Biblical spirituality comprehends that extreme crisis of body and soul in which a human being finds himself terrified, anguished, and undone in the presence of Yahweh. At times the soul’s calamity experiences Yahweh’s accusing silence as his only, unholy communication:
O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
My soul also is struck with terror,
while you, O LORD—how long?
Bold, fear-challenging vigor comes to us in such prayers. They provide words for that moment when few seem capable of taking up the angst that seems sufficient to kill us but chooses instead the less bearable determination to prolong our suffering while the heavens remain silent.
Nor does cathartic pleasure elevate the value of this grief, for there is none. Only the soul’s unending—so it seems to those who know it—wasting disease:
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eyes waste away because of grief;
they grow weak because of all my foes.
There comes, even in a frustration-soaked prayer like this one, some turning towards confidence that Yahweh is, in fact, better than he has seemed, some hope that he will answer even after this stolid wall of divine indifference. Yet it seems as much a last-ditch flinging of oneself at hope because the alternative is too ugly to be endured than a soul-rich declaration of faith:
The LORD has heard my supplication;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror;
they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.
The reader who hurries overmuch to the trust that lies buried in this conclusion reads poorly. Even more does the companion of sufferers who find themselves able only to pray like this offend against the contours of biblical spirituality when he prods his suffering friend by external means towards words of hope. This prayer is to be read—and lived—slowly. It requires steady emphasis on the need to hear its words even in those lines where it seems only one ostensible conversation partner has the heart to speak into this dialogue, when it appears that Yahweh is not man enough to join in.
Only after that can one worthily speak of trust in Yahweh who—God be praised—hears and acts. Earlier than that is mere divine flattery.