A Desperate Prayer For Desperate Times
Do not abandon me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me. Make haste to help me, O Lord, my Salvation.
You may think you’ve had a bad day, but it’s nothing compared to the heartache David felt when writing Psalm 38. In this psalm, David describes on of the darkest points of his life. With blunt transparency, he admits that some of his pain and confusion comes from his own sins and foolish decisions. In addition, his cup of heartache is filled up with accusations and attacks of his enemies; even worse, his family and friends have turned their backs on him when he needed them most.
Where could he turn now? In a desperate cry for help, David turned to God. “You won’t forsake me, too, will You?” he seems to plead. Everything in his life had gone wrong, and everyone had turned against him. In this moment of hopelessness, David asked for help and found hope in God.
Our troubles come from a wide variety of sources, but we don’t want to experience them all at once the way David did! Whenever we feel hopeless, abandoned, misunderstood, betrayed, or incompetent, we can always turn to the One who is faithful to listen, to care, and to restore hope. This time of desperation wasn’t the end of the road for David, and times of desperation aren’t the end for us either- if we’ll turn our attention to God and express our trust that He will come through.
When God is all we have left, we then realize that God is all we need.
I think that almost every person has those times in life that they feel they have come to the end of their rope and still can’t seem to find a solid place on which to stand. Life quite often is unfair, difficult, and troubled. It’s in those times that we question our standing with God, whether He really loves us and as David asked whether God has abandoned us. I’d ask us to read the entirety of Psalm 38 for I think it will give us a perspective when life turns sour.
David opens the psalm by admitting his sins and he asks God for mercy so he would not be rebuked or subject to God’s anger. David’s response isn’t unique for we, too, often feel that our actions deserve the rebuke and anger of God. Perhaps they do and many turn away from God for they wrongly perceive that they will only receive such from God. After all they are rebuking themselves for being so foolish and many times find themselves subjected to the anger of those they may have harmed by their actions. They understand they deserve discipline and not mercy. David says in this psalm that his iniquities-his failures are so many that he feels like he drowning in them (over his head) and they have become a heavy burden to him. He says they have left him numb, bruised, and worn out. He says in his pain that his family and friends stand aloof, seemingly uncaring and unconcerned. He gives the impression that maybe they feel he’s getting what he deserves. I think he is describing not just himself but many. If you’re one of those who feel overwhelmed by life right now; maybe your failures are drowning you, and the weight of the past is pushing you under a ocean of guilt and despair, don’t stop reading Psalm 38. As David recounts his iniquities before God, as he expresses the guilt and shame and acknowledges the burden and despair and loneliness in this place, he turns to God and in the next verses of Psalm 38 he gives hope to all who are going through a bad time in life.
He begins by saying that he has no argument or justification, no defense. And then in verse 15, he makes the profound statement: For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will answer, O Lord my God. The beginning of digging our from under the mountain of despair is to see that in God nothing is hopeless. To be sure it may seem so to us, but Christ said that all things are possible if we can but believe. And He even gives us grace to believe. Though David could not fix his problems and though he felt that no one was standing with him or supporting him; he discovered a great truth: in turning to God we find hope. In 1 Peter 5:7 we read:
“casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].”
Though no one may be able to help us, though family and friends may turn away in our hour of need, there is One who will never abandon us. David expressed that fear:the fear that God would abandon him, or that God would withdraw from him to some far away place. That’s a valid feeling. It seems to me in my most darkest moments that God has seemed so far away and there have been those times when I asked what David asked, “God, have you abandoned me?” In my seeking I found a wonderful promise from God: “….for He has said, “ I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently say, “ The Lord is my Helper [in time of need], I will not be afraid. What will man do to me ?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
If you’re reading this today and you feel that life has thrown you into a pit that you can’t get out, if you feel that every time you manage to get up, life knocks you down again, if pain and sorrow seem to dog your steps, and you wonder if you will ever know joy and peace; let me urge you to turn your heart to God. Pour out your feelings to Him, acknowledge your mistakes and then let Him wash you and bathe you in His love and mercy. Cast it all on Him, lay it down at His feet, for He honestly and truly does care for you. If you feel a million miles away from God because somewhere you walked away from Him, I have a promise for you:
“Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you.”
I don’t know a better time to turn our hearts toward God than in this season of Christmas. The angel instructed Joseph and Mary to name the baby Emmanuel- God with us. And no matter where you are or what you’ve done, if you will turn your heart to Him you will find Emmanuel- the God who will be with you in every situation of life.
Dr. John Thompson