Peace in the Midst of Pain
Have there been times in your life when you wanted to sing of the love of the Lord, but you felt paralyzed by pain, or choked by chaos? This has certainly been the case for me. Thankfully, when my peace is in jeopardy and pain threatens my joy, the psalms point me again to Christ. This is especially the case with Psalms 88 and 89, which teach us that the way through pain is prayer and praise. Ultimately, it is Christ who gives us joy and peace in the midst of our suffering.
The psalmist begins by crying out to the God of his salvation in the midst of suffering (Ps. 88:1-12). His “soul is full of troubles” (v. 3) and he “has no strength” (v. 4). He cries to the Lord, “You have put me in the depths of the pit” (v. 6) and “Your wrath lies heavy upon me” (v. 7). Like the psalmist, but in a far greater way, Jesus’s soul was full of troubles; His Father and His closest companions shunned him. God’s wrath was laid heavy upon Him “so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Let us, then, in the midst of our suffering cry out day and night to the God of our salvation.
In the midst of his sincere questions arising from his severe suffering, the psalmist perseveres in prayer (Ps. 88:13-18). Suffering has been his companion since his youth and the duration, along with the severity, has resulted in darkness being his only friend. In fact, the psalm ends on a note of darkness, “You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness” (v. 18). But this darkness serves to reveal the need for light. And when Christ came as the light of the world He fulfilled this need. Seen through the lens of the cross, then, Psalm 88 gives us hope without minimizing the pain and darkness that is the experience of every believer. Suffering is part of God’s plan for our sanctification and the way through it is steady supplication.
In Psalm 89 the psalmist begins by praising God’s eternal goodness and proclaiming God’s words and works to the next generations (vv. 1-18). His hope is based on God’s covenant with David, which promised four things: a position as shepherd-king, a place for God’s people to dwell, peace from enemies, and progeny to rule on the Davidic throne forever. The psalmist calls all of creation to praise the Lord, who is sovereign over the nations, has power over His creation, and protects His people from their enemies. God moves from heaven to earth in order to glorify His name and exalt His people. Therefore, Christ calls His followers to die to their passions for power, position, and prestige and place themselves under His kingship. When we do we won’t be able to stop singing of His steadfast love to the next generations, speaking of His wondrous words and works, and exalting Him as King of the nations.
God made a covenant with David that put a Davidic king on the throne forever (vv. 19-37). The least likely shepherd boy was God’s top candidate to be the shepherd-king of His people. But David’s strength lay in God’s strength and the security of his throne was grounded in God’s promises. Even so, David sinned, and so did Israel. Thankfully, God’s covenant was not based on man’s performance but on His. The final and perfect Davidic King, Jesus Christ, lived a life of perfect obedience for God’s people and died in their place. Therefore, let us look to our King for strength and give up our fame for the glory of His name. Cry out to God because Christ, the Rock of our salvation, has cried out to Him on our behalf. Even now, Jesus intercedes for believers, praying that we will not forsake the right way, but walk according to righteousness, justice, love and faithfulness.
Broken covenants cause conflict (Ps. 89:38-52), a principle that proves true in the life of God’s people. Think of the exile, for example. The southern kingdom of Israel fell to the Babylonians and the last Davidic king on the throne was carried away from Jerusalem. God’s promises seemed to hang in the balance, and the hurting heart cried out, “How long, O LORD?” (v. 46). This question is only fully answered on the pages of the New Testament. Christ came to accomplish the redemption of God’s people. Therefore, we should spend our days singing, “Blessed be the LORD forever!” (v. 52).
Perhaps you can relate to the times in my life when I have wanted to sing of the love of the Lord, but have instead felt choked by chaos. Maybe today you long for peace in the midst of pain. Let Psalms 88-89 encourage you. Remember, when our peace is in jeopardy and pain threatens our joy, the way forward is through prayer and praise. It is Christ, our good Shepherd, who gives us joy and peace in the midst of our pain.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.