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Home School of Suffering A Burden Too Heavy - Psalm 38

A Burden Too Heavy - Psalm 38

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A burden too heavy -  Psalm 38

Trusting God’s dealings with us in all the situations in life we face is one of those things absolutely basic to being a Christian. It’s easy when circumstances are pleasant and things are going the way we like.

But what if we the Lord took our job and income and we no longer had the money to do and buy all the things you currently do and buy and had to sell our house? What if the Lord took away our health and instead we wrestled with severe pain or illness each day? What if the Lord removed the support of family and friends and we faced each day feeling alone and unloved?

What if we knew that the Lord brought these awful circumstances into our lives as a direct consequence of a particular sin that we were guilty of? How would we respond to the Lord then? Would we be able to trust him in the bad times as well as the good?

Psalm 38 is a terrific encouragement for suffering sinners. David is struggling to survive in really horrible circumstances that he knows are a consequence of his sin.

He is suffering terribly from a horrible illness (verses 3,5,7). His whole body is painful and inflamed and covered with open sores that are infected and smelly. At times he feels as if his whole system is shutting down.

But he is suffering even more in his mind. Verse 3-4, David knows his condition is a consequence of his sin. He is suffering greatly from guilt and a troubled conscience, verse 6 & 8 with the result that he is overcome with anxiety and panic attacks, verse 10. He is a broken and man reduced to groans and deep sighs of desperation.

Add to all this, the fact that his friends and family, whom he so desperately needed for support, have now stepped back from him, verse 10. Perhaps because they fear his disease is infectious or perhaps because they think it is evidence of God’s judgement on him. Either way, David is an outcast and alone when he most needed help and support.

And the final hurt for David is that his enemies, verse12, now see the chance to move in for the kill. They are going to kick him while he is down.

What an awful situation to be in. David was about as far down as it was possible to go. He was just hanging on by his fingernails. So, how does David, the suffering sinner, respond to God in such a situation?

Let me suggest first, that he keeps crucial perspective in bleak circumstances. Even though David’s life seems to be collapsing around him, his theology, or what he knows about God and his lifetime experience of God is what gets him through this dark period.

He makes an important distinction to start with. Verse 1-2. Rebuke has to do with correction and chasten has to do with discipline. So, in the midst of all his suffering David never forgets that God is redirecting and disciplining him, rather than punishing.

Do you see how important that distinction is? David really feels God’s anger and displeasure. Verse 2, it is like an arrow that hits hard and cuts deeply into him.  In a different picture he feels as if God’s hand is on him, rubbing his nose in the dirt. But he knows that God’s purpose is to correct and discipline him, rather than destroy him.

That is why David, in a negative way, begins his poem by asking for grace and mercy and restoration. David knows he is suffering God’s displeasure, not as the wicked or the person who lives independently of God, as described in Psalm 36 and 37, and therefore facing God’s total condemnation. He was suffering as a righteous person, verse 20, as one who lived dependently, though imperfectly, under God’s rule.

Friends there is all the difference in the world between a father who makes you feel his displeasure and anger in order to correct and discipline, and a powerful person who attacks you with the intent of destroying you completely.

David then makes an important connection, linking his suffering to a particular sin in his life. Verses 3-4. He feels as if he is drowning in his sin. They are a burden tat threatens to crush him.

It is important to see David’s logic here. Being convinced that his suffering was God’s discipline and correction, he automatically asked, “For what am I being corrected?” His answer is in verse 5. God is disciplining him because of his foolishness or sin.

David knew that God’s disciplines, at times very painful, were always for the purpose of driving out foolishness or sin and replacing it with wisdom or the fear of the Lord that shows itself in obedience.

But we also need to be careful here. Some would suggest that the connection David makes between his sin and his suffering is actually part of his problem and reveals his imbalanced mental state.

Two points need to be made here. In the context David is absolutely convinced about the connection. Whatever the sin was, and we cannot specify, he knows that God has caught up with him.

But the outcome of his connection is not a morbid despair and wallowing in self-pity and endless guilt. Rather the connection makes him confront his sin with a view to being redirected and moving on into new obedience and fellowship with the Lord.

Second, Scripture teaches that personal suffering is not always the consequence of personal sin. Sometimes suffering and illness is just a factor of living in a sinful world. However, it would be just as wrong to think that suffering is never the direct consequence of sin, as it would be to think it is always the consequence of sin.

We need to be careful making this connection, but we need to be prepared to think about it so that we actually learn from God’s correction, identifying our foolishness and replacing it with wisdom that fears the lord and results in new obedience.

Unfortunately we are too quick to dismiss any connection. When we fall ill, when we lose our job, when there is strife in our marriages and family, when our business goes into decline. When our church finances drop suddenly. When we become depressed and lethargic. In such circumstances we need to consider if the Lord is pushing us to make a connection to a particular sin or pattern of sinful behaviour.

