“I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:12
Asaph is talking about himself in this verse, and I’m not sure he’s prescribing therapy. It is immensely difficult for those who suffer from depression to do the things Asaph demands of himself—to simply put away their troubles, sleeplessness and anxiety, and think on what God has done, to meditate on His mighty works.
I have no doubt that throwing one’s attention fully upon the Lord is the bromide for unease and fretfulness, but I know from experience that it sounds like so much hot air to those of us who are truly and deeply depressed.
But you don’t have to be clinically depressed to know how hard it is to meditate on God’s works. Most of the time it’s flat-out impossible for any of us to remove ourselves from the focus of the lens by which we see our worlds. And while I’ll grant you that I’m getting old, I honestly think it is becoming more and more difficult to put ourselves away, given the post-modern experience. Today an omniscient media offers all of us whatever we’d like, 24/7. I look at a vest, and voila!—it turns up at every website I visit, tailor-made marketing.
Everything is me. Traditional institutions like family, school, church—not to mention government, bowling leagues, museums, and the Great American Novel—all fade in a world in which the only thing that matters, really, is me and my needs.
I’m sounding like Chicken Little—or maybe Jeremiah.
On Black Sunday, that memorable Sabbath in 1935, a swarming black cloud obscured the horizon, then swallowed up whole states, pushing swirling topsoil into drifts that swarmed through the entire region. When that black curtain first appeared, people thought it held rain and hail, maybe tornados.
But once they were in it, they saw and felt that it was gritty topsoil from newly plowed acres of land from the southern Plains. Drought had turned that earth to dust, and wind pushed it north and east in a massive cloud of such volume that, in just a few moments, people couldn’t find their own homes, even if they were no more than a hundred feet away.
Just west of where I live, Black Sunday was the most memorable event in an era we still name “the Dust Bowl,” a time which turned the homesteading dreams of thousands to the very dust that did them in. People were thrown to their knees. They had no choice.
I know I should be thankful for affluence. I should praise God’s favor for the ease by which I live. On a whim, I can take off in any direction, get a motel, eat sumptuously, and stay an extra day or two if I feel like it. There are few blessed—if affluence is a blessing.
But when I consider how hard it is for me to follow Asaph’s advice, to put myself behind and meditate on the works of the Lord, I can’t help but consider how really easy it is to allow our blessed commodities, our wealth, to keep us from going to our knees. Who would want another Black Sunday to scour off our pride? Who would want four years’ of flag-draped caskets returning from Europe and the Pacific Theater of WW II to remind us of what’s important in life? No one.
What makes Asaph’s resolutions a joy to read but a burden to accomplish is what I can do in our affluent culture, a culture that insists that nothing on earth is more crucial than following our own whims and getting what we got coming.
I don’t need or mean to talk about other people. I need and mean only to regard myself and my needs—and what it is those needs really are. That’s a herculean task every day, isn’t it?
Renewal, like his, requires a death; something has to die, something in me.