Psalm 34: 15-22
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the broken-hearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord rescues them from them all.
20 He keeps all their bones;
not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
The character in Bruce Springsteen's song 'Downbound Train' is an ordinary Joe who works "down at the car wash, where all it ever does is rain". He has fallen on hard times economically but his woes are compounded by a failed marriage. The song is one of heartbreak and despair, captured poignantly in the middle 8 section where our hero dreams about going back to the first marital home and racing, through the woods, to see whether his wife has returned to him. His hope turns to despair where, even in the dream, the bed lies empty. Then the song climaxes with the heart-rending words: "Then I fall to my knees, hang my head and pray".
The genius of Bruce Springsteen's songwriting is to take a mundane and ordinary tragedy and imbue it with gravitas and nobility. Nowhere is that more so in this song, where Springsteen takes the most commonplace themes of disappointment in career and love and weaves them into a ballad of exquisite poetry and significance. Springsteen is not prepared to allow the hopelessness and suffering of the ordinary person to be dismissed as "just one of those things".
In that, The Boss echoes to some extent the Bible. The God who calls each of us by name and who knows the number of hairs on our head as well as the number of stars in the sky is not indifferent to our pain. Far from it! Today's passage reminds us that the love of God offers us sanctuary from our heartbreak and disappointment.
This is not a simple platitude – many are the believers who will say their faith in Jesus has seen them through their grief, their loss, their rejection, their brokenness. Indeed, I would be one who would say that it is precisely in those times that God seems to draw closest to us and open his arms of love to help us heal.
Lord Jesus, you opened your arms of love for us on the cross. Step close to us in our despair to mend our broken hearts. Help us to know that when the world no longer wants us, your desire to love us remains unchanged. AMEN.