“I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eyes waste away because of grief.”
~Psalm 6:6-7a (NRSV).
Confused about God? You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in esteemed company. The above psalm, ascribed to King David, moans bitterly about many God-related things, not the least of which dire sickness to the point of verging death. And it’s not clear if it’s physical sickness or spiritual sickness—it’s probably both. It’s etched in the mood of berating lament.
These laments of the individual are inspiring by the very fact of their poring reality. I recall a time when I sensed the personal call of this psalm.
Some depths can only be described in their magnitude. Sodden pillows are a sign of times when we were just at our absolute depths, needing the solace of God, for no one else remained. No one else in a position to truly help. Only God. And this was me during many nights of this sore and sorry season I bore.
In my cries to him, he finally answered me. His therapy I found. It was (and still is) the most re-assuring thing I’ve ever known! ‘He has heard me,’ was my fortuitous cry, reminiscent of verse 9. How wondrous it is when God accepts our laments and relieves us as only he can!
Yet, even though it is such a personal song of deep distress, Psalm 6 has an important role in historical liturgy (as one of the penitential psalms), yet it’s a dual-fold psalm on sickness. It describes the torment of both the individual and the people; mutual states of unrest.
It describes both the acuteness of illness, unrest and dis-ease, as well as the broader condition we face when as a people we’re ill-at-ease e.g. our common propensity to be less than happy with our lots in life, conflicts, spiritual sicknesses etc.
Fortunately, hope-wise, this psalm implies the right answer to prayer is received from God. He relieves the psalmist’s pain. And he does so for all of us in reality, if we attend to all he wishes for us to do; he speaks these into our hearts.
This psalm presents both a wrathful and graceful God. Both tensions are held magnificently. Again, we should attest to both those traits; we’ve felt them, haven’t we?
Confusion and despair are God’s territory. He takes us there at times but most of all, he helps us there! Our healer has both allowed the pain we experience, as it conforms us back to himself, yet he alone heals us.
Our conditions set us apart only to the eventual glory of God when we are relieved of them. This is why we should simply look up in our travail. He is the only one who can help us both physically and spiritually. Our attitudes to any distress should be aligned with what he has for us.
The one who takes us to the depths raises us from them too.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.