We can all look back on our lives and point out the “defining moments.” You know, the type of events that shape the timeline of our lives and relationships. A couple may count the months they have been dating, then they will count down the days until their wedding while they are engaged, and then they celebrate anniversaries after they are married. I see the same thing with parents when they proudly show their child’s milestones on social media. These may include birthdays, learning to walk/talk, lost teeth, the first day of school, etc.
I found in my relationship with Christ, there are also some defining moments or milestones. I began attending Bay Life in 1999 as a toddler. I grew up attending services and made the choice to follow Christ in the 5th grade at church summer camp. As I continued to grow, I attended church and served through middle school right up until I graduated high school. While each of these experiences was used by God to minister to me in varying seasons of life, I discovered that none of them apart from the day that I began following Christ were as significant in my relationship with God as the moments that happened in private.
The Crucible of Trouble
Eugene Peterson once wrote that, “The language of prayer is forged in the crucible of trouble. When we can’t help ourselves and call for help, when we don't like where we are and want out, when we don't like who we are and want a change, we use primal language, and this language become the root language of prayer." Again and again, I've found that to be true in my own life. While I was in middle school, I realized that something was not “normal” in my mind. I had a seemingly perfect life, with an amazing and supportive family, and all of my wants and needs were met. I had many deep friendships, and a relationship with God, and a constant smile on my face. However, every night as I fell asleep, I would have this overbearing sense of despair. There were many times where I would sob myself to sleep and even times where I'd cry out to God to end my life.
One night, while I was secretly crying on my bedroom floor, my overwhelming sense of despair was suddenly replaced with an overwhelming sense of peace. I immediately opened my bible to a chapter I had never read: Psalms 34.
Psalm 34 begins with David praising God for delivering him from his fears (34:4). He recalls how the Lord heard him, and saved him from his troubles (34:6). However, the Psalm makes a shift in verse 10 from David praising God, to David addressing men. Charles Spurgeon describes the structure of this psalm, “The first ten verses are A HYMN, and the last twelve A SERMON." David invites the reader to listen to him, so he may teach the fear of the Lord (34:11). Verses 13 and 14 urge the reader to refrain from telling lies, turn from evil, and pursue good.
That night on my bedroom floor I read this passage from Psalm 34:
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; 16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; 20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
In that moment, one verse stood out to me: The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”.
The Nearness of God
Throughout all of the Psalms, David revisits themes of brokenness, lament, sadness. While Psalm 34 is a Psalm of deliverance rather than lament, you can still see his experiences shine through his 13 verse sermon. David knows that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit because David himself had been both brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. David had experienced the closeness of God in his own life.
As a preteen who was just beginning a lifelong battle with mental health, I found immense comfort to see written in God’s word that He draws near to those who are discouraged. Psalm 34 revealed to me that God is with me on the peak and in the valley.
Each of us encounters heartbreak in life. Whether it is the death of a loved one, a broken relationship, or complications with our health. The moments where I grieved, lamented and felt heartbreak like no other are the exact moments that I felt God’s closeness. He is Lord both in our peaks and in our valleys. This is the God we serve. May we always remember the promises of God when we encounter heartbreak.