Psalm 38

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me,
    and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
    there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me
    like a burden too heavy to bear.

My wounds fester and are loathsome
    because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
    all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
    there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
    I groan in anguish of heart.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord:
    my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
    even the light has gone from my eyes.
11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
    my neighbours stay far away.
12 Those who want to kill me set their traps,
    those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
    all day long they scheme and lie.

13 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
    like the mute, who cannot speak;
14 I have become like one who does not hear,
    whose mouth can offer no reply.
15 Lord, I wait for you;
    you will answer, Lord my God.
16 For I said, ‘Do not let them gloat
    or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.’

17 For I am about to fall,
    and my pain is ever with me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
    I am troubled by my sin.
19 Many have become my enemies without cause;
    those who hate me without reason are numerous.
20 Those who repay my good with evil
    lodge accusations against me,
    though I seek only to do what is good.

21 Lord, do not forsake me;
    do not be far from me, my God.
22 Come quickly to help me,
    my Lord and my Saviour.

It seems fair to say that David is in a pretty bad way in this psalm. And what I love about David is his unflinching honesty. Life is rough, he’s distressed and potentially angry with God – indeed he seems to attribute his suffering to God right at the top of the psalm. Certainly in my experience, this is something we seem loathed to do. Do we believe that God can cause suffering? Do we believe that he allows suffering? Do we believe that all suffering comes from the evil one? I’m guessing there will be people reading this who identify with each of those statements. Personally, I don’t know. And I’m comfortable with not knowing. Well – as comfortable as it’s possible to be. What I mean is, I am trying to trust God in the midst of not knowing. It seems to me that it would be much easier in lots of ways if we could understand what God was doing all of the time… But then he wouldn’t be God – we would somehow be on a level with him – knowing all things. And that kind of idea is what God Adam and Eve into hot water and introduced sin to the human race.

Questions for thought and discussion

  • How can we cultivate a ruthless trust of God in all circumstances?
  • How can we help our young people to come to terms with suffering?

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