Psalm 61: Lamenting the End of Summer

How I long for an endless summer of blue skies and warm days that invite you to go outside rather than huddle inside by the glow of the TV and other electronics! I’m experiencing my yearly end of summer slump as I think about all I didn’t do this summer. No trip to Mackinaw or Traverse City, no lazy week at a cottage. I haven’t even had any Mackinaw Island fudge! Where did the summer go? There’s still so much I would like to cram into these last weeks of warm weather.

The writer of Psalm 61 is also affected by a general malaise. There is no mention why he is distressed, he just is. The shortness of this psalm and its lack of specificity makes it perfect for everyone. It’s a lament for anyone who is down and depressed. It begins in common lament form, “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer.” (1). Then continues, “From the ends of the earth I call to you.” (2a) Perhaps the writer is in exile, far from home, or perhaps it is a state of mind—feeling far from God. “My heart is faint,” (2b) the writer states. He is wasting away, his strength is gone.

The writer asks God to lead him to higher ground, take him out of the dumps of depression, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (2b) He asserts his trust in God, “For you are my refuge.” (3a) He asks God to keep him safe under the shelter of his wings where he would like to stay forever. “Let me dwell in your tent forever! Oh to be safe under the shelter of your wings!” (4) Kind of like me and summer—I would like to live forever in summer.

The psalm is then interrupted by a prayer for the king. It’s like an aside, or maybe a commercial, breaking into the body of the psalm. And now a word from our sponsor, the king. Perhaps the writer was reminded of the need to pray for our leaders, something worth remembering for they do need our prayers. Then the psalm concludes with words of praise, “So I will ever sing praises to your name.” (8a)

Summer in Michigan is a little bit of heaven. I wish I could stay here forever. This year the weather has been exceptionally perfect, 70 and 80 degrees, not a single sweltering day above 90 to send you running inside for air conditioning. I need a few miserable days of heat and humidity for me to be ready for summer to be over. Still there is beauty in the fall and even the dead of winter. If I stayed in endless summer I would miss all of that.

My end of summer funk can hardly be compared with someone dealing with depression because of the loss of a loved one or loss of health or some major trauma, yet that’s the beauty of this psalm. It speaks to anyone who is down, from minor doldrums to major blues. It is for everyone.

Nothing in this life is perfect; nothing in this life lasts forever and that is good. Only God is forever perfect. The rest of us have to deal with our imperfections, treasuring them as part of our makeup and part of living in this flawed world God gave us.

These days of summer will pass and give way to other days, some better, others not so great. It’s a reminder to make the most of each day God gives us, treasuring them all, but never holding them too tightly. And when feeling down, do what the psalmist says, retreat to the tent of the Lord where God will keep us safe and lift our spirits.

How do you deal with end of summer doldrums?

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