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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Anguish of Soul

Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.  Make your face shine down upon us.  Only then will we be saved.  (Psalm 80:19 NLT)

If you have ever been in one of those places some would label as "a funk", you probably have cried out a little to God because of the circumstances of life and the just plain miserableness of your plight. You might even have complained, groaned, screamed, and even fallen prostrate before him in prayer. It is not uncommon to begin to heighten our intensity toward prayer when life isn't dealing us what we consider to be a "fair hand". As I read through a couple of the psalms this morning, beginning at the 77th and moving through the 80th, I noted a common theme of crying out to God for restoration of some "former condition". The nation of Israel had slipped away from their first love - they had enjoyed times of great privilege, but had come into a place of being overtaken in their own lands and placed under the bondage of pagan kings. The conditions were definitely far from "favorable" for them and their hearts were in anguish because of it. 

Anguish has a way of being expressed, doesn't it? It isn't always easy to conceal our deep anguish - especially when disappointment after disappointment seems to mount to astronomical proportions. We want to be free of that overwhelming sense of heaviness that just rests heavily upon our thoughts and burdens our hearts. Anguish is most often a condition of the mind - the thoughts cannot seem to turn away from the continual ruminating that burdens the soul with feelings of despair, mistrust, and fear. Anguish is most frequently felt because we sense some loss - we cannot seem to connect with something we had known previously. Those who are clinically depressed will often speak of the feelings of deep despair and of feeling "disconnected" from what life had once been for them. I don't think God allowed the emotions associated with what we term "anguish" by accident - they are intended to help us realize we are somehow disconnected from something of significance.

The thing God intends when we begin to experience these deep feelings of internal anguish is to return to him with unbridled surrender to his purpose and will for our lives. Easier said than done, for our first inclination is often to question "why this is happening to us", isn't it? We want to pinpoint the cause and then eliminate it. God may want us to focus a little less on the cause and a little more on what we have lost in the process! Sin happens because we make some compromise, no matter how small it seems at first. As sin occurs, we either deal with it head on and allow God to bring us close to him through is grace again, or we continue to cover over the sin and experience even more anguish of soul.

Anguish isn't meant to keep us in bondage - it is meant to turn us again toward God and his grace. We might languish a little too long in the place of anguish, though - simply because we aren't willing to let go of something we are holding onto or we haven't quite realized we aren't connected to God's heart as we need to be. Either way, the "crying out" that is part of anguish may be exactly what we need to begin to "talk out" what it is we are going through. Oftentimes, when we are crying out, we come head on with the "culprit" for our anguish! It is often revealed in those moments of honest expression of the heart when we are just free to share the deep-down hurt, overwhelming frustrations, and the total lack of peace we might be experiencing.

As our psalmist implies, it is in anguish we cry out - it is in loving care that God begins to turn us again toward the direction of his grace. Anguish drives us to God - despair is really a cry for restoration. When we "languish in our anguish", God may send someone to us to help us recognize we need to move a little - helping us to start taking movement back toward him. This is really his grace in action in our lives - nothing bespeaks his care more than him sending someone into our lives to help us see the way back to his arms! The thing to remember about anguish is that our "crying out" is really two things - an acknowledgement that we aren't where we want to be and a cry to help us find our way once again to the place where our spirit is brought close to his once again. Just sayin!