Psalm 119:153-160: What to Pray When You Are Suffering
June 20, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
The “affliction” of the author of Psalm 119 once more comes to the fore: “Look on my affliction and deliver me” (119:153). Do you sense that you have an “affliction”? That is, are you suffering, in pain, in trauma of some kind, whether emotional or physical? Sometimes we can so over-spiritualize suffering that we think the only kind of suffering for which there is real help from God is a very spiritual kind of suffering. But the psalmist here does not narrowly define his suffering; it is an “affliction.” Do you have that?
This section of the psalm gives us some extra pointers for dealing with our own personal suffering. First of all, the psalmist prays to God about it. “Look on my affliction and deliver me.”
But note he is not just praying about the suffering he is experiencing, he is praying in a particular way. He is asking God to “look” on his suffering. Obviously, God already knows that he is suffering, for God is omniscient (or all-knowing). But the psalmist is asking that God give particular attention to his suffering.
And further, he is asking not just for comfort but for deliverance: “deliver me.” How many gospel movements are, at a human level, held back by the lack of prayer warriors asking God to intervene through their intercession? The sovereignty of God does not demotivate our prayer life, but rather motivates our prayer life, because if we believe God is sovereign, we will ask him to intervene as he is powerful enough to do something about it.
Then, interwoven through this section of the psalm, the psalmist is praying according to the teachings of the Bible. He does not here always unpack precisely what those teachings are, but it is clear that he is asking God to do something which is according to God’s Word.
“Give me life according to your promise” (119:154)
“Give me life according to your rules” (119:156)
But it is not only according to the text of the Bible, it is also according to the character of the author of the Bible.
“Give me life according to your steadfast love” (119:159)
It is this interlocking approach that encourages, comforts, strengthens, and upholds us even in the face of affliction: the truth of God’s Word and his promises, and then the truth of God’s character and person as revealed by God’s Word and his promises. This is a God you can rely upon to do what he says he is going to do, despite sometimes what appears to be currently strong evidences to the contrary.
Today, therefore, as you face an affliction, a suffering, some disquiet or disease, some trauma or crisis, some difficulty or perplexing problem, consider the approach of this psalmist to his affliction. First he prays that God would give direct attention to his situation specifically and intervene by delivering him. Do not think that any problem of yours, however small it may seem, is beneath the dignity of the gaze of the King of kings. Ask him to look and deliver.
And then, second, pray according to the truth of what is revealed about God in the Bible. The truth of the text of the Bible itself and its gracious promises—but also the truth of the character of God, his steadfast love, to all who truly believe. Your affliction may be painful, but your God is powerful. Your affliction may be unsettling, but your God is unmovable. Your affliction may be confusing, but your God keeps his promises. Your affliction may be beyond your ability, but your God is a prayer-answering God.
Keep all this in focus as you suffer: God is a God who is steadfast and delights to answers the prayers of his children according to his own perfect will.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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