Real faith is honest. Real faith struggles. And it is real faith we hear from the psalmist as he cried out to God in Psalm 130: “From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer” (Psalm 130: 1-2).
What are these depths of despair? They are deeper than gloom. They are deeper than the awareness of both sin and guilt. The psalmist was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s disapproval, God’s disfavor, God’s frown rather than God’s smile. He had sunk down into the depths of distance from God and darkness toward God.
He knew that God forgives, for he wrote in verse 4: “You offer forgiveness.” But he didn’t feel personally forgiven. He believed that God forgives sin, but he wasn’t all sure that God would forgive his sin. In fact, he felt forsaken by God. And that is a deep pit. He was crying out for God to rescue him from the depths of his God-forsakenness. Yet even as he gave voice to the struggle within, the psalmist broke through to hope: “O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is unfailing love. His redemption overflows. He Himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin” (130: 7-8).
Our greatest hope when we find ourselves in the depths of despair over our sin is that He himself will redeem us from every kind of sin. In fact, we can’t really welcome this redemption until we come to the place of true desperation. That was the problem of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day – they did not sense that they needed forgiveness or a Savior. God’s answer to every sinner’s desperate cry for forgiveness from God stood in front of them, and instead of rejoicing in Him, they rejected Him.
“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” Jesus said (Mark 2: 17). Jesus did not come to help the righteous people fine-tune their righteousness, but to help sinners come back to God. It is through his finished work on the cross that we can come back to the smile of God. From the depths we cry out for help and are met with forgiveness through Christ.
If we were not too far from his help when we were lost sinners, then we are certainly not too far from his help as his redeemed children. Let us hold back nothing from Him and know that he will hear every prayer. Let us take everything to the foot of the cross and encounter God’s smile.
Prayer – Long before I knew to call out to you for forgiveness, you were calling me to yourself, offering yourself to me. You have heard my cry and answered, and so I put my hope in you forever.
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.