Sunday, October 9, 2016, 8:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 39 (NASB).
My Sorrow (vv. 1-2)
I said, “I will guard my ways
That I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle
While the wicked are in my presence.”
I was mute and silent,
I refrained even from good,
And my sorrow grew worse.
Life has its miseries. We are not promised that everything will go smoothly for us in this life, or that we will never suffer adversity, pain, difficulties, troubles or hardships. Sometimes our sufferings can be overwhelming, as the psalmist described for us in Psalm 38, where he portrayed them as like a tsunami, or like a “storm surge,” i.e. like waves of the sea above or over his head. What he was specifically depicting was either the guilt of his sins, which he had now confessed to God, and/or God’s divine discipline and correction in his life because of his sins previously committed. He was feeling the scourge of the Lord, and he was praying for relief from his misery.
Since we are human beings, and we live in flesh bodies, when we go through these difficulties we may have a tendency to feel down and depressed, and/or we may be tempted to whine and complain about our circumstances. The psalmist chose to keep silent rather than to speak a word of grumbling over his trials and tribulations. It appears here, too, that he was concerned about what kind of testimony he would have before the unsaved if he used the occasion of his suffering to mouth words of complaint, which would also be taking issue with God’s sovereignty over his life, and it, thus, could possibly lead the unsaved to reject his Savior.
Although it was good not to complain, he didn’t say anything positive, either. This would have been a good time to give glory to God and to praise the Lord even in his storm, as a testimony to the unsaved and as a witness to the children of God, but he didn’t say a word, and so his sorrow increased. This also could have been a teachable moment for his family, friends, staff and associates, for he could have shared with them what God was teaching him about enduring trials, putting on the armor of God, and persevering. He could have also taught them about God’s divine providence over our lives.
Then I Spoke (vv. 3-6)
My heart was hot within me,
While I was musing the fire burned;
Then I spoke with my tongue:
“Lord, make me to know my end
And what is the extent of my days;
Let me know how transient I am.
“Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight;
Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah.
“Surely every man walks about as a phantom;
Surely they make an uproar for nothing;
He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.
But, alas, he could not hold it in any longer, and so he spoke what was in his heart. I think that maybe some or all of us can identify with him. I know there have been times in my life when I have resolved not to say anything about what was burdening my heart, but then the Lord would then move me to speak. Sometimes I didn’t speak because I didn’t want to have to face more rejection or opposition, because I was worn out, and I just wanted relief. Sometimes it was because I was afraid what humans might do to me if I did speak, and so I was silent so as to spare myself even more suffering. But, then my sorrow did increase, and the Word of the Lord burned within me like a flame and I had to give it out, even though I knew it could cost me relationships or bring upon myself even more pain and suffering.
So, what was in the psalmist’s heart? It appears here that he was so overwrought with sorrow over his suffering that all he wanted to know was when his life would come to an end, and when his suffering would cease. If you have not experienced a great deal of suffering in your life, you may not identify with him, but when it piles on, and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, then you might understand his sentiments. He was basically pouring his heart out to God, not that God didn’t already know what he was feeling, but he needed to empty it out of his heart and take it to the Lord. When we stuff our feelings, and we allow them to stack up inside us, that is not good. It can lead to all kinds of things like bitterness, ulcers, anger, etc. We need sometimes to cry out to God in our pain.
I think here that the psalmist may have been feeling insignificant in God’s sight, but another thought has come into my mind as I have been praying over this passage. I think sometimes we get so bogged down with our individual trials and tribulations that we fail to see the big picture. When we are going through hardships we can get very narrow focused and lose sight of God/Jesus and his divine will and purpose for our lives. We can forget that God is completely sovereign and that he has, at least, allowed this in our lives, so it must serve his purposes in some way. Sometimes all we can see in front of us is just what we are presently going through, but we don’t see with eternity’s values in view. We forget that we are children of the King, and that we are heirs of the kingdom of God. We lose sight of his promises to us, and that is when we get discouraged and depressed.
So, I think it is possible here that the psalmist was asking God to show him the big picture, i.e. to get his focus back on track. He needed to see who God is and that his problems were only a very small part of the overall picture of what God is working to accomplish in our lives and in our world. Do you ever get that way? I know I do, where I get so focused on what I am going through that I forget why I am here and all that God has promised he will do, and so I need a reality check. I need to know that God is working in my circumstances and that he has a plan and a purpose for it all, and so I need that perspective. In other words, we need to see our lives through God’s eyes, i.e. through the eyes of eternity. We can get so concerned over so many things which have absolutely no significance for eternity at all.
Deliver Me (vv. 7-11)
“And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You.
“Deliver me from all my transgressions;
Make me not the reproach of the foolish.
“I have become mute, I do not open my mouth,
Because it is You who have done it.
“Remove Your plague from me;
Because of the opposition of Your hand I am perishing.
“With reproofs You chasten a man for iniquity;
You consume as a moth what is precious to him;
Surely every man is a mere breath. Selah.
When I am faced with life’s difficulties, I ask the Lord to teach me what he wants me to learn through this time of suffering. And, I do pray for relief, too, and yet I submit to his will for my life. I pray for wisdom to make the right decisions where decisions must be made, but I also ask him to examine my heart and to reveal to me if there is anything in my life not pleasing to him. I don’t stress over it, because I don’t believe God would withhold that from me, but I do open myself up to hear from him in case he is using this trial in my life to show me some things I have been blinded to. And, I pray that I will see my life’s circumstances through his eyes with eternity’s values in view, and that I would hold on to his promises, and not fear what the future holds for me, because I know he has a plan and purpose for it all.
My Cry (vv. 12-13)
“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry;
Do not be silent at my tears;
For I am a stranger with You,
A sojourner like all my fathers.
“Turn Your gaze away from me, that I may smile again
Before I depart and am no more.”
It is a good thing to cry. Sometimes we just need to get alone with God and just let it all out, you know? If we don’t, and we hold it all inside, it can turn to bitterness and unforgiveness and all kinds of other stuff. And, we need to talk about what is going on inside us, not in murmuring and grumbling, but we need to take it to the Lord in prayer, let the tears flow, and just call out to him for help. There have been times in my life when all I could say was “HELP!” I was so overwhelmed by what I was going through.
And, we need to not gossip, i.e. we need to not “vent” to a bunch of people so that they will have a pity party for us, all the while we are making others look bad. The purpose of us letting it out is not so others will feel sorry for us and think badly of others, but it is to cry it out to God or it is so we can talk with a godly trusted friend who can give us some much needed Biblical counsel. We need to talk about our troubles so that we can sift through our emotions and give them to God and learn to trust him more with our lives and with our circumstances. It is also so we can learn to respond to our difficulties in a godly manner, and not according to our flesh.
It is perfectly Biblical to pray for relief from our suffering, but remember that God/Jesus gave Paul the reply of “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected IN your weakness.” So, don’t be surprised if your trial does not immediately disappear, because God has something greater he is doing in your life and in the lives of others than what you might be able to see right now. So, we need to trust him to work his purposes in our hearts and that when we are taken through the fire that we might come out shining like gold, because we are willing to be exactly who He wants us to be. Whether the trial itself is removed or not, though, we should rejoice. When we choose to be joyful, despite our troubles, then we can smile again.
I Am Willing, Lord
By: Joni Eareckson Tada
I am willing Lord, I am willing Lord,
To be just exactly what You want me to be…
Near the Cross / Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane
Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.