When All You Have Is Pain
Lord, Your ways are from of old, yet Your works are ever new. Make me grateful for the past, and open to the future.
Read Psalm 38:1-22
 A psalm of David. A petition.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“When life is rosy, we may slide by with knowing about Jesus, with imitating him, quoting him, and speaking for him. But only in suffering will we know Jesus” (Joni Eareckson Tada).
This psalm is one of almost unrelieved suffering. We don’t know what lies behind it, but the psalmist is clearly suffering from physical illness (3). As a result, when his vulnerability is exploited by his enemies (11,12), he is deserted by his friends just when he needs them most. For all the expression of anguish, the psalmist is conscious of God’s role in his suffering.
First, the psalmist confesses that he is being disciplined by God because of his sin (1-8). Sickness is not always the result of God punishing us (Luke 13:1-5; John 9:1-5) but it sometimes is the means by which he disciplines his wayward children (1 Cor. 11:27-31; Heb. 12:4-13). Second, he knows his life is open before God (9). Others judge superficially and back away from him or gloat over him, but God knows the sighing of his heart, his deep repentance and his longing for restoration (18). Third, he expresses deep trust in God (15,16) and waits for him to step in and bring him healing. Although he has stumbled, he has not fallen irrecoverably (Psa. 37:24). He remains the Lord’s child and is confident he will be rescued. He believes the Lord’s justice will be brought to bear where he has been treated unjustly (19,20). It isn’t always possible to exercise such trust quietly and, here, the psalmist is so distressed that his tortured trust soon gives way to a cry for help. So, fourth, he shouts for salvation from God (20-22) who alone can help him.
Like many other psalms, this one deals with the pain of our broken lives. It helps us voice our distress and wisely molds our thinking so that we bring God into the picture, keeping faith alive, rather than permitting ourselves to descend into self-pity.
Consider the discipline of the Lord. In what ways have you experienced it, and why? How did you respond to it and what did you learn from it?
Father, shine the light of Your truth upon my less-than-perfect heart. Forgive me when I befriend sin and oppose righteousness. Keep me faithful to You.
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.