January 11, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
The first line of Psalm 130 is one of the most frequently quoted of the Psalms: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD” (130:1, KJV). Why is this simple line so commonly used in prayers, hymns, and spiritual songs? Because it expresses what it’s like to pray when we’re facing overwhelming challenges and hardships. Our hearts resonate with the psalmist when we pray not with joyful praise or quiet calm but with urgent desperation. The Message puts it this way: “Help, GOD—the bottom has fallen out of my life!”
Have you ever prayed like this? I know I have.
The word translated in Psalm 130:1 as “depths” refers literally to the deep places of the sea. In Isaiah 51:10, for example, the prophet asks the Lord: “Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over?” Metaphorically, the use of “depths” signifies a place of serious need and vulnerability. In English, we speak of being in deep trouble. Or we say that we’re drowning when we feel buried by the demands of life. Thus we can easily relate to the cry of the psalmist as he prays “out of the depths.”
Psalm 130:1 reminds us of two crucial elements of the life of faith. First, sometimes we will be in the depths—the depths of despair, doubt, and desperation. There will be times when we feel as if life were crashing in on us. Second, when we are in the depths, we are invited to cry out to the Lord. We don’t have to pretend as if we’re filled with trustful calm. We don’t have to pray with carefully crafted prose. Rather, we can cry out to God with whatever words, sighs, or laments rise spontaneously to our lips. Like the psalm writer, we call out for mercy, knowing that God’s mercies are new every morning, and that nothing in all creation can separate us from his love (Lamentations 3:33-23; Romans 8:37-39).
Something to Think About:
When you have been in the depths, how have you cried out to God?
What helps you to pray when you feel discouraged?
Something to Do:
If you are in the depths right now, cry out to God freely. If possible, reach out to a trusted brother or sister in Christ who can cry out with you.
Gracious God, I know that my future will have depths, even as there have been many in the past. When I find myself in these deep and hopeless places, help me to call out to you, to trust you, even to know that you are there for me.
Today, I remember people who are in the depths right now. I bring before you friends who are struggling with finances and health issues. I pray for those who are victims of prejudice or injustice. I pray for those who have been forced to leave their homes and countries. O Lord, hear their cries for mercy. Reach out to them in your love, by your Spirit and through your people. Amen.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.