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Monday, November 20, 2023

the depths of woe

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!  O Lord, hear my voice!  Let your ears be attentive to my pleas for mercy! (Psalm 130:1-2)

In the Scriptures, I normally think of an invitation into the depths of God as a positive and inviting thing, but what about when he invites us—or ushers us—into the depths of woe?  What about when God leads us—or takes us—to a place of coming face to face with our own sinfulness, brokenness, and desperation?  What about when he invites us not just to take a look at his beauty, but to take a good long look at our own inner ugliness?  That’s a whole different story.  I guess that’s why most of us refuse to go there on our own, we have to be taken there.

Well, God has taken me there recently, and I have to say it is not a place I enjoy being.  To be taken to the depths of woe is to be taken to the depths of your own neediness, brokenness, and insecurity, which is painful, humiliating, and incredibly dark.  It involves wave after wave of sorrow, sadness, and shame, with absolutely nothing you can do about it except sit in it, cry out for mercy, and wait for God to show up.

But you know what I've found at the bottom of these depths of woe?  I've found Jesus.  I guess that’s why the words of the ancient prayer (Psalm 139:8) remind us that even if we "make our bed in the depths," he is still there.  God was right there with me in my descent into my inner darkness.  His goodness, his unfailing love, and his full redemption (Psalm 130:7-8) even reached to the bottom of the depths of my woe, and beyond.  In fact, it is impossible to know the true depths of the unfailing love of God apart from a journey into the depths of woe.  For these depths are meant not only to mark us deeply, but also to change us completely.  Jesus meets us there and makes us more into the people, and the lovers, he dreamt us to be.

So if you are currently in the depths, like me, don’t fight it but embrace it.  God is bigger than your sorrow and your sadness and your pain.  God is even bigger than your sin.  Trust him; he is doing a great work in you.  He wants to show you the depths of your sin, so that he can help you to better understand the enormity and extravagance of his unfailing love, as well as the beauty and power of his full redemption. 

“From the depths of woe I raise to Thee the voice of lamentation.  Lord, turn a gracious ear to me and hear my supplication.  If Thou iniquities dost mark, our secret sins and misdeeds dark, O who shall stand before Thee?

To wash away the crimson stain, grace, grace alone, availeth.  Our works, alas! are all in vain; in much the best life faileth.  No man can glory in thy sight, all must alike confess thy might, and live alone by mercy.” ~Martin Luther

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