The "Rock that is higher than I"

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Apr 30, 2009 by Howard Baker | 0 Comments

As we are faced with many demands, challenges, assignments, and responsibilities we are tempted to worry anxiously rather than work faithfully, to panic rather than pray, to self-pity rather than self-surrender. Eugene Peterson's comments on Psalm 77 call us to the "rock that is higher than I."

Pity is one of the noblest emotions available to human beings. Self-pity is possibly the most ignoble. Pity is the capacity to enter into the pain of another in order to do something about it. Self-pity is an incapacity, a crippling emotional disease that severely distorts our perception of reality.

The antidote is well-known, if not well practiced. It's prayer. Prayer is an act that is sensitive enough to be in touch with self-pity but strong enough not to become absorbed by it. The initial impulse to pray often comes from self-pity. But in prayer, our self-pity meets up with a stronger, healthier energy and, in the process, gets transformed.

Psalm 77 falls into two nearly equal but contrasting parts-verses 1-10 and 11-20. The first section is unmitigated and obstinate self-pity. The second section is vigorous and gracious compassion. It's pity, but pity that is thoroughly unselfed.

Dead-ended as self-pity is, prayer doesn't forbid it. Any place is the right place to begin to pray. But we mustn't be afraid of ending up someplace quite different from where we start. The psalmist began by feeling sorry for himself and asking seething questions. He ended up singing an old song proclaiming God's might and grace.

Don't worry about the words that start you praying. Just don't let them become a dead end. Let them lead you to higher ground, where self-pity is transformed into worship.

(Conversations:  The Message with its Translator, 856)

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