My Groaning Is Not Hid From Thee: A Response to Psalm 38

psalm 38 illuminated manuscript

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.

XXXVIII Domine, ne in furore

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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8 Comments

Filed under christianity, Poems

8 responses to “My Groaning Is Not Hid From Thee: A Response to Psalm 38

  1. lynndmorrissey

    Thank you, Malcolm. I’ve known that kind of pain, when I brought it on myself. It’s unbearable, save the One who *does* save and forgives. Right now, I’ve had unrelenting vertigo (and praise God for a CAT scan and MRI that reveal no cancer), *but* also no known cause for it–hence, no way to cure it. More tests have been ordered. I cannot function (though, mercifully I can read and type some). I’ve been reading Jonah over and over and over again (and new to me, Moby Dick, which I am *loving*), and take comfort in these books, because I see a metaphor: There is a raging, dizzying sea in my head, and I am crying out for mercy in my distress. I appreciate that you say the psalmist encourages us to “[cry] out to God in pain and distress, begging for help.” I’m doing that. Both your poems “How to Scan a Poet” and “Christian Plummet,” really speak to me, and the latter is about Jonah (of all things)! Have you possibly written any other poem referencing vertigo (metaphorically is fine too–what else would a poet write but metaphorically)?

    God bless you, Malcolm. Your poems always meet some spiritual need in my life, and offer insight an encouragement! I’m so glad to have discovered your work.
    Lynn

    • malcolmguite

      Dear Lynn thanks for this comment, I’m so sorry to hereabout the vertigo which must be, in every sense, sickening. I have very persistent bwoelpain which is partly where those lines in the poem were coming from for me, as well us various underlying conditions. Vertigo and giddiness are occasional references in my poetry ( the poem on psalm 18 for example) and also, more specifically, the poem ‘Compass’ in the Singing Bowl

      • lynndmorrissey

        Oh I’m so very sorry, Malcolm. I think pain is worse than vertigo, because when you experience excruciating pain, you can’t escape your body. I can lie down w/ the dizzyness; it helps a little (and sleep does a lot). Oh how I pray that the Lord will relieve this pain in you. Bless your heart. My Singing Bowl volume is amongst my poetry books (one of my book-shelf designations), but alas, it is in the basement. My husband (though a marvelous guy) has proved abysmal at retrieving my books from the abyss. But, thankfully, your new prayer volume and your Lenten and Advent poetry/devotional volumes are presently on my kitchen table, where I currently am reading (books are scattered there, so we eat on the table in the family room or in the dining room). I even have books in my pantry–food for thought! 🙂 I live a life spilling over in words, and I’m glad yours are among them. When I am able to get downstairs (please, Lord!), I’ll look up Compass. In the meantime, I’ll try to find Ps. 18 here on the site.
        Tx so much, Malcolm!
        Lynn

  2. Diann Sherwin

    I have just recently been pointed to your wonderful reflections, and I wonder what Bible translation you quote. Is it the King James perchance? Thank you.

    • malcolmguite

      I am quoting the Coverdale translation in the Book of Common Prayer which is earlier than the KJV. The hyperlink on each psalm number will take you there

  3. Thinking of you and yours as you navigate the various and varied forms of “pain” this Psalm invites the reader to reflect upon.

  4. Malcolm,
    I just finished my evening prayers and wanted to write to you to let you know that though I pray for you daily, I prayed especially for your Mom & your gathered family. May God grant to each of you that manifestation of His grace that each needs. And may the letting go be full of peace and a profound sense of God’s Presence.
    Yours,
    Jerry

    Sent from my iPhone

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