BY CHAD BIRD
I finally climbed all 109 mountains. My journey began out of desperation, fueled by anger, fear, resentment. I didn't how long it would take, nor the toll it would take from me.
I simply climbed, some days only an inch, other days a few feet. And sometimes I plummeted backwards.
Looking back from the final peak, I realize more than ever that this journey was a gift of God.
These mountains are the 109 towering words of Psalm 13. Your tongue can speed through them in less than a minute. But to voice them with your heart and soul and mind, to pray them with blood and sweat and tears, to drag your body over each towering word—that takes time.
It took me ten years.
Are you suffering? Are you angry at God? Does your life seem like a bottle that’s toppled off the shelf and shattered into a million shards—broken, irrecoverable, useless for anything but something to fill up more space in the trash?
Do you keep asking yourself, "How can I ever move on with a life not worth living?"
Then, I beg you, as a fellow beggar, to consider the gift of Psalm 13. The Spirit's gift to us. And to begin your journey from its opening question to its closing affirmation.
The opening two verses are these:
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
As you crawl into the cold, vacant bed and your body shakes. As your eyes rain tears, you cry, “How long?” As company after company turns down your application, as the cancer continues to eat its way through your body, as your child sinks deeper and darker into the cavernous depths of depression, you scream, “How long?”
Every emotion conspires together to convince you that your Father has forgotten that you are his child. Or worse, you suppose he has turned his back on you, written you off as a lost cause, hidden his face from you.
Rather than praying a lie by pretending all is well, this psalm places upon our lips a truthful plea. A godly complaint. These are God’s words, given as gifts to you, by which we can speak back to him.
Voice your misery. Speak the truth to your Father. Climb these mountains.
The next two verses are these:
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
The highest mountain to climb in these verses is the tiny word, “my.”
He is not God but my God. He is not the Lord but my Lord, my Father, my one and only life when death looms nigh.
When our eyes are wet with tears, darkened by doubt, wide with fear, then our eyes look to our Father for aid. “My” is the possessive of faith, the evidence of things not seen. “My” is the hand that clings to God, the Jacob that won’t let go of the Lord with whom he’s been wrestling all night.
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," Jesus himself cried out. And we, in him, pray the same. He, in us, prays the same. And because our prayer is his and his is ours, we are heard by the Father we both address as "Our Father."
Lest I give up, carry me, my God. Lest every foe I face overwhelm me, fight for me, my God.
Claim him as yours, for he is. He has claimed you in Christ, hears you in Christ, and will answer you in Christ.
God says of you, “My child,” and you say of him, “My Father.”
The final two verses are these:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Here you have reached the summits of joy, where light drives away the darkness. There are no more questions. There are no more complaints or demands or petitions. There is trust, love, rejoicing, singing.
On this mountain you stand with Noah exiting the ark, Jonah spit forth from the fish’s belly, and Jesus walking out of the tomb on Easter morning for you.
Here God answers your question of “How long?” And he affirms that he never forgot you. He held you in the palm of his nail-pierced hand. He cannot forget the one for whom he died. He will not turn his back on the one for whom his back was whipped and pressed into the wood of the cross.
His love is steadfast, never wavering, never retreating, for he is your God and you are his child. He will deal bountifully with you. It may take years, but in those years of darkness and doubt and seeming death, he will stick by your side, shielding you with his mercy.
Indeed, Psalm 13 is the prayer of Jesus, as every psalm is. It is his prayer before it is ours. And it becomes ours only in him.
More suffering will come for all of us. This vale of tears is never free of crosses. As there is a time for laughter, there will always be a time for weeping.
So let us pray Christ's prayer, Psalm 13. Climb all 109 mountains in Jesus.
Question, petition, rejoice in him. And remember that one day, we will climb a far different mountain. We will ascend Mt. Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, where sorrow and sighing will flee away, where death has been swallowed up in victory, and where we, with resurrected bodies free of suffering, will behold our Lord, our God, who carried us every step of the way.
Chad is an author and speaker who's devoted to honest Christianity that addresses the raw realities of life with the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chad has served as a pastor and assistant professor of OT theology, contributed hymns to the Lutheran Service Book, and cohosts the podcast “Forty Minutes in the OT.” He holds Master's degrees from Concordia Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. In addition to writing the books, Christ Alone and The Infant Priest, he has contributed articles to Modern Reformation, The Federalist, Concordia Pulpit Resources, and other journals. His new book with Eerdmans, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, is now available for pre-order at Amazon. His writings and other resources can be found at his website, chadbird.com. Chad and his wife, Stacy, enjoy life together in the Texas Hill Country.