Bootstrap and Psalm 42

Several of the current buzzwords in web development today are Bootstrap, mobile-first, and responsive design, along with Angular, Ruby, Jasmine, Karma, and many, many others! A hallmark of open-source projects and collaborative frameworks is to use goofy names that are usually common and easy to remember, such as “broccoli”, “cucumber”, and “apache” (which is completely unrelated to the Native American tribe).

In the new project we’re developing at work, we’re relying heavily on Bootstrap and several others. Bootstrap is a framework for building responsive websites in which the styling, navigation, and layout of the pages “responds” to the size of device or the width of the browser on which you’re viewing advantages-of-using-bootstrapthe website to provide the most optimal web experience. For example, newer websites may look and respond much differently when you browse them on your phone instead of your laptop or tablet. Before responsive design, developers had to create completely separate pages, code, and graphics for different devices which multiplied efforts, costs, and time. With responsive design and mobile-first (in which the site is first designed for a small mobile size and then expanded for larger devices), the pages and code are written once but automagically change their layout and styling to optimally fit any device.

Bootstrap is the undisputed leader of responsive web frameworks because of its ease of use, resources, themes, clean styles, documentation, extensions, and popularity. The majority of responsive websites are probably using Bootstrap in one form or another. Bootstrap was named as such because developers could easily plug it into their own websites and quickly “pull it up by its own bootstraps” — i.e., get a responsive website functioning quickly without a lot of effort and hassle. Rather than scouring the Internet for various CSS (styling/layout) components that may break one another, you just plug in Bootstrap and you get most of the common components, layouts, and styles for free — and it looks great on most devices since it’s responsive, especially if you’re using the mobile-first pattern.

Though it took some time to learn, using Bootstrap has saved us a ton of time, effort, and headaches because of its consistent, responsive behavior. Instead of having to test our pages on dozens of different devices with different screen-sizes, browsers, and all their various quirks, we only have to test a handful of different sizes. Unfortunately, at work we were a little late to the party and released our first mobile website a few months after Bootstrap’s 12-grid system for responsive design was introduced several years ago. We blew literally weeks working out the bugs on the site due to different device and browser quirks that could’ve been avoided by using Bootstrap. Just when we would fix a bug for one browser, it would break something else on another — it was one curve-ball after another! Sometimes we would just flip a phone sideways or upside-down, the page wouldn’t render properly, and it was back to debugging!

How do we respond when life throws us curve-balls? What about when we’re thrown not only curve-balls, NCAA_Bryant_Arkansas__Jone2_r600x400but breaking-balls? And don’t get me started on knucklers! How “responsive” are we when our “dimensions” suddenly change without warning, when we’re flipped on our side, upside down, or suddenly stretched (or squished)?

Do we respond to change like we should, like others expect, or even how we think we should? Do we respond to change like how we know God would have us to?

When the rug is pulled out from under us and we go flying on backs, are we able to pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps? What about when we’re down-and-out and stuck in the mire of depression? What about when we feel much more like Eeyore instead of Pooh, Tigger, Kanga, or Roo? How do we dig out of that dark pit we may find ourselves in? How are we to pick ourselves back up if our bootstraps are broken?

I’ve always loved the Psalms, but they never meant nearly as much to me as they have over the past few years. The Psalms are where we get to know God’s immeasurable heart and love for us, our own heart and soul, and how we can better relate to Him. Doesn’t it stand to reason that the Creator and Author of our souls knows precisely all our different moods, feelings, thoughts, and struggles, and would provide a book to guide us through them?

There are two Psalms in particular that I go to when I feel downcast and my soul needs to be picked up “by the bootstraps”: Psalm 42 and Psalm 73. I’ll never forget those two psalms because I went to them regularly during my 42nd year and because I was born in 1973. In fact, I went to them yesterday when I was feeling worn down after a rough couple days at work. While both psalms deal with being down and out, Psalm 42 is about depression and being terribly downcast, while Psalm 73 is more about injustice.

