Suffering, Scripture, Prayer

In the longest-of-songs, Psalm 119, is a treasure trove of how to prayerfully think about suffering.

It’s frequently overlooked, but the songwriter behind Psalm 119 had a reason for writing. It wasn’t that he went to a Bible conference and was so full of fresh insights and faith that he just had to write a song all about God’s Word. Rather, this song was brought about by a time of great suffering in his life. Throughout the meditations on Scripture are frequent references to his own shame (v6), destitution (v25), affliction (v67), the wicked generally (v53), and the wicked persecuting him (v84). In other words, had the Psalmist not been persecuted, we wouldn’t have this wonderful song.

 

When we think of Psalm 119, we might think “really long Psalm” or “acrostic song” (i.e., each section starts with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet) or “a really long, acrostic song all about Scripture (all but a few of the 176 verses make specific reference to God’s Word). Rarely do we think “suffering.” But here in this longest-of-songs is a treasure trove of how to prayerfully think about suffering. Consider a few ways this song can be a steady counselor during times of hardship.

Suffering Leads to Singing

It’s frequently overlooked, but the songwriter behind Psalm 119 had a reason for writing. It wasn’t that he went to a Bible conference and was so full of fresh insights and faith that he just had to write a song all about God’s Word. Rather, this song was brought about by a time of great suffering in his life. Throughout the meditations on Scripture are frequent references to his own shame (v6), destitution (v25), affliction (v67), the wicked generally (v53), and the wicked persecuting him (v84). In other words, had the Psalmist not been persecuted, we wouldn’t have this wonderful song.

This shouldn’t surprise us. As we call to mind your favorite prayers in Scripture, chances are very, very good those prayers were brought about through suffering. And as we’ll see if we follow the theme of suffering through this song, singing during and after suffering is often the sweetest.

Suffering Leads Us to God’s Word

People turn in many directions when suffering: finding solace in friends, finding distraction in entertainment, finding numbness in drugs or alcohol, finding escape in sleep or even suicicde. But the Psalmist shows us the right direction, that suffering is always a call back to God’s Word.

Not only does God’s Word illuminate the path we walk during suffering, it’s also the only source of sense during the extreme disorientation suffering always brings. By turning to God’s Word, we are reminded that God made me (v73). And the God who made me is good (v68) and in goodness afflicts me (v67). And while those who sin against us are guilty, God can use their evil for great good (v50). Only in the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection will we find true reassurance from a God who is absolutely capable of using evil for good. Only in God’s Word will our desires – rocked by suffering – be ordered according to eternity rather than our comforts.

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