My eighteen-year-old daughter Riley was out of town when she called to check in with me and sweetly asked, “How are you, Mom?” I replied, “I’m fine.” Without missing a beat, she said, “are you good-fine or bad-fine?” On that day, I was neutral-fine, but Riley was right about the word “fine” because it can express a wide gamut of emotion. A few days later, my husband Ben and I were having a slight disagreement when I said, “it’s fine!” Seeing my face and hearing my tone he responded, “it’s not fine.” Obviously, I’d used the term in the passive aggressive manner. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to become fine as we resolved the issue. But the range between good-fine and bad-fine is wide and can also include the “I don’t want to talk about it-fine.” Sometimes the emotion is too great to discuss or we’re just tired of dwelling on hard circumstances. Lately, I’ve felt like I’m trending toward “fake-fine” or “not fine at all actually” because the state of the world feels so heavy to me right now. And with that, hope starts to wane as well.
In Psalm 27, David appears to experience the spectrum of emotions associated with “fine.” At the beginning of the chapter, David states that the Lord is “my light and my salvation,” and “the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” He proclaims that God would protect him from his enemies who sought to devour him. Then, David seems concerned because he asks the Lord to keep him close “in the house of the Lord” so that the Lord can continue to protect him. But David descends into doubt a few verses later. He begs the Lord to “hear my voice when I call”; “do not turn your servant away”; “do not reject me or forsake me”; “do not turn me over to the desire of my foes.” Maybe David wanted to convince himself that everything was fine when he started writing but finally broke down and told God the truth – he wasn’t really fine. He feared the people who might harm him and that God wouldn’t be there for him when the world spun out of control.
David’s honesty is one of the hallmarks of his writing. He knows he needs God, but he is not always certain that God will help. I think we’ve all experienced those feelings. Like David, we may try to tell ourselves that we’re fine, but sometimes we experience those brutal moments when we wonder if God is listening, unsure if we are all alone in our hopelessness. We see our lives or our world in a tailspin, and we question God’s presence or plan. David shows us that our feelings of despair are normal and common to everyone.
In the last two verses, though, David reaches down deep to find hope. He says, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” It’s hard to hang onto hope. It’s hard to wait. It’s hard to see God’s goodness when things look bleak. But we can follow David’s example of honesty with God and declare our expectation that God will show up – sooner, rather than later, in our current lives, in today’s world. That we cling to the belief that God’s goodness still exists.
God also expects us to be part of that demonstration of goodness. Waiting does not mean we passively sit on our hands and do nothing. We need not ignore the wrongs and injustices we witness. We may have to work to dismantle systems that harm and oppress. We can speak out and tell others that God’s ways bring peace and love, not hate and violence. We can act in concert with God to bring about God’s goodness. We can help make things better than they are now even as we wait for more change.
We may not feel fine with how things are right now. But let us hang onto hope that God still works in the world today and remain confident that we can play an active part in bringing about God’s goodness.