First Off…read Psalm 38!
One of the internet sensations right now is animal-shaming. The owner comes home and sees that their beloved family member (a dog or a cat…usually a dog) has utterly destroyed the home. The couch is ripped up, pillows have had their innards pulled out, the walls have been chewed on and scratched up, shoes have been destroyed, and it simply looks like a tornado has dropped down inside the house, destroyed all it could, then just as quickly as it arrived… “poof” … it disappears. Then the shame comes. The dog simply looks guilty. They know what they’ve done. They know they’ve been caught. Even in those instances where there are multiple dogs in the home…the guilty party…looks ever so guilty and the other dog appears to want nothing to do with them – he/she has distanced themselves from the guilty home-wrecker of a friend that once was.
David…is ever so guilty for his sins, and his friends, his companions, those he is normally with…are avoiding him (11). It’s so bad for David that in verses 13 and 14 David feels as if he cannot speak or hear. He’s simply at a loss.
Grief is a powerful word and emotion…especially when you grieve for the pain and sin YOU have caused.
Now we don’t know what sins David has committed – but what we do know is that his pain is real, his anguish is deep, and his grief is all-consuming (as it usually is). What could someone have done that would cause God to be angry (1)? Would could we ever do to feel like God would shoot arrows at us or cause God’s hand to come down heavily upon us (2)? Guilt so strong (4), wounds so deep and infected (5), back so sore from bowing in guilt (6) and heart so full of anguish that even the “light” of their eyes has flickered out (10)? Again, we simply don’t know…but I would actually ask if it matters? Do specifics help us? Nope.
I think we can all relate to the feelings David has. We know what it’s like to do something so bad that we feel there is no hope for us. We’ve been in that place where guilt, shame, grief, and agony are ever-present. Maybe you betrayed a friend. Maybe you did something to save your own skin at the expense of a co-worker. Maybe you lied, stole, or even turned your back on God. Again, the specifics don’t matter here because we’ve all felt the sting of guilt with grief.
The worst part? It seems like the deeper we sink into our guilt…the more pain we feel. The further the pit…the darker the anguish. And depending on WHAT we have done…it could even lead to the further from God we feel. As if our guilt has created this massive chasm that not even God could cross. Scratch that. My shame is so bad BECAUSE of what I’ve done that God simply doesn’t even want to cross over to me. Instead…he shoots arrows at me – and his shot is true. His anger so bad that his hand just weighs me down. His disappointment so strong that it rings in my head to the point where I cannot hear and cannot speak.
Again I ask: does it matter that we don’t know where his pain is coming from? I would argue no, because the psalm isn’t about the sins committed…the psalm is about the UNDERSTANDING of the pain caused and the guilt felt, and even more so, this psalm is a reflection of the forgiveness that comes.
David knew he sinned and caused God pain and that pained him. We need to allow David to feel what he’s feeling because it’s that guilt and shame that not only speaks of one’s own actions but also how deeply he loves God. Grief and personal torment only fall upon us when we truly love the one we’ve hurt and feel remorse. Caring about what we have done is actually a sign of caring for the one we’ve hurt.
And there is an acknowledgment that MUST take place when we’ve hurt God. We have to come to Him, we have to acknowledge our sins, we have to name what we’ve done because it is only in that space, it is only in that understanding that we can truly begin to heal. Forgiveness can only happen when we seek forgiveness. Restoration can only take place when we face the music (so to speak). And this is what David eventually does. After 20 verses of pain and anguish, he closes psalm 38 with 2 verses (21-22) that ask for forgiveness. “Do not forsake me”… “do not be far from me”… “come quick and help me”… “O Lord my Savior”
That last one…is EVERYTHING to us. “Savior” means someone who saves – right? Saves us from our guilt, saves us from our fear of abandonment from God, saves us from OURSELVES, saves us from our anguish, and most importantly…saves us from that “heavy hand” or “piercing arrows”.
Christ = Savior.
It’s interesting how our Savior is also the one we fear we’ve hurt the most (and in most cases, we have hurt the most). And that’s simply how God works. For all the pain we cause HIM he wants no pain to be done to us. Christ takes all that we suffer, all the anguish we place upon ourselves, all the guilt we harbor and live into, all the grief we swim in because of the harm we’ve done…Christ says, “give me all of that…and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)
I think guilt and shame for what we have done can be a good thing…if we allow it to help us learn from our past mistakes. But never should we dwell in the past nor in the present guilt. We are to find rest in forgiveness.