I’ve never really suffered from depression, but I’ve come very close a few times — I think many of us have (even if we may never admit or show it). My father has had bouts of it, while my grandfather suffered greatly under the weight of depression. After he passed away, we found stacks of yellow legal-pads full of his notes, prayers, and struggles with depression. But the thing is, I doubt most people ever really knew about his depression. He was always friendly and had a smile on his face, and had a gentle, quiet voice — except when he got really, REALLY upset. Regardless of how low he felt, he faithfully went to work and wore that old blue-green mechanics uniform to the shop/factory everyday.

For me, Psalm 42 is the “downcast soul” psalm, the passage I almost always go to when I lose sight of Him and turn inward, which inevitably then turns downward into being downcast and hopeless.

Psalm 42
As a deer pants for flowing streams,

    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

When I analyze this psalm (especially when I’m not downcast), I notice several things. First, there’s no “There, there, it’ll be alright” language or “Cheer up, it could be worse!”, much less any words of vanity like Job’s friends spouted off for several chapters. Second, there’s no psycho-babble, advice, or even wisdom given except to turn to the Lord and to continue to hope in Him.

The psalmist give free rein to his dark feelings as he pours out his heart, his grief, and his misery. Often when we do likewise, it makes others rather uncomfortable, even stormthose closest to us. We really aren’t very good at dealing with somber, dark moods and depression in others or ourselves most times. When the darkness really sets in and hope seems completely lost, we tend to start analyzing and advising instead of just listening quietly. We have this notion that such dark feelings are always bad and should be avoided or brought to an end quickly, and that we should be happy or relatively content most of the time.

But that’s not what is written in this psalm. There’s no quaint advice nor “Buck up, little camper!” words given, nor are such emotions spoken of as being evil or bad. There’s no heartless talk of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps and snapping out of it.

God understands our moods and knows how we feel — after all, He created us. Jesus Himself was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3), and many of the Psalms came straight from His own heart. We can only speculate how many times He went to them during His times of loneliness, weariness, and sorrow.

We’ll have good times and bad times, times of rejoicing and times of sorrow — even very rough times of darkness and emotional suffering. There will be times when we can’t eat or sleep or do much of anything, those times when it seems like our tears are our only food day and night. Sometimes it feels like we’re in this bottomless pit, and that isn’t minimized or discounted in the least in Psalm 42. God knows what we’re feeling. God understands that pit of darkness we sometimes feel trapped in. And God can — and often does — use our depression and our dark feelings to draw us closer to Him. When everyone else has given up on us and has abandoned us, He does not — He cannot. His love for us is simply too great!

So what does God have to say when we’re going through those dark times, those dark seasons in our lives that may last for years? At the very beginning of the psalm, He puts His Finger on our true need: our thirst for the sunbeamLiving God. Like a deer pants for flowing streams of water, so our soul pants after God, and in Him and Him ONLY can our souls be satisfied. When we’re crawling through that desert of our souls or trapped in that dark pit, He is there with us and offers hope and comfort in Him (Psalm 139). Through pouring out our hearts in prayer and clinging to His Word, He draws near to us, even if we may not feel it. God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34).

But how do we draw close to Him when we’re in the middle of that dark season? What exactly do we do when our bootstraps are broken and we have no strength left? What are we supposed to do when we’re dying inside our very souls?

Twice in Psalm 42, He answers those questions (vv 5, 11): “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” What are we supposed to do when we aren’t capable of doing anything at all? Simply HOPE.

We are to continue to place our hope in God, to cling to Him, to know that He is right there with us, that He is still our salvation in the middle of the deepest, darkest pit. Sometimes there may be a genuine medical condition with our brains/hormones that needs to be remedied with therapy or medicine, but most times what we need most is soul medicine — we need to be refreshed by God’s Living Spirit.

No matter what you’re going through, have gone through, or will go through, God is right there with you. He understands and has unfathomable compassion towards you. He has felt all that you feel and much, much more! Remember His love for you and the peace that He and He alone offers you. He loves you no matter what you’ve done or how far you’ve strayed from Him. He is there and offers you hope, salvation, compassion, peace and love.

Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.

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About Chris Hambleton

Chris resides in Denver, Colorado, where he is employed as a software developer and consultant. He has authored more than a dozen books, as well as developed several websites, software applications, and written software-related articles. His other interests include traveling, hiking, running, studying the Bible, reading American history and politics, and literally devouring good fiction books. Recently, he has been learning to enjoy classical music, playing the piano, and learning Hebrew.
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