Psalms and Misery

“You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness” (Psalm 88:18).

One of my favorite statements of the Christian faith is the Heidelberg Catechism. It was written during the Reformation as a way to help people learn the important teachings of Christianity. I’ve always found the answer to the second question somewhat surprising:

Q. What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

A. First, how great my sins and misery are…

Sins and misery. How often do we, as comfortable Westerners, speak of our “sins and misery”? In our churches we talk about sin, but misery? What misery?

He knew about (ms.) misery.

This psalm is very real in recognizing the fact that human existence is full of misery. We like to think we can avoid it. We like to believe that our functional saviors (job; spouse; entertainment; vacation; children; education) will keep us from suffering and misery in this life.

But those saviors always disappoint. They never satisfy. They never deliver us from our misery. No matter how much we try and avoid it, we will always find misery in life. It comes in financial hardship, broken relationships, death.

The psalmist has confronted all of these, and he doesn’t look for solace in the American dream. He isn’t trusting in that big promotion or finding a smoking hot wife. He puts his trust in the Lord.

You and I will suffer. If you aren’t suffering now, you will. And when you do, you can find, as the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, that your only hope, your only comfort in life and death is that you aren’t your own, but belong to your faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

It is because of what he has done that we can trust our prayers will come before God (88:2). Jesus is the God of our salvation (88:1). And it is because of that that we can not only endure the misery that we will face in this life, but can find peace in the midst of it.

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