“David cried aloud to the Lord, he poured out his complaint before Him,” the Syrian pastor preached to the congregation of refugees from Homs and surrounding areas. The weary believers hung on the pastor’s every word; easily placing themselves in David’s place when he wrote Psalm 142.
Months of fighting in and around Homs have transformed the city into a dangerous war zone. In order to encourage the refugees, churches in the surrounding cities organized special services just for them. All those in attendance are refugees – internally displaced within their own country. Running from their own people just as David did when he found shelter in the cave of Adullam, they come to meet each other, share experiences and fellowship.
In June, a team of Open Doors workers visited one of the special refugee services.
“The book of Psalms is a Bible in itself,” the pastor explained. “In this book we find all kinds of Psalms that express emotions that represent all situations of life. You will find people asking God to interfere in what they are going through. Psalm 142 is written in a crisis situation. ‘Is not everyone against us?’ David asks.”
The pastor continues, “First I see in this Psalm a cry of deep pain. David is saying that no one is concerned about him. Many times you see words about pain in this Psalm, a pain that is killing from inside. Even when the writer is crying, he says what he is feeling. He speaks about God as someone from a distance feeling as if God is far away; he speaks of Him, not of You.”
The pastor then pointed to a change of perspective when David starts talking to God in another way – not as Him but as You. “God wants to hear your voice, He wants to hear what your feelings are, not just nice words….When he becomes honest in his prayers, Him becomes You. God comes close. You also see the suffering of a lonely man, a complaint about the situation he is in. I have nowhere to run, no one asking for me, no one concerned about me. I am displaced.”
The congregation, now living as refugees themselves, can completely relate to David’s emotional trauma.
The pastor points out, “In verse 5 when David proclaims, ‘You are my refuge, my portion,’ he felt God near and was able to see that God was his only portion. We all must remember that in the presence of the Lord we are not alone. We can come from complaining to praising. Just come as you are.”
Concluding the pastor said, “The last thing that David expresses at the end of the Psalm is that he is trusting in a new tomorrow, a new future. ‘Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.’ The presence of the Lord doesn’t depend on circumstances. He doesn’t always remove the pain. Living with Jesus is living on another level. Uniting you with God, surrendering to Him, means that you are stronger than the pain you are going through. When no one understands you, go to God…He will come and you will feel the glory of His presence.”
After the service, the church offered food and drink to the 200 or more people present. They refreshed refugees enjoyed a time of communion, sharing their experiences and getting to know each other. The church will continue to organize these services on a regular basis. Seeing smiles transform tired faces, hearing laughter and chatter, it was clear that this service had provided much needed encouragement for the refugees. Praise God for the church’s faithfulness to provide this retreat for their struggling brothers and sisters.
Father, daily we hear about the violence and turmoil in Syria and we bring before You today the Christians who have become refugees in their own country. We pray that You will teach them in new ways that You are their refuge and that their faith might grow strong. Thank You for the churches reaching out to them spiritually and in practical ways and for Open Doors as they assist them. Grant them the resources they need to continue this work and we pray that the Spirit will accept their offering of service and use it in powerful ways for Your glory in Syria. We pray for peace in Syria that flows out of the lives of men and women who have entered into Your peace through the redemptive work or Christ. In the name of Jesus who is their refuge, Amen.