy in doing your will, my God,

    for your instructions are written on my heart.”

9 I have told all your people about your justice.

    I have not been afraid to speak out,

    as you, O Lord, well know.

10 I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart;

    I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.

I have told everyone in the great assembly

    of your unfailing love and faithfulness.

11 Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me.

    Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.

12 For troubles surround me—

    too many to count!

My sins pile up so high

    I can’t see my way out.

They outnumber the hairs on my head.

    I have lost all courage.

13 Please, Lord, rescue me!

    Come quickly, Lord, and help me.

14 May those who try to destroy me

    be humiliated and put to shame.

May those who take delight in my trouble

    be turned back in disgrace.

15 Let them be horrified by their shame,

    for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”

16 But may all who search for you

    be filled with joy and gladness in you.

May those who love your salvation

    repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”

17 As for me, since I am poor and needy,

    let the Lord keep me in his thoughts.

You are my helper and my savior.

    O my God, do not delay.

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 God, I wish Psalm 40 started with verse eleven, not verse one. Just flip the sections, please. I want the struggle to be first and then enjoy the comfort of looking back at what you have done. I want to believe that the struggles will end and that somehow I will get it together and that life will be what I dreamed it could be. Isn’t that the way that it’s supposed to go?

Why is it that David starts this Psalm recalling your goodness and then moves on to dark times? This doesn’t make for a good story, yet it sadly rings true to my own experience. I want to be the plucky underdog who overcomes adversity, gets the girl, and lives happily ever after. That’s the dream, right? 

My dream is cracked. 

God, I feel like such a whiner bringing it up, but does my son truly have to have autism? He will never have or see even the flawed things I have known. He will never be on his own. Who will care for him when his mom and I are gone? David had miracles to remember and rely on. I cannot recall any. David, both in and out of troubles, speaks of joy, but I often seem to forget where I left mine. 

My faith is often weak. God, you know how broken I truly am. Is it my fault that my son suffers? Is it my fault that my wife mourns for the future her son will never have, in the way that only a mother can? And I can’t change it. 

God, I believe. You know that I do. I believe in ways that surprise me. I know that you have rescued me, but all too often it feels like I am trying to free myself from the pit; that I can barely kneel, let alone stagger along, even with your help. The song that was once new and alive feels stale, and sometimes I forget the tune. My joy is flagging. I could use a miracle—or even just a little light to hang onto. God, I want David’s joy even in the trials. 

I know that the pattern of this Psalm is true. I live it. I try to take comfort in the fact that you called David a man after your own heart and he still struggled with sin and despair, that he still needed rescuing even after you took him out of the pit. I try to remember all of the times that you have helped me. But it’s hard. Sometimes my heart feels like Psalm 40 ends.

God, I am poor and needy,

keep me in your thoughts.

I need you to be my helper as well as my savior.

O my God, do not delay.

Originally published in THE WAY BIBLE, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Kevin O’Brien is a husband, father, ordained minister, writer and volunteer theologian. He holds a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and has done graduate work at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. He is currently the study Bible and reference brand manager at Tyndale House Publishers where he has helped to develop several Bibles and has written articles which have appeared in The Way, the iShine Bible, and the Illustrated Study Bible. He is one of the authors of the recently released Life on the Spectrum.

Kevin lives in the far western suburbs of Chicago with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat. He would prefer to spend his time reading, writing, woodworking and watching the Chicago Blackhawks.