This is the second in the series of stories behind some of the songs from Timeless: Ancient Psalms for the Church Today Psalter/Commentary. It was written by Gary Pendergrass of Greenville, Texas, and is a gripping story of how a lament psalm ministered to him during his son’s near fatal cardiac arrest in the hospital.
I had been assigned Psalm 43. While working on the song, I was struck by the fact that the psalmist’s emotions were all over the map. In one verse, he was in distress by those who were against him, and he felt abandoned by God. Then he sought guidance from God, followed by praise. Then he was back to his distress, asking himself why he felt that way. I was having trouble wrapping my mind around this roller coaster of emotions.
While in the middle of working through this, I experienced the worst day of my life. My son, sixteen years old at the time, suffered a cardiac arrest while in the hospital. It took ten minutes of CPR by the doctor before my son’s heart began beating again. He remained in a coma for the next week, and the doctors weren’t offering us much hope. During that week, I found myself identifying with the psalmist. One minute, I felt the despair of the situation very keenly. The next, I praised God for the small signs of progress we could see. I prayed for guidance and asked myself why my faith didn’t feel as strong as I believed it should be.
Thankfully, God brought my son back to me. As I finished writing the song, I felt each of the psalmist’s emotions. I have tried to give voice to those emotions in this song: despair and searching, hope and praise. I especially identified with the tenors, who sing, “Why, O my soul, are you sorrowing? Put your hope in the God who, through the night, ever leads you by his holy light.” I believe that, in his providence, God provided a psalm in my hour of need to speak to my soul and lead me to feel his presence in a very difficult situation. To God be the glory.
Timeless is a commentary set of all new translations and commentaries on the psalms by established Old Testament scholars for the layperson. Timeless also includes 2–3 new musical settings following each psalm to enhance worship and reflection, study and devotion. Timeless books may be purchased through acupressbooks.com, Amazon.com, or timelesspsalter.com. Professionally recorded CDs and booklets of the music may be purchased through CDBaby.com and timelesspsalter.com.