A psalm to light dark days

Since Monday, I’ve had three friends tell me they’re battling the blues, despite the joy they’re *supposed* to feel during this holiday season.

This can be a tough season. Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year (and by that, I mean the number of hours of sunlight, though for those of you with Christmas errands left to run, it may feel like a day with fewer than our usual 24 hours, too). For many of us, the lack of sunlight creeps into our bones and seeps into our hearts and our minds, and the dark tries to set up shop for the winter. Christmas is also a difficult time for those who have lost a loved one or become estranged from a family member or a close friend. For those sitting next to a hospital bed, or otherwise waiting with an ill loved one, the merriment and twinkling lights of the season can seem empty and even annoying.

If you find yourself sitting in a dark place, might I offer you a psalm of light and hope? It’s a psalm a pastor friend of mine, Matt Ashburn, preached about a couple of weeks ago in a sermon titled “Needing Sonshine.” This psalm is not one you normally think of as a Christmas psalm. But I think it’s perfect for those struggling with the dark, perfect for looking toward the Light promised at Christmas. 

Psalm 80
O give ear, Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!
Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up Your power
And come to save us!
O God, restore us
And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,
How long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
And You have made them to drink tears in large measure.
You make us an object of contention to our neighbors,
And our enemies laugh among themselves.
O God of hosts, restore us
And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

You removed a vine from Egypt;
You drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground before it,
And it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shadow,
And the cedars of God with its boughs.
It was sending out its branches to the sea
And its shoots to the River.
Why have You broken down its hedges,
So that all who pass that way pick its fruit?
A boar from the forest eats it away
And whatever moves in the field feeds on it.

O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You;
Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine,
Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted,
And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself.
It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance,
Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand,
Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.
Then we shall not turn back from You;
Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.
O Lord God of hosts, restore us;
Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

In Matt’s sermon, he spoke of the psalmist’s call to God to repent. You read that right. The psalmist is begging God to turn back toward His people, not because of any sin He has committed – after all, as God, He is without sin – but because His people feel like He has hidden from them. Likened to a vine tended carefully by a gardner, these people are starving for light. They are hungry for more, thirsty for more than the tears that have been their fill (v. 5).

Notice the psalmist pleading for the light of God’s face to shine on them again. Three times: “Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.” Through the light, we will be saved. The psalmist had a profound faith and an audacious hope – one that freed him to plead with God to turn back to these desperate people. And by turning back to them, God and His light would restore them, heal them, and cause them to flourish again.

Friends, as you approach this Christmas, may you feel the warmth and the nourishing light from the face of God looking upon you. May you be reminded of His unfailing love for you, proven through the gift of Jesus. And may His love fill you with peace and brilliant light that overcomes whatever darkness you face.

I wish you a Christmas filled with peace and blessings and joy and laughter, but most of all, filled with His presence and His light.

Merry Christmas.

5 thoughts on “A psalm to light dark days

  1. Lynn — thanks for letting me know! It's great to hear from you, and I hope you had a merry and bright Christmas!Bev — What a wonderful statement about what God will do if we're willing to pay attention while we're in the dark. I love this!

  2. Well said. The Valentine's Day entry in my meditation book has this great line: "When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light." I'm banking on that.

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