I was surprised at lunch, thinking I was headed to meet a friend, when three other friends from my past also showed up to celebrate my birthday today. Several of these ladies I had not seen for over a year. We had been co-workers together, years ago. So it was catch up time, as we each shared what was going on with our lives, some having just retired, a couple of us planning to do so in the near future. Most of us now in our 60s, some just barely, others later in the decade, one having surpassed us all, now in her 70s. There we all were, each having lived full lives, sharing, remembering. Then one friend mentioned how we have all had ups and downs, and we discussed how we appreciated the downs as they gave meaning to the up times. We all nodded in agreement, knowingly.
David said something similar in Psalm 30, verse 5:
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
There are some other things David says in this Psalm, with which I tend to grapple. As with so many things I read in the Psalms, I try to be understanding of the writer’s theology, to think about the influence of the time in which the passage was written. There are so many places where David comes across as high-and-mighty, at least to me. He talks a lot about how holy he is, what with all of his worshiping of God, and contrasts his holiness to all the heathens, whom he always speaks of in derisive tones, begging God to leave them in the pit of hell or to ensure that they receive their due. “I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, nor will I go in with hypocrites” he says in Psalm 26:4. Good thing Jesus didn’t have this same mindset, otherwise he wouldn’t have had anyone with whom to converse! It seems Jesus’ ragamuffin group of disciples and the folks he hung out with were the riff raff of the time.
So, how do I approach these passages? With grace for the writer, the same way I approach (or attempt anyway) those today with whom I may have a differing of opinion. In each generation we each struggle to find the best way to relate to the entity that we refer to as “God.” We end up with so many different ways of relating, because we each understand God differently. For David, God was a powerful male figure who punished the sinner and awarded the saint. “O Lord my God, I cried out to you, and you healed me.” He claims in Psalm 30 verse 2. But I know plenty of good people who have cried out to God and were not healed. I cannot conclude they must be sinners, so I’m left with the fact that David understood God differently than do I.
That doesn’t mean that I can’t find beauty, inspiration, consolation, and a host of other things from reading the Psalms. This passage in verse 5 of Psalm 30, which I mentioned at the outset, is but one example. Yes, we all have times of weeping, but we also have times of joy, as I and my friends recounted today. It seems that the point of this Psalm is about giving credit where credit is due, and, for me, everything that is good comes from God. “You have turned my mourning into dancing … for the purpose that I may sing your praises.” (Psalm 30:11). Yes, that’s what my friends and I were doing today, singing God’s praises, each in our own way.