Psalm 38 is one of those uninhibited psalms that simply cries out to God in pain and distress, begging for help. It’s good that we have such psalms and are encouraged to pray them. So many of us were brought up thinking that we had to be polite to God, restrained and pious at all times in our prayers. The psalmist will have none of that! When he is in distress, he lets God know it in no uncertain terms and so can we. For God already knows our distress:
I am feeble, and sore smitten: I have roared for the very disquietness of my heart.
Lord, thou knowest all my desire: and my groaning is not hid from thee.
With its vivid account of the distress of illness, and its fear that the psalmist’s own folly or negligence may have brought the illness upon him, this is a psalm that speaks directly into the current crisis, whether we are suffering from covid itself or from some of the preventable underlying conditions that might make it worse.
Perhaps it also speaks into the isolation which has been such a distinctive note in this crisis:
My heart panteth, my strength hath failed me: and the sight of mine eyes is gone from me.
My lovers and my neighbours did stand looking upon my trouble: and my kinsmen stood afar off.
But the great thing about this psalm, in whatever age it is recited, is its complete honesty about everything, about pain, about guilt, about repentance. In an age of dissimulation, it is very refreshing.
As usual you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button if it appears, or else by clicking on the title. For the other poems in my psalm series type the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.
For I have found my God and my true friend,
And heaven knows I need his friendship now
For I am weak, my days draw to an end
Or so it seems to me, I sigh and bow
My head in bitterness, the stress and strain
Of chronic illnesses have laid me low
How can I praise you when I roar with pain?
Smitten with affliction and infection
No sooner soothed than in distress again
And made more bitter by the sad reflection
That half of this I brought down on my head
In folly. I deserve my dereliction,
My portion of disquietness and dread.
Forsake me not O Lord my God, make haste,
Deliver me and raise me from the dead!
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