Dear Minster and Friends,
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”
Psalm 40:1-3 NIV
A few weeks ago I went for a wonderful walk with family along the cliffs of Cornwall. On one part of the route we dipped down into a valley with a rivulet which opened up into the sea before the climb onto the cliffs again.
In this valley, little tufts of green and watery ground was scattered with stepping stones. One younger member of our party decided to take an alternative route and we heard a squeal of distress – new trainers had been sucked into the muddy bog and had been buried beneath, leaving them hopping and squelching about in their socks. Only when their father came along and lifted them back out and placed their feet on a rock, could they consider moving onward.
The Baptist author and hero of the faith John Bunyan recalls this in his narrative image of discipleship- Pilgrims Progress – and describes a ‘Slough of Despond’ – an old English word for the marshy riverside floodplains. (The town of Slough is named after those on the side of the Thames.)
“This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.”
Psalm 40 is a song for people in their socks in the mud. It lets us know that the Father is there to lift us up out of the mud and place our feet firm on those stepping stones. He helps repair, navigate and make the progress we long for – a family journey.
But there is more – after God picks us up and puts us on the firm foundation of his constant love, he also gives us a new song. The cry of distress, the shriek in shock, is turned into a beautiful song of praise which HE gives us. It is a personal song we can sing, but as the psalmist writes this song it then becomes a tune of hope and redemption for generations to come and nations unknown.
So – today, if you find yourself navigating one of life’s muddy fields, either at work or home, let us trust in the Lord, lift our hands to the Father who lifts us, and let Him put a song in our mouths to replace groans of distress.
With much love