“Mehalath Leannoth,” “A Dance of Affliction.” This is the title of Psalm 88, a lament to God from a songwriter who knows the darkness of troubled souls. He describes his hopelessness as being “adrift among the dead.” How desparate – how low. He asks, “Shall the dead arise and praise You?” Then in Psalm 89, we read, “How long, Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever?” What is so strange about these questions is that we, who know Christ, are convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love, “…neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:38, 39).
It reminds me that even God’s anointed may become unsteady, filled with sadness, filling hopeless and helpless. Romans 10 asks, “How will they hear without a preacher?” I’m not a preacher, I can tell you that truthfully, but I feel responsible to bring God’s love to a starving, depressed people.
Today we celebrated my husband’s birthday, the first since he nearly died last autumn. The talk at the table turned to the afterlife. Weird, I know, but when you have passed your 60’s, it is common to link those two topics together. In fact, my husband joked that any day above ground is a good day, and another said that having a birthday is better than the alternative. The conversation turned to observations about tragic endings, and someone asked what I thought about a person’s chance of getting into heaven after committing suicide. It seems this man’s friend shot himself, and the widow was told by a preacher, nonetheless, that anyone who commits suicide does not enter the kingdom of heaven. As you might imagine, the widow walked out of the church that very day.
To add pressure to this touchy subject, I knew that four of those sitting at the table were going to attend church with me for the first time. I felt led to give familiar examples from the Bible that highlighted suicide: Judas Iscariot and King Saul who committed suicide after disobeying God. The former was buried in the dreaded Potters Field and the latter was buried with kings. After speaking, I literally saw the furrowed brows smooth, and bodies poised to make a quick exit, relax.
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” I want this in my life and to pour out of my life: The gospel of peace that reminds others of how truly great is God’s love (Romans 10: 15).
All Biblical quotes were taken from the Trinity Fellowship 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition Nelson Study Bible, 2002.