As a child, growing up with my grandmother, we often visited the book of Psalms when we did our nightly devotions. So the Psalms hold a priority place of prayer, praise and promise for me. Today, I reflect on Psalm 31 verse 9: “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.” Psalm 31 verse 9
The words of the psalm unmask the desperate condition of a real person with real trials, but one with real faith. It echoes a cry to the Lord for help, but amid the hopelessness of the situation and even before an answer comes, the psalmist praises God, commits his spirit into God’s hands and praises God who redeems his soul from death. While the writer seems to exaggerate the reality, it also shows his simple honesty. He seemed to have reached a low point and it compelled him to refocus. It seemed he hit the proverbial “rock-bottom,” with no lower place to go, and it was from that depth that he recognized he neglected his first love. He was brought low, stripped of the other options and life seemed to turn inward. With no place else to go, and salvaging only what was left in a faint voice, with only enough strength to give utterance to the helplessness and inadequacy that was present, he prayed: “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.”.
Our world, cornered and confined by the current health situation gives us an opportunity to take stock of ourselves. It doesn’t take long for us to recognize that if we yield to statistics, that we may plunge to the depths of hopelessness. Yes, our current realities court hopelessness and regardless of our occupation, we feel we are plunged into an abyss of inadequacy. The soul echoes the cry for the saviour to give ear and come quickly to perform a rescue mission.
The psalm invites us to acknowledge and usher our frailties and brokenness to the one who has an incredible ability to piece together fragmented things; the one whose smile renews our hope; the one whose grace breathed upon the distressed soul revives mustard seed faith; the one who stays with us, and because of whose presence we are not dealt the fatal blow.
It requires, that we be real with God. Jesus, amid real suffering, made his own supplication when he cried: “My God, My God, You have forsaken me! We may feel like the life within our veins is cold with heaviness and tears, and with mourning, we have grown old, let us remember that in God’s dispose is every minute of our allotted time. Let us be assured that in God’s bosom we shall find the protection of our souls from kindling ire, for God selects a place for virtue to retire.
Our situation seems dire and our preference is for divine action ‘now’. God’s time and our time is not the same, hence our ‘now’ might not be God’s ‘now’. Nevertheless, let us offer the realness of our situation to God. Let us sit in the realness of where we are in the midst of a pandemic that threatens our very existence and like the psalmist, give utterance to our bold pay-attention-to-me-invocation. When words fail, express it with tears. If tears blind us and we cannot see, groan in travail, but let us give utterance to the need for God to rescue us. Let us pray:
A MOMENT IN PRAYER:
O God, can you hear me speaking low
My voice is veiled in fear
Turn now and look on me with love
And those who know your name
No words can my distress explain
My eyes grow dim with grief
O hasten to deliver me
Let me fresh courage take
Within my anxious breast insert
Your wisdom, counsel, strength
“though troubled is my soul at best
I will upon on you wait
E’n though I walk through valleys dark
Amid a desperate plight
Protect me by your guiding hand
And put my dread to flight
Speak in the whisper of the wind,
For my times are in your hand
Re-clothe me with your grace divine
And the glory of your smile
Contributed by Rev Douglas Barnes