From the neck down

Psalm 31:9-16
A counselor once asked, “Have you ever cried from the neck down?”

If you need that explained, chances are, you haven’t. It’s an experience you don’t forget. One that bulges in your memory and soul. For many of us, it’s a response to a traumatic event. Think of the immediate pain of death or some form of abuse. The experience can also build over time without our sensing its coming. Despair can bring it about.

Psalm 31 seems to illustrate what we’re talking about. We aren’t sure what event spurred such a deep reflection. Some suggest it was David contemplating his pain related to his son Absalom. Whatever it was, the hurt is real and deeply rooted.

You can hear the anguish when the psalmist says, “my eye wastes away from grief” (Psalm 31:9). A good cry feels good. The tears don’t hurt as they run down your cheek. This isn’t a good cry, though. This is an unsettling cycle of lament. You feel the true grief of the psalmist when, like him, you say, “My eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.” Tears don’t pass your neck. Grief does.

The final words of our crucified Lord come from Psalm 31. From the cross, Jesus “called out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit'” (Luke 23:46). We’re not comfortable comparing our struggles with what Jesus faced. I liken it to when people tell me they know there are “other people who have it worse than me.” In a sense, that may be true, but it does not negate your grief.

The agony Jesus faced may have been to display the full love of God to the world. It was God’s will for the cosmos. In God’s mercy, that doesn’t mean your agony doesn’t matter or is any less painful. Jesus related to the images from Psalm 31 and others in his most dire moments. That offers us a bit of hope that he understood crying from the neck down like we do.

And, like the psalmist, we can trust in God’s deliverance. “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:14-15a). Even when grief and sorrow burden our souls, our trust in the Lord moves us toward healing.

We won’t always cry from the neck down. May it be that your next cry be a good one that opens hope to you again.

Stay blessed…john