There are times that the suffering we experience feels as if it has been with us forever and will last forever. I think many of us could recount tales of woe to one another that might astonish the other. If we were to actually share our burdens with one another, we would realize we are not as alone in the depths of anguish. When we open our eyes and look past our own pain, we can see that there is no one among us who is not suffering. If we ignore the lie that we are alone and understand all of us suffer, then we can bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
This Psalm it titled and subtitled,
I Cry Out Day and Night Before You
A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.
The psalmist was Heman the Ezrahite, one of the Sons of Korah. It is a psalm which expresses deep affliction and grief. Heman laid out his pain to God frankly and genuinely. There is no happy ending to the maskil, no unicorns or twinkly smiles. But there is still hope to be found in it. Verses 1-2 read,
O LORD, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
2 Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
The name the psalmist uses here for God is Yahweh or Jehovah, it is God’s ultimate name, His name for Himself, I Am. The name refers to His covenant relationship to us. Though Heman was in distress, he still had faith. We know he had faith because he was praying, because he wasn’t giving up, and because of how he addressed the Lord. Heman remembered God’s covenant with him and knew God remembered it with him. What is the promise the psalmist kept in mind? What is it that kept him going? The promise that keeps me going through the worst is found often in scripture, it is written in Deuteronomy 31:8.
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Jesus said it again when He was about to ascend to Heaven in Matthew 28:20
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age
So Heman could pray because he knew his prayers were being heard. Do you know your prayers are not bouncing off the ceiling, or falling on deaf ears? God hears you. He doesn’t ignore your sorrow. Heman prayed honestly. There is no reason to hide our feelings to God. We can be completely open with Him. Being honest with God allows Him to reveal the truth to us and walk in His will and His way by taking the steps He guides us toward in our conversations. If I’m busy pretending that I am okay with my situation, how will I hear my Lord comfort me? If I am lying to myself as I tell God that everything is honky dory, how will I hear His direction? Purge the lies from your prayers and be honest. There are no masks necessary between you and your Maker and Savior.
James 4:8 reads,
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded
Verses 3-7 show the psalmists candor.
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5 like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
He says not only is he dying but the people around him treat him as if he is already dead. He confesses he has no strength and may as well be in his grave already. Most shockingly, he accuses God of being the one who put him there. We know that God doesn’t want us in pain, but we also know that God does allow pain and suffering for various reasons. For the most part our suffering, illness, and pain is from Satan. Remember he is a creation of God and subject to Him. We can see this point illustrated in Paul’s description of the thorn in his flesh.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
God allows Satan to send woes on us. What Satan means for evil and what people mean for harm, God uses for good (Genesis 50:20). Whatever Heman’s troubles were, they began in his youth and had remained with him (Verse 15). He had suffered for so long and he saw no end in sight, but he cried out to God day and night. He leaned on the Lord and though he had no strength, he could keep going. Verses 8-12 read,
You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
The psalmist was deeply sad. He felt trapped in his pain and exhausted from sorrow. He was having trouble seeing anything except his grief. Yet, he still prayed, not only with his words but with his posture; he spread out his hands to God. Look how honest he was with God. He said, “Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed praise you?” He was saying if I’m dead, what good can you do through me? How can I praise you and tell anyone how great you are if I’m dead? Even as he cried out his anguish and frustration to God, he still declared God’s steadfast love, faithfulness, miracles, and righteousness. He said, ‘how can I tell the world about your steadfast love and faithfulness if I’m dead or considered an abomination? People can’t see your wonders or righteousness in my desolation.’
Heman was not afraid to be honest with God. I have no doubt that God answered Heman. I think that verses 10-12 show that God was included in the conversation. As Heman cried out, it was God who said, “Your suffering is showing my steadfast love, faithfulness, wonders, and righteousness. You are not an abomination to me. You are not dead. My grace is sufficient for you. You are not alone. I am with you to the end of the age.”
A few weeks ago, I was awake very early and spending time with my Lord in nature. I freely let it all go. I cried and cried to Him about my pain and illness. Parts of my prayer echoed this Psalm. I had suffered for so long and felt like I was very close to death. I asked God why He had not healed me. Just then a sparrow flew into my path. Immediately Luke 12:6-7 came to my mind,
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
My Father didn’t stop there, He then brought Matthew 6:26 to me.
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Which led to Matthew 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
In that little sparrow, God spoke to me and said, “Don’t worry; just keep seeking me. I’m taking care of you. I will always be with you.” My cries turned to thanks. My fears turned to faith. If I had not been willing to be completely open, God would not have been able to allay my weakness with His strength.
Did my health get restored? No. I was still in pain, still weak and still sick. My world didn’t suddenly become a rose garden. My world remained as it was but my perspective changed. I haven’t stopped asking the Lord to heal me. I haven’t stopped suffering this terrible pain and frailty. Neither did Heman. Verses 13-18 read,
But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.
This psalm doesn’t end with fat baby angels playing harps on fluffy clouds. It ends with Heman’s pain and loneliness. God doesn’t always take away the pain, He doesn’t always have those we’ve lost forgive us and restore failed relationships. But He does always remain with us. He does always take care of us when we seek Him and His will.
Believer, I know you’re suffering. I know you wonder if it will ever end. The Father will never leave you nor forsake you. Jesus is with you, always. The Holy Spirit is in you; His awesome power is at work in you. You have hope. You have eternity waiting for you. Jesus described our eternal home this way in Revelation 21:3-4,
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.