After the ‘new song’ of psalm 40 we find ourselves once more grappling, in psalm 41 with feeling after God and finding him in the midst of suffering. In many ways the psalm, which seems to have been written in the midst of both physical illness and personal betrayal, speaks deeply into our own times, as it speaks of the Lord comforting us and making our bed in our sickness. And for Christian readers of course it has that sharp moment that seems to prophecy the intimate pain of Christ’s betrayal by Judas:
Yea, even mine own familiar friend, whom I trusted: who did also eat of my bread, hath laid great wait for me.
And yet the psalmist, even as he cries for mercy, recovers and closes the psalm with a glimpse of the beatific vision and the sheer blessing and glory of God’s eternal presence:
And when I am in my health, thou upholdest me: and shalt set me before thy face for ever.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: world without end. Amen.
Here is my poetic response to the psalm. 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.
That you might make me whole in every part,
Have mercy on me now. Oh raise me up
And comfort me when things just fall apart.
For you have known this too: the grip and grope
Of suffering, the time when comforts fail,
The false pretence of friendship, the false hope
Of some relief, the sense of being frail,
Of being helpless, wounded, vulnerable
And worst of all the sickening betrayal
By those we thought were closest. Miserable
Dependence on the ones who’ve lost our trust
What can I do but cry ‘be merciful
Be merciful and raise me from the dust
Restore my health, because I cry to you,
You are my heart’s desire from first to last’
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