Psalm 39: Hope Amid Despair

First Off…read Psalm 39!

The “feeling” of this psalm is that David is now at ease from wicked people that were around him…however simply because they are gone doesn’t mean he isn’t in pain – for the belief is that he is now trying to recover from whatever afflictions befell him.


And it is in this “recovery” or HOPE for recovery that he fully understands how brief our time on this earth is. It is in this time that David begins to wonder why we do what we do? We go back and forth, gaining more and more (or at least trying to)…but in the end where will it go? We certainly cannot take it with us – so why do we even bother?

It’s in these moments of clarity (frequently as we struggle with illness and sickness) that we begin to reflect. It’s in these moments of finding truth in life that all other things are put in their true place. Money doesn’t matter in the end. Our lives ARE NOT as long as we think they are – truth is…we don’t even know HOW LONG we have. We can “heap up wealth” (6) but when we die we cannot take it with us. And I’ve seen enough families ruined over someone’s Last Will and Testament than I’d like to count.

Things of this world bring out the worst in us. Funny, and ironic how that works – that this world is full of things that are not wholesome and good and good FOR us…and yet…AND YET while we know this – we still seek them. This is why many people feel that the psalmist, while in this state of despair of “worldly” and “other than worldly” living is kind of pulling a Job. Maybe they’re reflecting on Job’s life and his words in Job 7…maybe he simply gets what Job has been saying this whole time, that life is hard…and “when God…when will you take me home so I can leave this pain and suffering? (brief pause) But until then…please bring me peace in my pain and suffering.”

I’ve blogged on this quite a bit – especially within the psalms, but it is really hard to go through pain and grief and suffering when it seems like there is no end. The days can seem darker, the pain deeper – and that’s only for what you’re going through itself. Then you tack on the guilt we can swim in too. All of this consumes us. All of this pushes even the sanest person to reflect on not only the MEANING of life but THEIR OWN life and choices as well.

It’s interesting how perspective works. I read an article from a gentleman who didn’t understand truly his relationship with God until his own mortality was put in jeopardy. It took battling leukemia to understand what Christ means when he says that we are to offer up our lives in service to him – and that in our relinquishing our lives we actually GAIN life (Matthew 10:5-42).

David is having this same moment of perspective. Those things we acquire…those friends we consistently want to impress, that job we sacrifice blood, sweat, and tears into simply so we can take a paycheck home? They mean nothing. For “each man’s life is but a breath.” (5)

But here is the beauty and glory that David ALSO recognizes: he needs to swallow his own pill. Back in Psalm 37 (you can find my blog to that here) David spoke wisdom to others that they simply needed to trust in the Lord. To wait…and wait patiently for what the Lord was doing and is about to do – and yet here we find David in that same moment…needing to swallow that pill he offered to others. Again, really hard to take when our pain consumes even the things we seem to know so well.

And what I appreciate about this psalm is that while David knows it, while he prays for God to bring him healing and an end to his suffering…he fully understands that God understands his lament and frustration and invites it upon His shoulders. So this psalm almost becomes an invitation FOR ALL OF US to offer up to God our frustrations in where we are, what we are experiencing, and our OPINION of His ignoring our cries – and even thinking that he brings the pain TO us (that’s a whole other blog!). But it’s also a reminder that that space isn’t where we are to be – and that God doesn’t work that way. His love and grace is not one to where he just sits back and says, “Yeah…she can handle this. I’m just gonna throw this at her now too.

David writes his psalms to those of us who firmly believe that when we leave this sinful earth that our souls will join with the many souls who have gone before us and we will be in bliss with Christ – awaiting his final coming to earth to where he restores this earth to the garden it once was. Ushering in eternity in the New Heaven and New Earth. David writes to those of us that believe this, hope for this, cling to this with every fiber of our being…and yet still struggle with the worldly things of today.

Psalm 39 is a beautiful song, often used at funerals, which speak of struggle…pain…and hope. And in a world that is so full of struggles and pain…hope is exactly what we need. And we are eternally grateful that God not only hears our prayers, not only listens to our cries for help, not only is attune to our weeping…but has done something about it.

I pray, that if you find yourself in despair – cling to the only thing you can: Jesus Christ. That it is only in his arms of love where pain and suffering become no more. And I want you to hold on – that while David proclaims that our lives are “fleeting” and only a “breath” …that also means that so too is your pain and suffering.

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