I remember a time when I did not patiently endure what was happening in my life, so mad I was at God for a child’s suffering that I could not pray. Thankfully, God sent an angel who prayed for my son and me, and everything ended well.
In the psalm today, Psalm 39, David was enduring some type of struggle, and he tried to remain silent and humble, especially when surrounded by ungodly people, meaning people who did not know God. Eventually, he started to pray to God for help to endure until problem passed.
Psalm 38:1-6 I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me.” But as I stood there in silence—not even speaking of good things— the turmoil within me grew worse. The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words. “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered–how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.”We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
Often, when troubles come and take up residence, the people around us who either don’t know God or who have never experienced His goodness have opinions on why we are suffering or why God has not answered our prayers. You try to hold your tongue, trying not to “lose your religion” when you must need it.
David, instead of “going off” on his mockers, chose ask God to remind him of the temporariness of life, and that our lives are but a breath. It is a reminder in this season of rushing from store to store for the perfect gifts, that what truly matters are spiritual blessings not material blessings, for we cannot take anything with us when we leave this world.
Jesus said in Matthew 6: 19-21, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Psalm 39: 7-11 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Rescue me from my rebellion. Do not let fools mock me. I am silent before you; I won’t say a word, for my punishment is from you. But please stop striking me! I am exhausted by the blows from your hand. When you discipline us for our sins, you consume like a moth what is precious to us. Each of us is but a breath.
David’s hope was in God, and not in his own ability to change what was happening in his life. He associated his suffering with a sin he had committed and felt that God was punishing him for his sins.
But, over the course of centuries, we understand that what we consider the discipline of God may simply be the aftermath of our decisions. Not all sicknesses are the result of God being angry with us. Yes, as a form of punishment from God, our consciences may bother us until we cease ungodly behavior. However, we cannot explain, as people often do, childhood cancer or Alzheimer’s or many other ailments on people’s sinful ways or on a lack of faith on someone’s part.
I thought that God was punishing me for my lifestyle through my child. But, when he was miraculously healed, that put kaput to that theory. I learned that, while God did not approve of my behavior, He does not operate that way. He is a loving and compassionate God, and He does not give us what we deserve. Psalm 103:10 states, “He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.”
Psalm 39: 12-13 Hear my prayer, O Lord! Listen to my cries for help! Don’t ignore my tears. For I am your guest–a traveler passing through, as my ancestors were before me. Leave me alone so I can smile again before I am gone and exist no more.
David ended by asking God to hear his prayers and see his tears and anguish. We are only guests, temporary residents, of this world, as evidenced by the family members who have preceded us in death. David asked God, his hope and helper, to let him smile again, to take away his suffering while he was still in the land of the living.
This psalm reminds us to be thankful for God’s gift of the baby spoken of in Matthew 1:21, “She shall bring forth a son. You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins.” Though we are merely sojourners on this earth, because of the sacrifice of that little boy about 33 years after His birth, we have a heavenly home, one not built by men’s hands. Let’s not forget Him this Christmas.