essens here, doesn’t it? We know this is the direction of the psalmist because he tells us in verse 3 where he has in fact been getting his water from: his tears. His tears have been his food day and night, with God nowhere in sight. God’s absence is noticeable even to those around him as people taunt him, asking him where his God is, in the midst of his pain.
Noah interviews Terence Lester about his new book When We Stand (IVP), talking together about racism, the church, justice theology, ministering to people without addresses, and being in proximity with the marginalized, all centered around what it means to literally follow Jesus.
The pain continues but he doesn’t face it alone. It continues but he doesn’t act like it’s his fight to win. Even in the midst of blaming God for his pain, he knows that God is his hope and deliverer. This may not preach well, but there is a deep comfort in it for those who experience deep pain and deep anguish and pray very difficult prayers to God. When we know God could have prevented a horrible thing from happening, but it happened. When we know God can remove a horrible circumstance from our lives, but it continues. Satan’s temptation and our internal anger wants us to abandon God. To blame God and flee our faith. And if we did so, what would we be left with? Who would be left to win the war for us? Who would be our shelter and refuge? If we make that choice, we are then completely and truly alone, with only our feeble fists and beaten down strength to fight off all the evil that Satan and this fallen world bombard us with. The psalms chart out a better path. A path of hope. A path of victory. Even in your darkest hour, even when all hope seems lost, run to God. Cry out to God. Give him all of your emotion. Blame him if you need to, he can handle it. But keep your hope in him. Keep him as your shelter in the storm and refuge in the war. If you die from the bullets, die in his arms. If the storm overwhelms you, be overwhelmed in his arms.
I don’t think the lesson of Psalm 38 is meant to be a clear-cut “1. Bad things are happening to you because you sinned, 2. Confess your sins and the bad things will stop happening.” I say this because the psalm itself doesn’t have much clear-cut about it. The suffering the psalmist experiences is ambiguous in its source. It starts out as a result of God’s wrath toward sin but without announcing it, becomes stimulated by enemies who want to kill and harm without cause and the psalmist is once again seen as an innocent victim (verse 20). I think the lesson or point of this psalm is to once again guide us to run to God’s mercy and grace when we are experiencing suffering, even when the suffering continues. A unique feature of this psalm is its reminder to us that God’s wrath is real, so how much more should we 1. do our best not to sin, and 2. run to Jesus for his grace and forgiveness to cover our sin and satisfy God’s wrath. Once you are a Christian / believer, this is a once-and-for-all covering. Jesus’ work is finished. But it’s healing and freeing to remember what it is we deserve from God (apart from Jesus) so that we can so much better enjoy and experience his undeserved gifts of grace and mercy that he lavishes on us. When we start acting like God could never be wrathful because he’s just not like that (though Scripture says otherwise), we lose out on how big of a gift his mercy and grace to us really is.
Lay down on your back and close your eyes. God, I give you everything that is on my mind. I give you everything I’m trying to solve. I give you all of my problems. I give you all of the world’s problems that are on my shoulders. I give you all the injustices. I give you the people who are against me. The problems I can’t solve. The people I’m waiting for. The stress and the strain. They are yours now. I take them off my shoulders and out of my mind and put them in your hands. I close your fingers around them. I now rest my mind in your presence. I rest in being with you. I rest in being your son/daughter. I rest in being a human being not a human doing.
Verse 18 tells us the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. It’s important that we recognize how rare this claim is among world religions, both historical and contemporary. Our God cares for the broken. He cares for the oppressed. He cares for the abused. He cares for the impoverished. He cares! This is such a gift to each of us whom he cares for, and sets us on a path to embody his love to a crushed and brokenhearted world.