psalm 42.

You know those moments when God corners you and brings you to a point where you must listen? —

One of those happened last night.

You see, friends, I have been so frustrated with my body recently since my last chemotherapy treatment. I’ve been rushrushrushing for my body to hurry up! get better! feel better! be normal! The mind desires to do beyond what the body permits. Can’t I just slip quickly away and abandon this vessel?


I try to walk around a grocery store, attached to my father, reminiscent of childhood shopping trips. Wooo, must slow down. Hold onto the cart. Don’t pass out here among the cheeses and creamers.

Chemo cravings are unreal. (How is it that when you are trying to destroy cells with chemo, the body craves, and when you are trying to produce new cells, new life, a baby, your body craves as well? Mirror death/mirror life—why?) I crave wonton soup and pork fried rice. I sip sip soup and heat heat all of a sudden rises, from feet to toes, head dizzying. Must lay down. Must lay down. How on earth could soup—a small, slight degree change of ingesting a hotter temperature, cause me to almost pass out? Unreal body, unreal.

Dear body, why can’t you do these normal things—grocery shop and eat soup—without interruption? What have these drugs done to you?

Yes, there is a depression that settles over you, like the famous “chemo brain,” that wraps you up tightly in its clear plastic-wrap that you barely notice the difference between it and you, the plastic-depression-wrap and your skin. And it buffers and protects you from any human contact it seems. (Can they tell, can they feel it when they try to touch you, talk to you, this wrap around you, plastic and strong?)

I’m someone who typically loves the presence of people. And here I am repelling it. And not only their presence, but The Presence also. Is He powerful enough to slice through the wrap? I haven’t even tried to find out; I’ve been avoiding and thinking and reading and watching tv and cooking and sitting, mostly sitting, emersing self in quiet-aloneness.

Somehow though, day 4 of recovery, I manage to get myself dressed, ready, presentable (and hopefully passing out episode-free) to attend the high school groups Central Teaching, a Bible study that gathers hundreds of students together to read and hear and understand the Word. (Who poked a small hole in this plastic wrap? When did that occur?)

The powerpoint goes up:

“Psalm 42: What To Do When You Feel Bad”


You’re kidding.

And I don’t know whether to laugh or smirk becuase this is too good of a set up, or to snarl and shout “really?! this psalm again?!” or cry out of helplessness-gratitude that finally, finally He cornered me and got me to a place where I can’t run anymore and that I must listen.

The helplessness-gratitude in the bottom of my heart-well is being churned and brought up in its bucket, pulled by someone outside of myself yet inside of myself: the Spirit.

Write write write. Listen listen listen.

psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Someone outside of myself, within myself is slowly unwrapping the plastic-wrap with each powerpoint slide revealed, each Word of God uttered. Yes, indeed, the knife is sharp—

hebrews 4

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

And each application point derived from the Scriptures is just as sharp:

God helps us when we choose to—

  1. Meet with him (42:1-2)
  2. Meet with others (42:4)
  3. Question our thoughts (42:5)
  4. Look for purpose (42:8)

Slide by slide, point by point—I’ve realized I’ve not only neglected them all but willfully ran away from them all, even though I have just been passively sitting on my couch for the past several days.

Even passivity poisons.

Plastic-wrap ripping, and my skin still shows signs of its tight, tight grip on my arms, the small bits of moisture in the creases of my elbows, arms. Movement begins, freedom begins. (How did I not see that I was tightly bound before?)

Stop-start: more darts, sharp, sharp application-arrows to the heart—

“Dealing with feelings is an ongoing struggle.”


“What is the goal of dealing with bad feelings? Not to eliminate the bad feelings, to feel happy, but to get back to here:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God. (42:11)

How could I have forgotten!


My thoughts are like laundry: constantly churning, constantly cleaning, constantly loading, constantly soaking, constantly tumbling. They seem to be never ending. But look down into your hands, dear one. This is the same thought-shirt you wore two weeks ago, full of stains of worry. The jacket in the hamper still smells of the joy of that clear morning. And the sweater on you is woven of strong, strong passionate thoughts warming and holding you close. All these clothes-thoughts-feelings you change daily and wash and are therefore shifting, shifting. And yet consistent still, are a permanent part of your wardrobe as you will wear that jacket again soon, that other pair of jeans in the hamper too. Your thoughts, yes, are constantly going to come back to you, both the good and bad, even though you thought you just washed them and folded them up for good. Remember: your thoughts are an ongoing struggle; do not get frustrated with your laundry-thoughts, the constant dryer tumbling. But do remember your armor that covers:

ephesians 6

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powersof this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

That sword, so sharp. Slicing through plastic-wrap that I happened to forget is so flimsly, truly, really. Up against it, the plastic-wrap-thoughts have no hold over me.

Remove the plastic-wrappings, remove Lazarus’ grave clothes, and live.



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