Psalm 31: 9-16 : For the week of April 5—11
Any survey of our history tells us that humanity is sinful, prone to violence toward others and self-destructive, too. Well, it’s one thing to acknowledge this intellectually, it’s quite another thing to cry out from the heart that we are a mess or we are in a mess and that we need God's mercy. When the Psalmists cry out for mercy they describe themselves like a sinking ship because powerful and icy waters have broken into the hold of one’s soul, or like a city under siege because arrows have found them out and pierced them. Whatever the problem is--our sinfulness, affliction, harassment by the surrounding culture, physical ailments, spiritual malaise---whatever the predicaments, the Psalmists do not try to keep life, with its bruises and agonies, at arms length.
In Psalm 31, the Psalm for this week, the psalmist’s troubles overwhelm him. Follow its path. He tells us about his body: tears filled his eyes a lumps sticks in his throat. He sick…in the gut. One grief after another makes his life not a mixed bag of good and ill but, he says, in this moment. a complete waste. He’s as useless as a broken pot. No keeping up appearances here! No fake-it-till-you-make-it for him. He gives voices to what, in this moment, he feels.
And yet. Having voiced his pain, he makes a turn to the Lord,
14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. *
I have said, "You are my God.
15 My times are in your hand; *
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, *
and in your loving-kindness save me."
This is a rhythm we should embrace. Acknowledge our situation, then acknowledge the Lord. Or better to say, cry over our predicatment, and cry to the Lord. I don't mean that we manufacture sorrow or grief when we don't have it. But when life comes to us in it's raw and painful forms we should give voice to our pain, whether alone in our prayers, to a friend, in a journal, to a confessor. Bu then to make a turn to the God who doesn’t sleep through our miseries.
Psalm 90 is encouraging here. “He who made the eye, does he not see?” God sees! You, me, in our joy and in our distress, God sees. And in seeing and speaking to us, He loves. Mercy, guidance, assurance, wisdom, renewal it’s here for us—not apart from life’s miseries but in them. Hallelujah, Praise God!