“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. . . . You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” –Psalm 51:10-12, 16-17
In her poem, Depth of Sadness, Linda Laforge asks,“Is the depth of sadness within–deep and cutting to the soul?” For King David, in Psalm 51, the answer is yes. David’s spirit is broken and in need of renewal. I can imagine his anguish as he cries out, “give me back my joy again; you have broken me–now let me rejoice.” David has what I refer to as a white flag faith moment.
The infamous waving of the white flag is the ultimate sign of surrender, that point during war in which one army realizes it is fighting a losing battle. There is a certain kind of vulnerability in waving the white flag. In doing so, you give yourself over to someone in faith and fear. You are at the mercy of another in complete surrender or, perhaps, in total defeat.
As people of faith, we know that the Lord is close to us even during our white flag moments. The moments in which we feel the most distant from God are the moments in which God is closest to us. For as Psalm 34:18 remind us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
The Message offers this paraphrase of Psalm 51:16-17:
Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.
God does not break the bruised reeds, but heals their breaches. In short, God will honor your white flag, halt the battle, and raise you in victory. Who else would do that? No one! Therefore, “Return to the LORD your God, for God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” Joel 2:13 (Modified NIV)
Angela Fields is a writer and an ordained minister. She is the author of I’m Perfectly Different, a book for children. Angela is a graduate of the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia and loves seafood, shopping, and a great pair of shoes.