“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. For I hear the whispering of many— terror on every side!— as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.” Psalm 31:9-13 ESV
While 1 and 2 Samuel gives us the history of David’s life, the book of Psalms give us a picture of David’s heart – his inner life. As we know by now, David’s life was filled with trials and tribulations. The above quotation from Psalm 31 shows that he was “in distress”, filled with “grief” and “sorrow”. He felt his strength failing; his bones wasting away. Because of this, he became a “reproach”; “an object of dread”; “forgotten like one who is dead”; “like a broken vessel”. His adversaries were scheming and plotting against him to take his life.
Does David’s state in Psalm 31 remind you of anyone else in the Bible? Earlier in the chapter David says “into your hand I commit my spirit…” (31:5). These words were echoed by Jesus on the cross before He breathed his last breath (see Luke 23:46).
Numerous times in the Psalms David’s writing points forward to the promised Messiah (see Psalm 2, 16, 22, for example). The above scripture especially has similarities with Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah in chapter 53. He is described as a “man of sorrows” who was “acquainted with grief”; “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3); “He was oppressed, and afflicted” and eventually “cut off out of the land of the living” (53:7-8).
Knowing that Jesus was completely human while on earth, is just as important as knowing that Jesus was fully God. He felt pain, fatigue, illness, sorrow, grief, loneliness, rejection and embarrassment, yet without sin. The author of Hebrews also reminds us that “… we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). Jesus knows and understands; He can identify with our pain and grief. That’s only one of many reasons why we can be in relationship with Him.
Not only that, but He also bore our pain and grief upon Himself – “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” (Isaiah 53:4). Over and above Jesus’s own pain, He was carrying the worst pain of the world – the very thing that brought the fall of mankind – sin. He became sin for us, so we may be made righteous (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).
This means that all the distress we suffer through in our earthly lives will never compare to what Jesus suffered for us on the cross. More than that, it also reflects how we share both in Jesus’s death and His resurrection (see 2 Corinthians 4:8-12). In this way we can have joy in our suffering, since it always points us to the Gospel.
As we approach Easter this year, let’s be comforted in knowing that Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses, but more than that, that He bore our weaknesses on Himself, so we can share in the love and life that only He can give.
This Hymn, “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted”, captures the theme of today’s devotion. Listen to it as you reflect on God’s immense love towards those who believe.