25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
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28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!
When Life Turns Upside Down
I am used to living a peaceful and comfortable life, and this type of life feels good. It also creates an illusion. Somehow, I am led to believe that this type of good and comfortable life is normal.
But when life suddenly turns from a feeling of comfort to one of hopelessness, and when suffering and sudden changes are real and present in my life: in these moments, I dare not face my own heart. I am too afraid to feel all the pain within myself. At the same time, I cannot feel any desire for God. Instead, I feel only my longing for the things of this world.
Although the things of the world can temporarily relieve my pain, in their aftermath I am left only with a deeper emptiness and helplessness. Again and again, I ask God: “When will you change the status quo? When will I get out of my current predicament?” In the saddest of times, the heart does not sing any songs of joy.
Despite my despair, I still struggle with all my strength, trying everything I can think of to find relief on my own. A voice inside keeps telling me that I must do something in order to make a difference in my situation. Yet the inner voice of the psalmist is different than my own. He asks God to “give me life according to your word,” to “teach me your statutes,” to “strengthen me according to your word,” and to “let me not be put to shame.” The psalmist is putting God first in his life. God was his all in all, his everything. God lifted him up from the dust (v. 25), from the path of falsehood and treachery (v. 29). The psalmist is then able to run in the way of God’s commandments (v. 32).
He Holds Me
As it turns out, God is not ignoring my cries. He is not standing by passively, or laughing at me in my suffering. On the contrary, he knows what I am going through, and Jesus Christ cares about my helpless suffering, even when I experience unexpected misfortune. God is in charge of unexpected situations and delicate relationships beyond my control. When I clench my hands and exhaust my strength for no gain, God holds me in his arms.
The reason for my pain is that I am separated from God. Although I sometimes become paralyzed in my discomfort, God does not remove the hurt. Instead, he allows it to awaken in my heart a longing for him. This has been especially true in these years of Covid lockdowns. In this time, the word of the Lord has become my only hope in despair and frustration.
Ju Na (a pseudonym) lives in a large city on the east coast of China. She and her husband, a church planting pastor, have one adult daughter.
You know that if it were up to me, I would not want to obey your law. I like a comfortable life without challenges; I like to decide my own path; I like to only thank you in good times; and I like to have your immediate presence at my side to solve my problems if suffering comes. God, I unknowingly live in a world full of lies.
When suffering comes – suffering like this sudden lockdown, the threat of a virus, the torture of not being able to get medical treatment, being misunderstood by others, and the struggle of going through great pain and almost dying – I find I am drunk with my own spiritual anesthesia. But God, you comfort me and keep me alive with your words. Not only that, you have given me wisdom and strength to understand your teachings and to think about your works, so that I might benefit from your wisdom and not suffer in vain.
O God, you have allowed me to experience deep pain in times of sorrow and to go through life-threatening experiences, so that I might have true knowledge of life. Pain and despair have awakened in me a passion and desire to know you in my spirit. Guide me, O God, to walk in the truth, to turn away from falsehood, and not to bring shame to the name of the Lord. Let me taste union with my Lord Jesus Christ, and may I find this union satisfying to my soul. Today I want to mediate on your word and follow you.
I pray all this in God’s grace, Amen!