When My Soul Feels Crushed

Understanding the power of the cross as mortar and pestle.


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“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.” 

— Psalm 51:8


WHERE IS MY WALLET?

I keep my wallet and keys in the same place. One lives in a special drawer by the bed and the other hangs on a hook in the laundry room. If I’m leaving the house, I know the two spots to visit before heading out. 

I tell you this because a few weeks ago, I could not find either. I searched in every secondary location they could possibly be hiding. As frustration grew, I concluded that they were lost. Somehow, my wallet and keys were MIA.  

You know what this is like. It feels as if your life has been stolen. Someone possesses your very identity. While they will not find much cash, if someone possesses my wallet, they have access to my driver’s license and credit cards—everything they need to be me. 

Now, concern blossomed into panic. All I could think about what getting my wallet back. Retracing my steps from the previous days and making calls to COSTCO, the grocery, and a convenience store, I came up empty. The next step would be to call the police and report my wallet missing.  

My phone was in the side pocket of my canvas shoulder bag. As I reached in to grab it, I noticed a jingle. Peering into the sleeve, I saw not only my keys but also my wallet. Thank you, Jesus! 

What was lost now was found. The headache began to ease and stress dissipate. My wallet was back. 


WHEN JOY GOES MISSING

In Psalm 51, David realizes something even more personal than a wallet is missing. He had lost his joy. Ironic, isn’t it, that sin promises deep and lasting satisfaction, only to deliver intense and abiding guilt—the kind of guilt the flesh fights to deny or justify with excuse and rationalization. 

The king’s sexual lust, gratifying the desires of the literal flesh, led to adultery and murder. Then he covered the sinful deeds up. But since they were not atoned with blood, they remained. Hidden. Festering. 

Unconfessed sin poisoned David’s soul and withered his joy. But it was not just the absence of joy. He felt crushed, and attributes the pain to the Lord. 

The phrase “bones you have crushed” is a metaphor for how it felt to live under the weight of guilt. In biblical imagery, just like the heart represents the center of human affections, bones represent the entirety of one’s emotional life. 

I can relate to being physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually depleated. It felt like my soul was a kernel of corn that had been placed on a stone mortar and ground to dust with a pestle. Although it may be a different specific issue, I can relate with David’s confession, “My bones feel crushed.”

Like David, it was not my literal bones that had been ground down. Although physical energy was part of the affliction, one of the most crippling symptoms was the absence of joy. Everything was heavy and dark. 


PAUSE, LOOK UP, AND LISTEN

That isn’t only a sad place to be. It is dangerous, allowing my mind to play tricks on me by speaking lies. 

• “Life isn’t worth it.”

• “What relief to be done with the heaviness of the stress.”

• “I’m just a burden. Nobody will miss someone as joyless and depressed as I am.”

When we get broken down to soul-dust, we not only lose joy but hope. I can turn inward in despair rather than upward for mercy. I understand that feeling. Been there.

If you are in that valley now, joyless, hopeless, and giving up, please push the pause button. Look up. And listen. 

The Lord allowed David to descend into his condition not to punish him but to restore him. The same was true for me and is true for you. Through the pain of conviction, God intends to birth a new joy—a better, more robust, life-consuming joy than you have ever known before. 


THE SOURCE OF JOY

Here is the lesson. Joy is not something we create. It is not a by-product of worldly success or acquiring material possessions. Joy is not the absence of problems. 

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. 

David will mention this connection between joy and the Spirit in the next section of the Psalm as the apostle Paul did in the New Testament letter to the Galatians. You see, the Lord allows sinful prodigals like you and me to wander into the far country. Not because he doesn’t care. No, just the opposite. 

There are some lessons the stubborn will only learn when we can’t bear the pain any longer. Some call it rock bottom. It may be an affair, pornography, an empty bottle, a gambling debt, or credit card debt. It could be a thousand candy bar wrappers on the floor by the couch. At some point, because the Father loves us, he will allow us to get sick of it and come home. 

It may feel like your bones are being crushed.  What do you do then? My suggestion is to join David. Start at verse 1 and make your way, slowly but surely here to verse 8. 


HE WAS CRUSHED FOR ME

But how can crushed bones rejoice? How can joy and gladness be the postlude to brokenness? Do you really want to know?

Because Jesus was crushed in my place. 

That is the testimony of Isaiah in the Old Testament and apostles like Peter in the New, who writes, 

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.1

That tree was a cross, where Christ Jesus experienced the full weight of your sin, grinding it into dust which has been blown into nothingness by the wind. The cross of the mortar met the pestle of the law and ground your sin to dust.

In preparation for the sacrifice, he said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”2 In death, he felt my sorrow and anguish. He was forsaken in my place. 

Yes, we were the straying sheep in the far country. But we are invited to return because the debt has been paid in full. Our sins are atoned with blood. Our wounds are cleansed and healed. 

Remember, the source of joy is the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit fills us as we abide in the Vine of Christ as the source of our eternal life. As the lover of my soul, Jesus is my righteousness before heaven and this world. If I will believe that—looking to Jesus, abiding in him, trusting in his shed blood, and resting in his finished redemptive work for me—my joy will be restored as the Spirit floods my soul. 

From crushed bones to a new song? Is it really possible? By grace, it is. Let’s be convinced together today as we pause, look, believe, and abide.


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1 1 Peter 2:24-25

2 Matthew 26:38