Psalm 102:1–14, 24–28comment (0)
October 29, 2009
By Douglas Wilson
Related Scripture: Psalm 102:1–14, 24–28
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Associate Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
WHEN I AM AFFLICTED
Psalm 102:1–14, 24–28
As Baptists in America, we are often under the false assumption that suffering is not God’s will for His people. When we pray, it is often for physical aches and ailments, financial problems and pressures, family heartaches and hindrances. We want God to take away our suffering, but this is actually a foreign concept in Scripture. Jesus submitted Himself to the Father’s will, though He understood the anguish and shame that would come with His death on the cross. Peter wrote that Christians may suffer according to the will of God (1 Pet. 3:17). Paul said our sufferings cannot compare to the future glory we will see (Rom. 8:18). In fact, he also expressed his own passion: “to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). The psalmist understood the significance of suffering.
Suffering Is Real (1–11)
Over the past couple of years, my pastor has taught me a great deal about transparency. This has not come through the sermons he has delivered from the pulpit; rather he has been open about his life. He has demonstrated that personal loss and its accompanying grief are real and life is painful. He has taught me that false fronts are simply masks we wear to protect ourselves from further pain. The end result can be isolation and insulation. We end up numb and alone.
Psalm 102 reminds the worshiper of ancient Job. Not only was the psalmist in anguish but he also spoke truthfully about his pain. Whatever affliction he was facing, this psalm lyricist requested for God to listen to his prayer and respond immediately. The passage indicates that the suffering he endured was affecting every area of his life: “my days,” “my bones,” “my heart,” “my food,” “my groaning” and “my enemies.” Like Job, the writer chose not to sugarcoat the reality of his desperation.
God Is Forever (12–14)
The entire mood of the psalm changes with the words “but You, Lord.” Is the pain immediately gone? No, it remains. Does the anxiety of possibly facing death suddenly dissipate? Obviously not. But the rest of the psalm acknowledges that the eternal God of the universe is on His throne. Once this is established in the song, everything else is seen in a new light. The Gentiles will come to fear God. The humble petitioner will be heard and exalted. The imprisoned will come to declare the freedom that comes through a covenant relationship with God. We have a choice. We can live in the light of our everyday circumstances. This will put us on an emotional roller coaster with thrilling loops, frightening turns and sickening drops. By contrast, we can order our lives with eternity in mind, trusting God at every loop, turn and drop. To quote an old hymn, “I want to live above the world / though Satan’s darts at me are hurl’d / for faith has caught the joyful sound / the song of saints on higher ground.” What is your choice?
Suffering Is Temporary (24–28)
When we look at life in light of eternity, our suffering is put into perspective. Our aches, pains, sorrows, woes and losses are temporary. The prejudices that my family faced as “gringos” living in Central America lasted only awhile. Injustices that you may face today are short term. Suffering is temporary. When we contrast our discomforts with the eternal torment that lost humanity will experience apart from God, we have nothing worthy of complaint.
As a middle-aged man, I understand the anxiety of the psalmist in verse 23: “He has broken my strength in midcourse; He has shortened my days.” Our University of Mobile family watched as Mike Blaylock, vice president for campus affairs, bore witness of his faith in Christ to medical personnel, pharmaceutical companies, administrators, athletes and students. Even as cancer brought him more and more physical suffering, he pressed on faithfully until the Lord called him home. In our eyes, this vibrant man’s life was cut short. In God’s eyes, his work here was complete. His suffering is now over.