Not too long ago I was feeling lethargic, sad, depressed…whatever you want to call it. I had no energy, no joy, and little interest in things outside of my immediate family. I was sharing my sad state with some wise women I know and one of them suggested that I was “in exile.”
The image was one of the Israelites and their period of exile in the desert. There are many ways we can end up in the desert: Losing a job, the death of a loved one, a broken relationship, being unhappy in a job…the list is endless and my list included all of those.
One of the wise women suggested that, when you go into exile, you have to decide what to leave behind. You can only carry so much when you’re wandering in the desert. I had to think about what I needed to let go. For me, it was my plan for my future, my power and influence, and most sadly, many relationships. I can’t say what you might need to let go of to survive your exile, that’s between you and God. What is too heavy for you to carry? What is unnecessary for the trip?
The Israelites ended up in exile a lot, as do we. One of their exiles was an exile of captivity by an enemy. They recorded part of that experience in Psalm 137. It says, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’
“How can we sing one of the glad songs of the Lord when we are in a foreign land?”
That is exactly how I felt. I could not sing. I didn’t have a song in me. And that was okay.(tweet this) It’s okay not to sing when you feel you’ve been taken captive by life and forced into a foreign land; a desert.
I want to remember the first exile for God’s people: they were headed to the promised land. They had to trust God and Moses all the while they ate manna, and quail, and whined and complained. Their shoes did not wear out. They kept walking by faith. And in their subsequent personal or corporate exiles, they were always headed back to the promised land.
Talking with these wise women helped me to give myself permission not to sing, and I was also reminded that I was heading to the promised land. Whatever is next, I’m ready.
Have you ever been in a desert place, unable to sing? What helped you get through it? If you are in one now, you are not alone. We walk with you.