Black dog meets the Light of the World
where can I flee
Anywhere’s better than here.
Kind of funny exchange happened one day some years ago; he was feeling a bit unnerved, cos she kept saying she just wanted to run away. He felt threatened for himself and their kids and all the things she was involved in. But some thought and prayer revealed that the problem was from within her and a factor of her hormonal storms and depressive feelings and moods; so next time she said she wanted to run away, he simply said, “Okay…” and handed her the keys to the car. Funny thing; she came back a few hours later having driven half-an-hour up the road to where no-one would know or bother her.
More than a few of us have that feeling of wanting to be somewhere else; anywhere else than here. To remove ourselves from what appears to be the source of our deep dark valleys of emotion, to get us away from that black dog. However fleeing is scary because we may not want to leave everything behind – if we leave the ghastly behind will the whimsical stay behind too? Or does something worse go with us while we’re unprotected by the familiar however ghastly that feels? What can we rely on to accompany us?
You can run but you can’t hide – thank God The thing of greatest importance is that God knows you – at great depth (and still likes you!)
O Lord, you have searched me and known me. (1)
This is the theme that holds Psalm 139 together…as a classic of both devotion and of doctrine, speaking to our many and varied moods and emotions.
The message is that, as God’s loved creatures, we are enclosed, enfolded in divine reality – God is present with us and for us in everything, everywhere; this is a prayer to the God who searches and knows us – intimately.
[1-6] Whatever goes on inside your head, whatever decisions or resolutions you make (for good or bad, significant or banal), God’s there watching, loving calling us to awareness of His presence.
…You discern my thoughts from far away
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely. (2b, 4)
Whether we know it or not, our lives are lived “in God”, or as Paul says, “in Christ”.
[7-12] Wherever I take myself, whether at His direction or in pursuit of some plan of my own, God is there, I can neither escape, ignore or flee Him; such is the persistence of His loving Presence.
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. (7,8)
And contrary to popular theology, God is present for our good; to shelter and to direct onto the safe and right paths of life…
…even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast (10)
Even the Black Dog cannot take us to a place where God is absent or unable to reach; rather, when such a presence threatens we are all the more firmly held in the loving embrace of the Eternal Lover.
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day, …to you (12)
[13-16] God’s knowledge goes back to the place where even the best therapist and counsellors struggle to penetrate – the place where we first started to take shape in the hiddenness of the womb. All that complex genetic matrix forming up both the physical and psychical characteristics that makes you the unique beings you are. God watching his amazing, creative work entering it’s next remarkable and wondrous expression that is the making of you.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret (15a)
[17-18] The right response to such awesome reality is wonder and thanks.
[19-22] While David has in mind human enemies we can use this diatribe against the enemies of us and of God as a reassurance that anything that dares to oppose or disrupt our relationship with God will be defeated by God the ever-vigilant. The unerring light of His word dispelling darkness, the restless winds of His Spirit dispersing the fog of uncertainty and the clouds of anxiety.
Ministering the Presence Karl Barth says that God only makes sense as “God with us” – God in relationship with us, as yet, imperfect human beings.
People in times of difficulty need to hear and experience that God is with them and for them – so when we pray for and with them and share with them, this is our prime task; to make them aware of the living Presence of God, to bring them into the Presence of all love and healing and peace. To say: “God still loves you, is still with you; is working for you even now, even if you can’t feel it, or believe it – it’s true.” Our responsibility is to persist with such loving reassurance – using Psalm 139 and similar scriptures to strengthen their unstable and shadowed faith. And know that you do anything that you do in the power and the grace of the living Lord Jesus, by the power of His ever-present Holy Spirit.
Black dog meets the Light of the World