O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock! (Ps. 137:8-9)
I find these words to be very encouraging. I don’t find these words encouraging because I want God to hurt any little ones, or because I want God to destroy everyone who has ever hurt, betrayed, or turned against us.
I find these words encouraging because the psalm’s author takes his most primitive feelings and repulsive thoughts to God. He doesn’t sanitize them to make nice. He doesn’t varnish them to sound holy. Instead, he cries out his darkest desires, trusting that God will hear and take it all.
To understand the words of this psalm, we need to remember that the Babylonians had just sacked God’s city, Jerusalem, and had just destroyed God’s house, the Temple. Everywhere the Jews looked they saw devastation and slaughter. And then the Babylonians took the remaining Jews into exile in Babylon. It makes perfect sense that the psalm begins this way: “By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion” (v.1).
Have you ever wanted revenge or harbored hatred? Have you ever desired your enemies destroyed, your betrayers vanquished, all the scores evened?
Because the psalmist doesn’t know how to “sing the Lord’s song in this foreign land” (v.4), he cries out these terrible words about children being killed. His words are the screams from his terror and anger. His words encourage us to cry out whatever is in our hearts to God.
When we clean up our words to God our prayers dry up. When we try to sound holy our praying becomes dishonest. God doesn’t want some buffed-up version of who we are. God just wants us to trust Him with our prayers—no matter how primitive, brutal, or ugly.
The more we bring all that’s most human, real, and dark to God, the more room we give God to bring His grace to our grief, His comfort to our pain, His peace to our turmoil, and His healing to our wounds.
- Are you brutally honest in your prayers, or do you try to clean them up so that you appear more holy? If so, how’s that working for you?
- When we hold back and don’t tell the truth in our most important relationships, they drift, wither, and die. Why would we ever think the same wouldn’t be true with God?
- In the spirit of today’s psalm, isn’t it time for you to cry out your deepest, darkest, and most ugly thoughts and needs and desires to God? Will you give yourself permission to do so?