It was during the worst time in my life that I was given a tattered version of the Psalms in The Message translation. The timing was exquisite. I read through every Psalm, highlighting in yellow anything that hit me personally. But it was Psalm 116 where things first got real for me, so in going through Psalms I thought Psalm 116 would be a good place to start.
The Psalmist’s problem was the horribly disheartening realization in verses 10-11 that “All men are liars.” Or as The Message phrases it, the Psalmist was “giving up on the human race, saying, ‘They’re all liars and cheats.’”
Isn’t that sad? That you’ve come to the point in your life where you don’t believe anyone’s telling the truth, and people are only out to scam you in some way, by sneakily overcharging you for work done, or on a global scale, manipulating world events to make the rich even richer. So now you have a jaundiced view of everyone, and once that’s stuck in your head, what is there in the whole wide world that can free you of it?
And especially if you’re doing your bit to keep up with what’s going on, like the investigative journalist I watch on Youtube, who admitted he had to go on medication he was so depressed by the ludicrous nonsense being spewed out publicly by those who think the world should be like them.
And such was the state of mind of the writer of Psalm 116: “Up against it,” he writes in verse 3, “I didn’t know which way to turn.” Nor did I. Nor who to turn to either. I mean, who had the time and capacity to sort me out? And when you’re angry and confused, who really feels they can help you out too?
The bit that got to me in this Psalm, then, was verse 4, which in The Message reads, “then I called out to God for help: ‘Please God!’ I cried out. ‘Save my life!’” And that was it. Just five words. No lengthy prayer, just (in my words), “God, I’ve had it. Help.”
I suppose it’s hard to admit you’re that helpless and pathetic, but the Psalmist went on to say in verse 6, “God takes the side of the helpless,” the proof of which was: “When I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.” It sounds like God put the brakes on in his head, deleted all the stored up rubbish, and proved that “When other helpers fail and comforts flee,” he really is the “help of the helpless” who “abides with me.”
So now we hear the psalmist shouting in verse 13: “I’ll lift high the cup of salvation – a toast to God!” So God can be that real to us, eh? But it seems to start with us getting real with him first….
(The first of a series on ‘Psalm Sundays’)