This is a psalm of lament, or grief – not a happy psalm. We wouldn’t really want to begin every prayer meeting with a psalm like this. We notice, however, that while these psalms start out in a negative way there is eventually a break-through. The psalmist has been struggling but he comes to a resolve and he’s back praising and thanking God. But we don’t see anything like that in this psalm at all. There is not one whisper of praise; the psalm is thankless. Still, we believe all Scripture is profitable and helps us live a godly life. So, what are some things we can glean that might be helpful to us?
First, perhaps to note that the psalmist is honest about the difficulties in his life. Difficulties are normative for the children of God; people suffer. When Christians try to give the impression that once you are saved life becomes a bed of roses- that is a false representation. The health/ wealth gospel proponents often give that kind of false picture of Christianity. God’s people can go through long periods- weeks, months and even years where they are overwhelmed with sorrow and grief. This seems to be what this psalmist is going through. The picture is pretty bleak.
At times it appears that he is blaming God. Verse 6, “You have put me in the depths of the pit.” Verse 8, “Your wrath lies heavy upon me and You overwhelm me with all Your ways.” Verse 9, “You have caused all my companions to shun me.” Verse 13, “Why, O Lord, do You cast my soul away? Why do You hide Your face from me?” I think, second, we could argue that the psalmist recognizes God is sovereign; that all the afflictions in life can ultimately be traced back to God.
What strikes me most about this psalm, why I think it is a good psalm to read and think through is that the man does not give up praying. It reminds me of Job. He struggles greatly and we can sense that he is having issues with God Himself. He even says, “You have become an enemy to me”. So, Job isn’t in the best spiritual condition. There are periods where Job seems to be wavering, losing sight of God’s goodness. It may be the same with this psalmist, but he doesn’t give up. This point comes through loud and clear – he doesn’t stop praying. Look at verse 1, “I cry day and night before You”. Verse 9, “Ever day I call upon You, O Lord. I spread out my hands to You”. Verse 13, “I cry to You in the morning; my cry comes before You”. This is a good sign, isn’t it?
The Christian is called to persevere. One way we show our faith is when we persevere in prayer. It is one of the parables Christ gave- the persevering widow. It’s easy to pray when all is going well, but hard when troubles overwhelm us. This psalmist is a good example to all of us. He keeps persevering. No matter what happens in our lives, no matter our emotional state, no matter how many our trials, we should never stop calling on God.
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