2454.) Psalm 38

“Psalm 38” — oil on canvas by Elena Hopsu, 2003 (born in Russia but now living and working in Helsinki, Finland)

Psalm 38 (NASB)

People unfamiliar with Scripture generally expect the Bible to be filled with upbeat aphorisms, spooned over with positive thinking, a sort of imbecilic simpleness disconnected from the rigors of true trouble; they don’t often expect Scripture to be filled with frank talk about deep personal distress over sickness and sin, and its impact on a person’s relationship with the LORD. Sure there’s some stuff in the Bible about Jesus’ suffering – people unfamiliar with Scripture remember hearing about that from when that Mel Gibson movie came out years ago – and there’s that stuff about Job – the guy who needed so much patience in his trouble – but that’s about it, right? Psalm 38 is no baby blister or minor cut in need of some Polysporin and a Band-Aid. Psalm 38 is deadly serious.

–Ted Giese

It is often only in desperation that we come to God.

–Michael Gunn (and all following in blue)

Psalm 38 shows us how 4 prayers and three complaints can be worked together to form a proper human response to pain and to God. There are too many people who either want to blame God and be bitter, or gloss over the elephant in the room (Human Pain) and try to put on a “Religious Front.” Neither method will help us with our pain, or move us toward God.

Prayer #1:

1O LORD, rebuke me not in Your wrath,
And chasten me not in Your burning anger.

Show me your mercy!

Complaint #1:

2For Your arrows have sunk deep into me,
And Your hand has pressed down on me.
3There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation;
There is no health in my bones because of my sin.
4For my iniquities are gone over my head;
As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.


5My wounds grow foul and fester
Because of my folly.
6I am bent over and greatly bowed down;
I go mourning all day long.
7For my loins are filled with burning,
And there is no soundness in my flesh.
8I am benumbed and badly crushed;
I groan because of the agitation of my heart.

No matter why the author is suffering, he is aware of his sin, since suffering and death is a judgment for sin, whether that judgment is direct or not. As C.S. Lewis writes, “Pain is a megaphone to a deaf world.” God’s discipline can be painful, but His intentions are always to turn you from disaster.

Prayer #2:

9Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You.

We come to the Lord not so much to inform him of our needs, as to receive help and comfort.

Complaint #2:

10My heart throbs, my strength fails me;
And the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me.
11My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague;
And my kinsmen stand afar off.
12Those who seek my life lay snares for me;
And those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction,
And they devise treachery all day long.

13But I, like a deaf man, do not hear;
And I am like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14Yes, I am like a man who does not hear,
And in whose mouth are no arguments.

In addition to the physical pain, the psalmist admits to the pain of loneliness and rejection.

Prayer #3:

15For I hope in You, O LORD;
You will answer, O Lord my God.

2 Timothy 1:12 (NLT)

I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.

The psalmist knows that the only answer, the only help, is from the Lord. To flee from him is to abandon all hope of help.

Complaint #3:

16For I said, “May they not rejoice over me,
Who, when my foot slips, would magnify themselves against me.”

17For I am ready to fall,
And my sorrow is continually before me.
18For I confess my iniquity;
I am full of anxiety because of my sin.
19But my enemies are vigorous and strong,
And many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20And those who repay evil for good,
They oppose me, because I follow what is good.

Add it all up and the writer confesses to a failing faith. He is overwhelmed by his troubles.

Prayer #4:

21Do not forsake me, O LORD;
O my God, do not be far from me!
22Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!

And God has helped! He done exactly what he promised by the death of Jesus on the cross and the glory of his resurrection!



This psalm shows the writer experiencing very trying times, calling out for healing, protection, and mercy. During some of the hardest times in my life, things have seemed so overwhelming that I cannot breathe; it is hard for me even to get air in and out. At such times, I have found the simple repetition of the phrases from this old song help me. “My life . . . my strength . . . my hope . . . is in you, Lord.”  And indeed, I have good reason find it so:   Job 12:10 says, “For the life of every human being is in his hand, and the breath of every human being.”  HERE  is “My Life Is in You.”

May God bless you today with healing, protection, mercy, strength, hope, and easy breathing.


New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

Images courtesy of:
Hopsu.   http://www.elenahopsu.com/images/psalmi_38.jpg
sack of guilt.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/guilt.jpg
God is faithful.    https://whitmantoland.com/2017/05/09/god-is-faithful/

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