“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, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.
Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception.
I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth;
I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.
I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.
For I said, “Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.”
~Psalm 38:6-16 (NIV – emphasis mine)
It seems to be a sad truth, that when are walking through a dark valley of some kind, we often feel abandoned by many of our friends and neighbors. There seems to be only a very few who really stick around, and make themselves useful, while everyone else backs off a little, because they don’t know how to help, and are afraid to ask. This doesn’t always happen, and many of us have more supporters than we know what to do with. This post isn’t for those people, though. This post is for those who feel a little bit abandoned by those they thought would be there, but haven’t been.
The Psalmist here is in obvious ill health, and it’s serious. He is in constant, agonizing pain, and there is “no health” in his body. He is weak, feeble, crushed, depressed, betrayed, and abandoned. So much so, that he feels as though he cannot hear God, that he doesn’t even have the strength to speak to his Father about his desperate needs. He feels unanswered and alone.
There isn’t a worse place to be.
We look at the very real, very serious circumstances surrounding us, and we lose sight of God. We lose sight of the promise he gives that all really does work together for our ultimate good. We forget that we are loved. We look around, and see that no one rises up to help meet our needs. We are disappointed in those we have called “friend” and “neighbor,” because we thought that they would come forward during our time of need and offer to serve us. After all, we have spent so much time serving them in our turn.
Then, when they don’t, we are hurt, for we know that we would do for them what we would ask them to do for us. We become angry and offended at what we see as a lack of true Christian love, when in reality, they may be dealing with needs just as deep, but not as visible as our own. We forget that we are not the only ones walking through the darkest valley of our lives. Our sight becomes very narrow. It narrows to the point that we can no longer see a vital truth:
That our needs are an open book before the eyes of our Father. Our deepest longings are constantly in the center of his vision.
It is one thing to know, intellectually, that God will meet our deepest need, it is quite another to trust him to do so – with or without the help of our friends and neighbors. Once again, we forget that what God will do in answer to our prayers will often look very different than we think it will.
Of course, there is a distinct possibility that at least a few of our friends and neighbors are not rising up to help, because they are in disobedience to God – but that is not something we can know with any certainty. God does not tell us the stories of others – he only tells us our own. Hence, his injunction against judging the hearts of anyone but ourselves.
So, what does the Psalmist here do?
He waits for God to answer. He knows that God will answer him, simply because he asked him to. The Psalmist never gives any other reason to believe that God’s answer is forthcoming. He doesn’t parade any righteousness before God – this psalm is full of references to his own sin. He is very aware that he is not worthy to receive help from God. Yet, he believes that God will answer him if he waits. He made his request, and has left it at God’s feet.
He knows God sees him, regardless of the sin he carries. He trusts God to meet his need.
The Psalmist is David – a real, flesh-and-blood man. A man with blood on his hands. The only man in Scripture called a “man after God’s own heart.” He struggled with doubt. He struggled with sin, anger, and fleshly desires, just as we all do. Imperfect as he was, David learned to wait in an attitude of humble trust in his God and Father. We see elsewhere in the Psalms where David rejoices in God’s faithfulness to lift him up and carry him. We see God’s answers as often as we see David’s petitions.
It can be the same for us.
When we keep our eyes on our circumstances; when we lean on our own understanding; when we fail to see the plank in our own eye, it’s hard to be patient and wait. It’s hard to trust. It’s difficult to wait, but that’s exactly what God asks of us. He asks us to put all our eggs in one basket. We must pour all of the faith and hope we possess into his person, and trust that he is faithful to answer.
When we do, He gives us a promise:
“Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
~Isaiah 40:26-31 (NIV)
And with that, I will close. There is nothing I could possibly add to God’s word to reassure you more. I urge you – as well as myself – wait on the Lord, your cause is not disregarded. God sees you, and there will come a day when you soar.
Grace & Peace,