Scripture: Psalm 6
Key verse: (2) Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
That’s what the Psalmist is telling us. He’s dying. The subtitle in my NRSV affirms that by describing this psalm as a “prayer for recovery from a grave illness”. Indeed, I fear it is the gravest of illnesses that our dear psalmist is afflicted with: he is broken-hearted and distraught. He is a lover who has been too long from his beloved without knowing when there will be a reunion. Will they recognize each other? Can intimacy once shared be lost? Reclaimed? His heart is both empty and full and his distracted, fragmented thoughts are a mile a minute.
Why this diagnosis of heartache? Look at his language, it’s bold and desperate. In the first three verses he demands four things: do not rebuke, do not discipline, be gracious, heal me! He challenges his beloved: what good am I dead? He begs for his lover: how long? And the word languishing, it is love language. Languish means to pine, to fade, to wither; like a flower without water or sun, so is this lover without his beloved. He speaks of his life using the word nepesh (verse 4), it means his breath, his chest. He is praying for it to be made light, filled with air, that the crushing weight of absence and anxiety be lifted. He cannot sleep, is undone and drowning in tears. And who is this lover that has brought such ecstasy and agony? In 10 verses the psalmist utters the cherished name eight times: the Lord.
God is love. Yet, we can feel unworthy of that love. And in our distress, when we neither trust nor claim God’s love for us, the world becomes a dangerous place where enemies lurk and disaster awaits at every turn. Without the assurance of God’s love we waste and wither.
One thing to note is that we can only pine for something we once had, we only miss what we once knew. The psalmist knew God’s love and blessing once. Assured that such tender love was real, the psalmist trusts that God’s love must still be present and active. God knows that to be true and maybe is grateful that the psalmist is finally able to accept it too.
Prayer: Thou, O Christ, art all I want; More than all in Thee I find;
Jesus, lover of my Soul, Charles Wesley.
Author: Derek Macleod
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].