Daily Devotion for Sunday 7th July 2024

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Sunday, 7 July 2024 Psalm 38
O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger;
do not punish me, Lord, in your rage.
Your arrows have sunk deep in me;
your hand has come down upon me.
Through your anger all my body is sick:
through my sin, there is no health in my limbs.

My guilt towers higher than my head;
it is a weight too heavy to bear.
My wounds are foul and festering,
the result of my own folly.
I am bowed and brought to my knees.
I go mourning all the day long.
 
All my frame burns with fever;
all my body is sick.
 Spent and utterly crushed,
I cry aloud in anguish of heart.
O Lord, you know all my longing:
my groans are not hidden from you.

My heart throbs, my strength is spent;
the very light has gone from my eyes.
My friends avoid me like a leper;
those closest to me stand afar off.
Those who plot against my life lay snares;
those who seek my ruin speak of harm,
planning treachery all the day long.

But I am like the deaf who cannot hear,
like the dumb unable to speak.
I am like one who hears nothing
in whose mouth is no defense.
I count on you, O Lord:
it is you, Lord God, who will answer.

I pray: “Do not let them mock me,
those who triumph if my foot should slip.”
For I am on the point of falling
and my pain is always before me.
I confess that I am guilty
and my sin fills me with dismay.

My wanton enemies are numberless
and my lying foes are many.
They repay me evil for good
and attack me for seeking what is right.
O Lord, do not forsake me!
My God, do not stay afar off!

Make haste and come to my help,
O Lord, my God, my saviour!

Reflection


 

SIT DOWN NEXT TO ME
“… Those who feel the breath of sadness
Sit down next to me
Those who find they’re touched by madness
Sit down next to me
Those who find themselves ridiculous
Sit down next to me …
Sit down, down 
Down, down, down 
In sympathy.”   (Extract from the song Sit Down by James.)

For all of us there are occasions when things are not going well in our lives, when our mood is dark and we are at a low ebb.  But, hopefully, times when we sink to the levels of despair so graphically described in today’s Psalm reading are few.

For some people, though, the desperation and sense of hopelessness voiced here are not fleeting moments but an ever-present life companion. Day after day is blighted and the nights are even more daunting. In these lines from his poem, Friend, Rabindranath Tagore powerfully and simply captures how the seemingly endless night hours are dreaded by those who feel their lives are falling apart; those who are overwhelmed by stress and calamity:

I have no sleep tonight.
Ever and again I open my door and look out on
the darkness, my friend!
I can see nothing before me.

I think sometimes, in our Christian outlook, we can too easily underestimate the appalling sense of despair and lack of purpose that characterise some people’s lives.  In our evangelical zeal, confident as we are in the life transforming affect our faith can have, we can neglect to fully appreciate the dark places where people are. We can too readily fail to first take time to sit alongside those whose lives are a torment … and to gain a true sense of their suffering.

The marvellous potency of Psalms like these is that they do not fudge the awfulness that life can be. On the contrary, they boldly stare despair in the face; they give voice to anguish; they confront desolation.

Likewise, we must take care to recognise and do justice to where people are in their suffering. To truly minister to the hell that life has become for many involves sitting down with them and genuinely sharing their sorrow. Only then can we cry jointly with them: “O Lord, do not forsake me! My God do not stay afar off!”

Prayer

My God,
difficult though it may be
help me to sit down alongside
those who despair of life.
Help me understand something
of their suffering.
Help me share in their darkness
and their search for light.
Amen.

Today’s writer

Professor Graham Handscomb Member of Christ Church URC Chelmsford

The Psalms: The Grail Translation, Inclusive Language Version, Collins, 2009.

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