I want to share with you an urban legend, some of you are probably familiar with it, what an injured brick layer wrote on his insurance form to explain how he had so many injuries after he tried to move 500 pounds of bricks from the top of a fourth story building to the ground below:
It would have taken too long to carry the bricks down by hand, so I decided to put them in a barrel and lower them by a pulley which I had fastened to the top of the building.
After tying the rope securely at the ground level, I then went up to the top of the building. I fastened the rope around the barrel, loaded it with the bricks and swung it out over the sidewalk and untied the rope, holding it securely to guide the barrel down slowly.
But since I weigh only one hundred and forty pounds, the five hundred pound load jerked me from the ground so fast that I didn’t have time to think of letting go of the rope. And as I passed between the second and third floors, I met the barrel coming down. This accounts for the bruises and lacerations on my upper body.
I held tightly to the rope until I reached the top, where my hand became jammed in the pulley. This accounts for my broken thumb.
At the same time however, the barrel hit the sidewalk with a bang and the bottom fell out. With the weight of the bricks gone, the barrel weighed only about forty pounds. Thus my 140 pound body began a swift descent, and I met the empty barrel coming up. This accounts for my broken ankle.
Slowed only slightly, I continued the descent and landed on the pile of bricks. This accounts for my sprained back and broken collar-bone.
At this point, I lost my presence of mind completely and let go of the rope and the empty barrel came crashing down on me. This accounts for my head injuries.
I hope this information satisfactorily fulfills your request for further information.
(NOTE: just for fun, at the end of this posted sermon is a video of a Mythbusters episode of a recreation of this story. Could it really happen? take a look...)
This is how a person explained how his life got out of control:
I was overwhelmed by garbage piling up in my life. It was weighing me down, so I decided to deal with my problems once and for all, by putting them in a barrel and lowering them by a pulley which I had fastened to the top of the building.
After tying the rope securely at the ground level, I then went up to the top of the building. I fastened the rope around the barrel, loaded it all of my emotions and swung it out over the sidewalk, went back to the bottom and untied the rope, holding it securely to guide the barrel down slowly. I thought I could handle the barrel of emotions with my own strength.
But since I weigh only one hundred and forty pounds, the five hundred pound load of emotions proved to be more than I could bear, and I was jerked me from the ground so fast that I didn’t have time to think of letting go of the rope. As I passed between the second and third floors, I met my emotions coming down. This accounts for the bruises and lacerations in my heart.
I desperately held tightly to the rope even though I was broken, but I needed a lifeline. I reached the top thinking How long Lord? I thought it was over, but my hand became jammed in the pulley. More drama. How much more can one person take?
At the same time as I reached the top, the barrel of emotions hit the sidewalk with a bang and the bottom fell out. My problems were only beginning. I thought I was dying. With the weight of the emotions scattered, my feelings spilled every which way, the barrel weighed only about forty pounds. Thus my 140 pound body began a swift descent, and I met the empty barrel coming up. This accounts for my depression and tears.
Slowed only slightly, I continued the descent and landed on the pile of garbage. This accounts for the sobbing and sickness, the need for healing and restoration.
At this point, I lost my presence of mind completely and let go of the only lifeline I had and the empty barrel came crashing down on me. This accounts for my blurred vision.
I hope this information satisfactorily explain why I am an emotional wreck.
Here is my thinking. Back when I served as chaplain for funerals, I used to tell grieving families that one of the greatest gifts the Lord has given us is the capacity to have mixed emotions. We really can laugh and cry at the same time. We really can worry, and even doubt, yet have faith and trust. Listen to one verse from “When I Survey the wondrous Cross”
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Sorrow and love, thorns and a crown ~ the intermingling of emotions…truth. Two of my children are into pottery, three if you count Wesley… one of the really fun things about pottery. One of the really fun things is to mix the glazes, experiment with the firing process, and the joy and anticipation to see how it turns out, a new look... Never quite the same. My thinking is that emotions, at their best, are always mixed. The Lord never desired that we get rid of our emotions, we are emotional creatures by our very nature.
Somebody said that beauty is first and foremost an emotion. When you go back and read the first chapter of the Bible, the six days of creation, the refrain at the end of each day: “And God saw that it was good.” Creation is not neutral as science would have us believe. Creation is good, amazing, beautiful, awe-some ~ these are all emotions. That is why people sense God in creation, because of the emotions that are produced.
Emotions range from positive to negative, extremes, at times feeling like a 500 pound barrel of bricks! Psalm 6 gives words to those who feel like they barely have the strength to hold onto the little rope. The only difference between the story of the barrel of bricks and Psalm 6 is that at the end of Ps. 6, the fellow never lets go of the rope.
