[Today’s devotion on honesty in prayer is from the Weekend Word devotional series. Come back every Saturday to feel refreshed through the reading of God’s Word.]
Read: Psalm 42
Today’s Scripture: 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5, NIV).
If you’ve seen Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out, you may be familiar with the scene where Sadness comforts Bing Bong. For those unfamiliar, the film follows the adventures of Joy and Sadness, personified emotions living in the mind of 11-year-old Riley. Joy and Sadness accidentally get sucked out of Riley’s Mind Headquarters, ending up in her long-term memory.
While desperately trying to get back to headquarters, Joy and Sadness bump into Bing Bong, Riley’s almost-forgotten imaginary friend. Bing Bong comes along to help them get back but in the process, his “rocket wagon” gets thrown into Riley’s “memory dump” where it will soon be forgotten.
Bing Bong, distressed that the “rocket” is gone and sad that Riley is forgetting him, mourns over the lost chance to “go to the moon” with the rocket in Riley’s imagination. Joy, feeling like they are losing time to make it back to headquarters, attempts to cheer Bing Bong up by making silly faces, distracting him, and speaking optimistic comments. None of these strategies work.
Sadness, understanding Bing Bong’s emotions, sits next to him and admits how difficult the situation must be for him. Joy protests, thinking Sadness will only make it worse, but that’s not the case. Sadness’ empathy allows Bing Bong to process his feelings, and after a short cry, Bing Bong is ready to carry on.
As Christians, we know that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). But sometimes we use that idea to gloss over all our other emotions. We smother sadness because we have a fear that if we experience sadness or depression, we’re not trusting God enough. There is an unspoken (or sometimes not-so-unspoken) belief in modern Christianity that believers should be happy all the time.
While yes, we can have joy in the midst of terrible circumstances, that doesn’t mean we should ignore our other emotions. The Bible is full of people who were honest with God about their struggles, Psalm 42 being an example of a heartfelt cry to God from a man wondering why it felt like God had forgotten about him. He was honest. He didn’t cover up his feelings with flowery words or a feeble attempt to feel joy instead of sorrow. He admits that he was weeping (vs. 3) and was longing for the days where he could feel joy in God’s presence again (vs. 4).
Just like Bing Bong, we need the chance to process our feelings. While Bing Bong sat with Sadness, we can sit with Jesus who can fully empathize with us (Hebrews 4:15), who’s been through it all and understands our hurt and pain. It’s only after we’ve been honest with God about our feelings that we can move forward.
Psalm 42 gives us a glimmer of that hope of being able to move forward, even when it’s hard to see. This belief, echoed twice in the psalm, is a call to speak to our downcast soul and remind it to “put your hope in God” because we will “yet praise Him” (vs. 5). The day will come again when darkness turns to morning.
Charles Spurgeon put it beautifully in his commentary The Treasuries of David. He said:
“God is unchangeable, and therefore his grace is the ground for unshaken hope. If everything be dark, yet the day will come . . . A loss of the present sense of God’s love is not a loss of that love itself.”
At times when you can’t feel God’s love, He still loves you. Like the psalmist, be honest with God about what you’re feeling, even if it seems like He’s not listening. It’s the first step to moving forward. God has greater things to come.
Today’s Thoughts: Do you have feelings that you’ve been holding back from God about your personal life, your work, or your ministry? Have an honest conversation with Him today. Don’t try to sprinkle in fancy words or push away tough feelings. Hold nothing back — He can take it.