August 5, 2021
Clergy, Smoky Mountain District
When we’re in too deep
1Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Psalm 130 (NRSV)
2Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
3If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
4But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
5I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
6my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
7O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
8It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
DevotionAt about this time a few years ago, on my very first day of Kindergarten, my sister and I were cooling off in the swimming pool after a very busy and exciting day first day of school. I must have been tired because despite my treading, I began to slip beneath the surface of the water . . . in the deep end.
Panic and fear swept over me even more rapidly than the water. My survival instinct was to thrash the water furiously, to reach out for my sister, to grab something, anything, to keep myself afloat! I grasped my sister’s long hair, and in my struggle to keep myself above the surface, I began to pull her under! Now both of us were in big trouble . . . in the deep end!
My mother, who was nearby and vigilant saw my struggle (which had now become our struggle), and without hesitation, she jumped into the pool—fully clothed—and kept us both above the surface as she towed us to the safety of the shallow water. There, our feet could touch the safe, secure, solid ground of the pool’s bottom.
Though I don’t recall exactly what followed, I feel certain we had a conversation about knowing our limitations—especially when tired—and avoiding getting into deep water without the strength or ability to get ourselves back to solid ground.
In that memorable childhood experience, I was in too deep, over my head, and I don’t doubt that I cried out for help!
Where are the places and what are the circumstances from which you cry out for help? It very well may be that you cry out most loudly and urgently from “out of the depths,” in the words of Psalm 130. You may have cried out to God from an experience of deep sorrow, deep sadness, deep disappointment, deep despair, deep depression, or even deep trouble. You may know the helplessness of being in too deep.
Another psalm describes the futility we feel in some of those depths: “I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me” (Psalm 69:2).
Just as I ended up in the deep end because of my own wandering, Psalm 130:3 suggests that the singers of this hymn may be in a trouble of their own design: “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?”
Just as I thrashed and searched urgently for rescue, verses 5 and 6 describe urgent waiting and hoping. The Psalmist says they are watching for help “more than those who watch for the morning,” and as if to emphasize the urgency by repetition, “more than those who watch for the morning!”
Imagine that person watching for the morning, longing to see daylight. Perhaps the person keeping watch is absolutely exhausted, and the dawning day brings a changing of the guard and rest. Perhaps the person keeping watch is absolutely terrified by a surrounding army and the daylight makes it possible to see the enemy and (better yet!) rescuers or reinforcements.
When we’re in over our heads, we feel the same urgency, the same anxiety, the same need for rescue from the darkness and depths.
Thanks be to God, neither this psalm nor the God of all creation leaves us in the depths! Better yet, the psalm describes not only the depths and darkness from which we are rescued, but it describes the gifts of God by which we are rescued! Verse 4 offers forgiveness, verse 7 recalls God’s steadfast love, and verse 8 reminds us of God’s redemption.
Friend, hear the good news! When we are in too deep or in over our heads, when we are in the depths because of our own willfulness or waywardness, the Lord hears our cries!
Today and always, God offers rescue from the depths of sin and death! God offers forgiveness, love, and redemption! Look up from the depths, because God is looking at you with love, grace, and compassion.