Today we read a few more Psalms (102,106,123,137). All are written from the perspective of suffering and exile. One is subtitled (in the NIV), “a prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord.” That’s a pretty good summary for this type of psalm. Psalms are poems to us, but they were songs to the Jewish people, set to music. We’ve all experienced having our emotions touched by good music and meaningful lyrics, whether in worship or simply a song that moved us during a time of vulnerability. The added benefit of Psalms is that it also gives us good teaching and theology about the character of God and the life of a Christ-follower.
So what’s our wisdom for how we respond to suffering in these particular psalms?
“Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” (102:18) Psalm 102 teaches us to LOOK FORWARD. This psalmist tells us about his current distress. It doesn’t look like his situation is going to change before he dies. Yet, he speaks about the eternalness of God, and the promises yet to be fulfilled. He prays for God to intervene, not simply on his own behalf but for the generations coming after him. He has hope because even though he may not experience it personally, God will see that it comes to pass. “You remain the same and your years will never end. The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.” (102:27-28)
Psalm 106 gives a summary of Israel’s history. This psalm teaches us to LOOK BACK. Describing his people’s failures, he shows us the source of their problems: “They soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His plan to unfold.” (106:13). Instead of looking back and taking courage from all the miracles God had already performed to get them to this place, and instead of looking forward to the fulfillment of His promises, they focused on what would satisfy them at the moment. They “gave in to their craving in the wilderness,” they were “envious of Moses and Aaron,” they “grumbled in their tents,” they “did not destroy the peoples” as God had commanded but adopted their lifestyles. They focused on their wants, desires, feelings, and limited wisdom. (The heathen cultures didn’t look “so bad”).
What’s the takeaway? When we’re in a time of suffering, we cannot look at ourselves. We can’t focus on just how we’re feeling today, because pain and affliction skew our perspective. It weakens our spiritual resolve to obey God because things aren’t working out for us at the moment. Instead, we need to LOOK BACK and remember all that God has done in the past. Then we need to LOOK FORWARD to His promises (for what is a promise, except something that is yet to be fulfilled?).
And for today, we simply need to LOOK UP.
“I lift my eyes to You, to You who sit enthroned in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till He shows us His mercy. (123:1-2)
Are you suffering? Make it practical. Get alone with your Bible and a notebook. Ask God to help you remember all that He’s done for you and make a list. Then search out His promises and write those down. Spend time worshipping and praising Him, calling to mind every attribute of God you can think of. I guarantee you’ll make it through today with a whole new outlook.