Even When It Hurts: March 17, 2021 (St. Patrick’s Day)

Even When It Hurts -- Lent 2021 Devotional Book

Read: Psalm 17

Guard me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.
-Psalm 17:8

Every time I read the Psalms, I feel deep empathy. As a child, I was taught that David was the author, so perhaps that’s why I felt especially drawn to them initially. We know, of course, that writers also included Moses, Solomon, etc., but there’s still an almost mystical familiarity for me. Even now as I near 60 years of age my most common intentional readings of scripture find me in Proverbs, Song of Solomon, the Gospels—and always, the Psalms. I have come to see it as my persistent confirmation of a call to music.

Why empathy? I believe it’s because the Psalms frequently remind us of the emotional states of being human: fear, loneliness, vulnerability, hopelessness—brought about by that nagging worry that, underneath it all, we don’t really deserve love. As is so common, Psalm 17 finds the writer praying for deliverance from persecutors. Again. It’s a recurring lament throughout the entire book. It’s a recurring lament of the human condition!

But there are also glorious mountaintop moments in the Psalms: triumphant songs of confidence, thanksgiving for victory, gratitude for recovery from serious illness, the joy of forgiveness—even an ode for a royal wedding—and of course, the beloved story of the Divine Shepherd’s love and care for us.

I chose to highlight verse 8 because I’m new to Washington State. Sure, I’ve eaten Washington apples my entire life, but I see new meaning here now. We’re not just an apple of God’s eye, but the apple—the fullest, shiniest, reddest, most sweet, juicy, and delicious. We’re Honeycrisps! We’re Cosmic Crisps! Or giant, delightful Jazz apples! And as God’s favorite, each of us, we may feel secure—and loved completely, perfectly, unconditionally—in that protective shelter right next to God’s very own heart. Maybe that’s really why I return over and over to the Psalms.

In verse 15, the psalmist declares hope in the morning: that he will behold God’s face in righteousness, satisfied to behold God’s likeness. That likeness in which we are all created. So even at our worst moments, in the fear, loneliness, vulnerability, and hopelessness of life’s lowest places, we can look in the mirror and find comfort.

Oh, God, hold before us your divine countenance; may it always be our aspiration. Amen.
-David Sloat