day 15 – put a psalm in my heart

Today we’re painfully privileged to read Psalm 38-40.

These three psalms are all of the same family: psalms of personal lament, an individual’s cry to God in grief, for help. They are by no means easy reading, if you’re reading them rightly with your heart wide open. But, they are truly essential reading for us all for we all have people around us who are in similar straits, whether we realize it right now or not.

If we can personally identify with what is said in any of these three psalms, we can say, “Thank you, Father, for helping me find a voice and reminding me that I am not alone.” If we cannot identify with the situations in which others find themselves, we can pray, “Father, give us eyes to see those around us who are like these who so prayed and so, begin to use us as instruments of your mercy and help.”

Morning. Psalm 38. The person who penned this psalm is suffering terribly from great illness. There is “no health in them” (vs. 7) and their spirit is “utterly crushed” (vs. 8). Their waking hours are spent in “searing pain” (vs. 7) and the even greater pain of knowing that their friends now avoid them (vs. 11). If that isn’t enough, those who have no use for them are closing in (vs. 12). This is way more than just a bad day.

Rightly or wrongly – we are not told – the psalmist believes his experience must surely be because God is punishing him for his sins (vs. 1-4). They are overwhelming to him and he now freely confesses them (vs. 4, 18). And yet, the psalmist’s greatest fear is that God will walk off from him completely, forsaking him entirely (vs. 21). And so, he continues to cry out to God for help of any kind (vs. 22).

Mid-day. Psalm 39. To be convinced that God is not for you, but against you, is this not the greatest suffering of all? And yet, the one who pens this prayer/song is more than a little persuaded that such is their lot. They feel like a “foreigner” or “stranger” to God (vs. 12a). They feel like they are being torn apart by deep, strong, opposite desires: (a) for God to come to their rescue {“… now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me … Remove your scourge from me …” – vs. 7-8, 10} and (b) for God to just finally get away from them and leave them alone {“Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again before I depart and am no more.”}.

Tonight. Psalm 40. Here one who is “poor and needy” (vs. 17) finds themselves in a situation where “troubles without number surround” them (vs. 12). This comes in the form of people who see him as ripe for the picking, perfectly vulnerable. In fact, they consider this the perfect time of opportunity, for whatever reasons, to kill him (vs. 14-15)! So, recalling how God once rescued him before and how he responded to his rescuer then (vs. 1-10), he now makes request of the Lord to deliver him again (vs. 11-17).

In this world full of pain, Father God, give me callouses enough through service to those who hurt and despair that I can continue to care and serve and not be overcome with deep wounds myself, but Father, let me never become past feeling, and so, in both ways, may I become more and more like your Son, my Lord and Savior, the tireless and gritty, Man of Sorrows. Amen.