For the last thirteen years, our family has lived outside of our ‘home’ country. The longer you live away, the more foreign your home seems to get. In the early days, it wasn’t always like that. We felt a range of emotions when trying to settle into and be productive in a foreign land. I often found myself turning to Psalm 137.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
Indeed, how does one sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land? The Psalmist speaks about grief, a grief for a time and a place that is now past. Our grief can come from many sources, but it always involves a loss. Things just aren’t the same anymore, and with that sometimes come the fear that we have lost our ability to sing the Lord’s song. Or perhaps the fear is that the Lord is unable to find us in that foreign place.
There are times and seasons for lament. In fact, it is necessary if we are to ever more forward and move on. We don’t always stay in our place of sadness. It’s important to recognize and name our grief, our loss or disappointment.
Psalm 137 expresses grief and the sense that perhaps God wasn’t with them in Babylon – it’s a common feeling. Yet in Psalm 139, we read,
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
What helps us move forward is to remember that God’s spirit hasn’t abandoned or left us, despite our feelings some days. He is with us wherever we find ourselves. He guides our paths and he knows just where we need to be. Deep within our spirit, the Lord’s song can still be found.