Psalms For When Things aren’t Going Well

The two Psalms, 55, and 119:81-88, assigned for last Sunday speak to us when things aren’t going well.

Psalm 55 ends, “Turn your burdens over to the Lord, and he will take care of you.”  But the psalmist takes a while getting to that declaration of trust.  He begins with a plea, “Open your ears to my prayer, O Yahweh.  Do not hide from my plea for mercy… My thoughts are restless, and I am confused.”

Psalm 119:81, also paints a bleak outlook, “My soul is weak from waiting for you to save me.  My hope is based on your word.  My eyes have become strained from looking for your promise…When will you comfort me…I have become like a shriveled and dried out wineskin.  What is left of my life?”

What has brought them to place in their life?  In Psalm 119, the poet uses the common image of people digging pits into which they hope he falls. People are trying to trap him with lies, trying to wipe him off the face of the earth.  In Psalm 55, it’s his best friend, “one I knew so well.”  He recalls, “We used to talk to each other in complete confidence and walk into God’s house with the festival crowds.”  But now, “His speech is smoother than butter, but there is war in his heart.  His words are more soothing than oil, but they are like swords ready to attack.”

But then against all appearances he declares to us, “Turn your burdens over to the Lord and he will take care of you.  He will never let the righteous person stumble.”  That’s what faith is, not only for the good times, but also for the time when our world is collapsing.  In the same vein, psalm 119:88, concludes, “Give me new life through your mercy.” So that I can keep on obeying the word which comes from your mouth.

When things are going badly, the psalms are there for us.

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