The third aspect of crucial perspective is that David maintained a passionate conversation with God. Look at verse 9, and verse 15. Again there is a sequence in logic. Being convinced he was feeling God’s discipline, he looked to see why he was being disciplined and connected his suffering to a particular sin.

But the whole process of discipline, physically and emotionally, had taken him to the point where he could not endure much longer, and where he stood alone and without any of the supports that would normally give comfort in life.

So knowing that his only hope was with the Lord; Knowing that the Lord was working for good in his life through painful correction; knowing that God cares for his people; david felt free to talk to God unloading personally and passionately to him. David, in spelling out his torment and struggle was asking that the Lord might sustain him and deliver him.

Once again friends, it is an important lesson to learn. All too often, when we experience painful trials and circumstances from the Lord, we become angry and resentful at God. And then we actually make the situation worse because we withdraw from the Lord and turn away in protest or because we think he is intent on harming us.

Like David, we need to recognise God’s discipline and correction and accept it and seek to learn from it. We can only do that as we throw ourselves into God’s word and talk to God and seek the support and help that only he can give in such circumstances.

Friends, David’s perspective, David’s thinking process, as he struggled with the painful circumstances the Lord brought into his life, meant he was then able to go to the next stage and act in the light of what he knew about God.

David’s circumstances are really awful. He’s suffering severe pain. He’s an outcast from his family. His enemies are gunning for him. His awareness of his sin threatens to overwhelm him. So what does he do?

He entrusts himself to the Lord, refusing to act independently (13-16) Verses 13-14. Despite how he is feeling and how he has been treated, David refuses to lash out in response. He refuses to attack his family and friends and challenge their desertion of him. He refuses to counter attack his enemies who were actively plotting his downfall and spreading all sorts of lies about him.

Notice it’s not that David CAN’T respond, but that he CHOOSES NOT TO respond. Why does he do this? How can he do this when he has been so unfairly treated?

Verse 15. Because he is convinced the Lord is the only one who can help him and will in fact act for him. Verse 16. David’s confidence is not in that he deserves to be delivered, but that God will act to protect his own honour and reputation as covenant God. If David were to be wiped out, it would appear as if God had failed in his promise.

Then he genuinely ‘sorrows’ over his sin. Verse 17. David recognises that he is always ready to stumble into sin and deeply regrets it. In fact David now understands the awfulness of his sin before God was far worse than the one sin he was suffering for.

Verse 18. That understanding of his sin before the Holy God brings David to a godly sorrow and repentance. And that in turn helps him see his enemies in a different light. Verses 19-20. His enemies continue in their sin unaware of the need for repentance. David is happy to leave them to the Lord, glad that he has come to repentance.

And friends that means God’s discipline has been effective in David’s life. He has actually learned good things in it. He came to realise his spiritual plight. The awfulness of his sin, that he would have shrugged of or been unconcerned about had he continued in health has now become very clear to him.

His actions that previously he thought nothing of were now seen in their proper light before the Lord and threatened to drown him or crush him.

It is so easy to work to relieve the circumstances of suffering we face, without ever learning the lessons of God’s discipline. Ultimately the reason for this is that we think the best thing God can do for us is make us happy and give us pleasant circumstances.

When tough times come we resent them and refuse to learn through them, because we tell ourselves that God couldn’t possibly mean us to be in such a situation or feel so miserable or miss out on such nice things.

Finally, David draws comfort from God’s character and promise. Verse 21. He appeals to Yahweh, God’s covenant name knowing that God could never forsake him because he has promised to love and care for his covenant people.

David appeals to MY God, knowing that his father could never be distant from David, his child. Regardless of how tough life gets and how alone he feels, he could never be abandoned because God’s covenant love is everlasting.

David appeals to his saviour God realising that God’s purpose for his people is to save them and make them like himself. That is David’s comfort and assurance as a suffering sinner. He relaxes in the fact that however awful he may feel, it is all part of God’s process of making him holy and preparing him for heaven.

And in this sense David points us forward to Christ. Christ experienced a far worse disease than David did. Jesus took our sin upon himself with the result that in his death he suffered horribly both physically and emotionally as he carried the burden of sin before God’s full wrath. He stood alone, cut off from his own Father.

But Jesus kept a good perspective on God’s purpose in the whole event, knowing it was to save God’s people and make them holy. So he entrusted himself to God.

Friends, David’s circumstances had not eased at the end of this Psalm, but he had solid comfort and assurance of God’s help and purpose in his suffering and had learned good things through it. That was enough for David. It was enough for Christ. Will it be enough for you or will you still be determined to surround yourself with happy events.

Amen

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 January 2011 21:50  

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