“Unbridled Honesty”

Oct 16, 2022

The Scripture

Psalm 55

Give ear to my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my supplication.Attend to me, and answer me; I am troubled in my complaint. I am distraught by the noise of the enemy,
because of the clamor of the wicked. For they bring trouble upon me, and in anger they cherish enmity against me. My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.  6 And I say, ‘O that I had wings like a dove!   I would fly away and be at rest; truly, I would flee far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter for myself from the raging wind and tempest.’

Confuse, O Lord, confound their speech; for I see violence and strife in the city.10 Day and night they go around it on its walls,  and iniquity and trouble are within it; 11ruin is in its midst; oppression and fraud do not depart from its market-place. 12 It is not enemies who taunt me—  I could bear that; it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me— I could hide from them.13 But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend, 14 with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with the throng.15 Let death come upon them;
let them go down alive to Sheol; for evil is in their homes and in their hearts.  16 But I call upon God, and the Lord will save me.  17 Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan,
and he will hear my voice. 18 He will redeem me unharmed from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.  19 God, who is enthroned from of old, will hear, and will humble them—because they do not change, and do not fear God.  20 My companion laid hands on a friend and violated a covenant with me 21 with speech smoother than butter, but with a heart set on war;  with words that were softer than oil, but in fact were drawn swords.  22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. 23 But you, O God, will cast them down into the lowest pit;
the bloodthirsty and treacherous shall not live out half their days.  But I will trust in you.



The Sermon

Unbridled honesty is where we sometimes find ourselves when facing challenging times. It’s that place that feels so very raw, a place of vulnerability. Our words in this dark place speak feelings that are transparent and uncontrolled. For some of us, we have to be at the end of our rope or extremely distraught before we will let ourselves get to this place that seems so far down, so deep within us. Look at this face; it says it all, doesn’t it; there is tears, anguish, pain… I’m afraid that often as faithful people, we think we shouldn’t have those negative feelings, that we shouldn’t feel angry or get mad at God. We call ourselves in a place where we feel something is wrong with us if we are mad at God; it’s so very wrong to lash out at God. After all, can I really be angry at God? Can I really yell at God and give God a piece of my mind? This morning we turn to the Psalms for our scripture reading. The Psalmist helps us answer these questions about the times of anguish that life brings us and our relationship to God. In a way, the Psalmist permits us to show God’s dissatisfaction with life’s current challenges. In fact, this is an unusual characteristic of the Psalms; one commentary shared that “the Psalms (in general) have the distinction that, to a degree, is not present in any other part of the Bible; they contain the words of human beings directed to God.” And for us, you and me, we get a glimpse of the inner religious thoughts of some of Israel’s faithful people. How did these ancient people experience their own tragedies?
In this reading, the Psalmist makes an appeal to the Lord. It is as if he is crying to God, letting God know that he is distraught, troubled, worried, and disturbed. It is very much prayer, a prayer asking for God’s intervention but also a prayer of lament. Almost like the howling of a lone wolf in the dark night…you know how haunting that sound can be. The Psalmist says, “My heart is in anguish within me. The terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.” Many people turn to the Psalms when suffering or going through difficult times. It’s where we find language that reminds us that we are not alone in our suffering…others have traveled down this road too.

Brenè Brown, in her book Atlas of the Heart, has a whole chapter titled “Places We Go When We Are Hurting,” and anguish leads the list of descriptors in this section. She says, “Anguish not only takes away our ability to breathe, feel, and think—it comes for our bones. Anguish often causes us to physically crumple in on ourselves, literally bringing us to our knees or forcing us all the way to the ground. The element of powerlessness is what makes anguish traumatic. We are unable to change, reverse, or negotiate what has happened. And even in those situations where we can temporarily reroute anguish with to-do lists and tasks, it finds its way back to us.” Kate Bowler also knows about this dark place when she writes about disappointment. Her own experience in the disappointments she has faced give her understanding. She writes, “acute suffering cries out for an answer. We need the pain to stop. Right now, our urgent call longs to be met by a strong, wise, and loving answer. We want healing and answers and strength to go on. But so often, we hear nothing at all.”

So what do we do when we’re at this place of hearing nothing? Or maybe the better question is, what do we often do? Kate says, “Instead of rushing to defend God or dissect the great mystery of the problem of evil, I have found it to be wonderfully freeing to begin with the truth or what I call unbridled honesty. She continues, my best friend likes to remind me on awful days: You feel hurt because it’s painful. You feel sad because it’s tragic. You feel angry because it’s unfair. She continues, “it’s okay to feel what you feel. We need the freedom to acknowledge life’s brutality without minimizing, pretending, or justifying it. We need not rush to defend God or delude ourselves. It is terrible. And it is happening.”
So what do we do in this dark place of anguish when we are in pain and hurting? There is hope, my friends! Brenè Brown says, “The human spirit is resilient. Just as we can reclaim our ability to breathe, feel, and think, we can rebuild the bones that anguish rips away. But it takes help and time.” The Psalmist helps us to know where that help comes from. Remember verse 16 “But I call upon God, and the Lord will save me.” You’ll notice the Psalmist does not say the LORD will save me right now…no. There is no set time. There is just the knowing…the knowing that God will be present and help.
Kate Bowler ends her chapter with this insight, “…all good things that can come from prayer—trust, acceptance, connection, occasional miracles—are there waiting for us. But first comes radical honesty. The more genuine our prayers, the more freedom there is to acknowledge the reality of all a life with God can be. We are going through our own challenging times right now. Our days are filled with times of anguish, sadness, questioning, and, most likely, some anger in there. God desires us to be honest in our relationship with God. Unbridled honesty is our calling. Let it all out; let your truth be spoken to God. Cast your burdens upon the Lord as the Psalmist says, and together, we will wait. We will wait on the Lord, who will direct our ways. We can trust in the living God!  Amen