Spiritual Whiplash

“Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me, let them bring me to your holy mountain.” Psalm 43:3

Whiplash. It can happen in a moment. One minute you’re driving straight and the next you have seriously adjusted your course. When I swerved to miss an animal suddenly appearing in the same lane as me, my head bounced off the driver’s window. Later I noticed not only a bump on my head but soreness in my neck. Fortunately, the soreness only lasted a few days as my case of whiplash was a minor one.

Whiplash can happen in the middle of a conversation. Everyone is engaged and the discussion lively. Then without notice, an off-the-wall comment is interjected and the conversation heads in a radically new direction. People wear that “what just happened” kind of look. The change of conversational direction is so abrupt and unanticipated, you are left with a case of whiplash and walk away shaking your head.

Whiplash can also happen when reading the Bible, especially the Psalms! Take Psalm 43 for example. The author was distressed and feeling overwhelmed. He prayed for vindication and rescue from the hands of deceitful and wicked men (v. 1). Against that backdrop, he makes a bold proclamation of faith: “You are God my stronghold” (v. 2). Even though feeling attacked, the Psalmist knew his stronghold would stand secure.

Now comes the whiplash moment. After asserting the faithfulness of God, the Psalmist asks, “Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy” (v. 2)? Didn’t see that one coming! Within the first two verses, the author has 1) requested God’s intervention; 2) recognized God’s faithfulness; and 3) revealed his feelings of abandonment!

He felt abandoned but knew his feelings didn't define reality. He made this request of God: “Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me” (v. 3). Spurgeon understood the light to be God’s presence and the truth to be God’s word. He wrote “the joy of thy presence and the faithfulness of thy heart, let them both be manifest to me . . . as the sun darts forth his beams, so does the Lord send forth his favor and his faithfulness toward his people.” So glad he does!

The Psalmist asked God to “let [light and truth] bring me to your holy mountain” (v. 3). The mountain represented the dwelling place of God, where the author knew he could reconnect to God's heart, where worship would flow and joy be restored (v. 4). We then hear the author’s internal dialogue: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me” (v. 5)? Hope in God will not be wasted, and praise will be the joyful outcome (v. 5).

I am grateful for this kind of whiplash. It shows how unscripted our prayers can be. There is no need to “tidy them up” before offering them to God. It also illustrates how honest we can be with God. No emotion is “off the table,” but can be freely spoken to the God who spent three decades living in our flesh (cf. Heb. 2:17).

Spiritual whiplash. If you experience it, you’re in pretty good company, right next to writers whose words are included in the God-breathed word!

Pastor David

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