This is the way I think we should read Ps. 6. It is not a matter of a person starting out depressed and then learning to trust in God for a measure of security. When David, the author of the Psalm, cries out in Ps. 6:9, “The Lord had heard my cry for mercy,” this is the lifeline, this is the rope that no matter how bad things get, as long as you hold onto the rope, as long as you have a measure of trust, you will be saved, you will keep a measure of sanity. This Psalm does not go from depression to trust, it is a picture of trusting while the barrel of bricks is going up and down, hitting and banging, breaking bones and bruising, yet you hold onto the rope. If the man did not hold onto the rope as the barrel came down, the full weight of the barrel of bricks would have hit him, so even though he was bruised on the way up, holding onto the rope is what gave him hope.
The Lord has given us the capacity for mixed emotions, depression and trust simultaneously. I think you could read this Psalm beginning with the last section and going back to the first. READ Ps. 6:8-10 then Ps. 6:1-3. “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy” this is the lifeline. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Never let go of your lifeline. Never let go of God no matter how bad your situation looks.
The person without faith lets go of the rope. That is when depression dominates. That is when weakness compromises and destroys. It is not the presence of depression that defines the measure of faith, God knows we are emotional creatures, it is letting go of the lifeline of God, giving up on God.
David gives great insight into making it through an overwhelming flood of emotions in Ps. 6:2. David asks for mercy READ. “Have mercy for me Lord, for I am weak.” David never lets go of the rope, he is weak yet he holds on. He asks for mercy, NOT justice. Other Psalms ask God to condemn the enemies, that is emotions running amok, but here is asks for mercy. Perhaps David is guilty of sin, bad judgment, insane choices, maybe so, so he asks for mercy. This is the promise of God, that even when we are guilty, we can request mercy, “restore me to health Lord.” This is a most excellent way to plead with God. Urge not your goodness or your greatness, don’t feel sorry for yourself like you deserve more, don’t set up conditions so that if God will only punish those who are making your life miserable, but plead your sin and your littleness. If you are standing on the sidewalk holding a rope with a 500 pound barrel of bricks over your head and it starts to come crashing down, hold onto that rope with everything you have.
In the words of Charles Spurgeon of over a century ago, hang onto the rope and cry out, ‘"I am weak," therefore, O Lord, give me strength and crush me not. Send not forth the fury of thy tempest against so weak a vessel. Temper the wind to the shorn lamb. Be tender and pitiful to a poor withering flower, and break it not from its stem.’
We are creatures of mixed emotions. No matter what else is going on, never let go God and cry to him constantly believing he can and will rescue from the overwhelming drama that is threatening to crush you. Here’s a common problem written in the form of a poem by a young woman (Heather Hauge ~ only read first and last lines during sermon, this is the full poem):
inside I'm crying
outside I'm smiling
no one notices
but its hard for me to control this
when you see me walk by
it doesn't look like it but I want to die
thoughts racing through my head
then comes the tears that I shed
how can I change
all the tears and rage
you say you understand
and all I need is a helping hand
that may be true
but first take a walk in my shoes
sadness, angers, and unbearable pain
you'll be taking a walk full of nothing but shame
as time moves slower
my self-esteem gets lower
am I nothing to this world
or am I just a worthless teenage girl?
Emotions are a gift from God. They will come. They will feel overwhelming. They will feel like a 500 pound barrel of bricks. Hold onto the rope. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.
The Rope: READ Ps. 6:8-10. For most people life seems to be one continuous bumpy ride, a 500 pound barrel of emotions going up and down. The secret to make it though does not lie in ourselves. That what all the popular self help books/advice tell you, to get hold of your emotions, to distract yourself, to convince yourself. The secret is found in our confidence in the strength and power of the Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ is the rope. He listens. I love the way David phrases it: “the Lord has heard my weeping.” Tears and prayers go together! It is not at all required that the agony of our heart be put into intelligent words; when you are holding onto God he hears our prayers, he hears our tears. He knows what we are thinking. This is the beauty of mixed emotions, when one of the emotions is to trust and believe in the power and strength of God. When one of the emotions is to hold onto the rope and never let go.
Never completely give into depression, doubt, anger, agony, but ask the Lord for mercy. May the mercy of the Lord be the lifeline that is present no matter how overwhelmed you feel, no matter the extreme drama, no matter the feeling of agony and defeat. You may be bruised, you may be crushed, but hold onto the rope, and the Lord will hear your tears and he will answer you. Amen.
(Just for fun ~ Below is a Mythbuster recreation of the 500 lbs of Bricks in a Barrel story)