Face Down in the Dust
We collapse in the dust,
lying face down in the dirt.
Rise up! Help us!
Ransom us because of your unfailing love.
Has your life ever been so difficult that you ended up face down in the dust? Have you experienced disappointment in life…and in God? Has it ever felt to you as if God has abandoned you for no particular reason? Are you feeling that way right now?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then Psalm 44 is perfect for you. It begins with a celebration of God’s mighty intervention on behalf of his people. God is constantly praised because he has given victory to Israel (44:7-8). “But now you have tossed us aside in dishonor,” laments the psalm writer (44:9). God’s people have experienced terrible things, and none of them seem to be earned. The psalmist protests: “We have not violated your covenant.” Yet, “for your sake we are killed everyday; we are being slaughtered like sheep” (44:22).
Psalm 44 ends with a passionate cry for the Lord to “Wake up!” and hear the prayers of his people. In anguish, the psalmist prays on behalf of the people, “We collapse in dust, lying face down in the dirt. Rise up! Help us! Ransom us because of your unfailing love” (44:25-26). The phrase translated as “lying face down in the dirt” could be translated even more literally, “our bellies cling to the earth.” This is a posture of despair, as well as desperate prayer.
Why doesn’t the psalmist just give up on God? What would help God’s people to pray even in such a place of disheartenment? Notice the final line of the Psalm: “Ransom us because of your unfailing love.” “Unfailing love” translates the Hebrew word chesed, which means “goodness, kindness, mercy, covenant faithfulness” as well as “unfailing love.” Though God’s people do not feel his love at the moment, they nevertheless count on that love because the Lord has revealed himself as a God who is “filled with unfailing love” (Exod. 34:6).
When you and I find ourselves in a situation like that of Psalm 44, we may wonder why God has abandoned us or even doubt whether God is there at all. Yet we continue to pray because God has demonstrated his love for us, most of all in the cross. When we are face down in the dust, we remember the one whose face was bruised and battered for us. When our belly clings to the earth, our souls cling to the cross.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced something like the discouragement of Psalm 44? When? What happened? What helps you to keep on praying even when it seems like God is not there for you? What helps you to hang onto God’s love in difficult times?
PRAYER: God of Mercy, God of Unfailing Love, sometimes you make your power known to us in amazing ways. We marvel at your might and goodness.
But there are other times, times when you seem to have wandered away from us or turned your back upon us, times when our prayers bounce back upon us after hitting the ceiling. We wonder why you have abandoned us? We can’t figure out your ways. Yes, it can feel as if our bellies are clinging to the dust.
Help us in these times, Lord, to remain faithful. Help us to continue to pray. Bring around us those who can suffer with us and stand with us. Above all, may we cling to the cross, knowing that your love will never let us go.
Today I want to pray especially for people I know who are lying facedown in the dust. Hear their prayers, Lord! Let them know that you are with them! Lift them up in your unfailing love!
I pray in the name of Jesus, the ultimate revelation of God’s love for us. Amen.
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.