Lent Devotional: Psalm 39
by Jonathan Haefs
Psalm 39 (click here)
I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse. My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:
“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:1-5 and 7)
A wise friend recently advised me not to stuff negative feelings down deep and hide them, only for them to later erupt uncontrollably. Yet, he also told me not to unhealthily dump out everything going on in my heart in a manner that sinfully puts others through a shredder.
“Don’t stuff it or dump it… pour it out to the Lord,” he said.
Is that not the very thing happening in Psalm 39. The psalmist has thoughts stirring within him that he knows will only come out in a sinful manner. So he resolves to guard his lips, muzzle his mouth, and keep his peace in silence.
After all, if you can’t say something nice… don’t say anything at all. Isn’t that how the proverbial saying goes?
But this did not work for the Psalmist and it won’t work for us. He tells us, “I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse.” His heart “became hot” within him! I know I have felt this before. My thoughts burning like a fire within and the longer I hold them in the hotter and brighter they burn!
So finally he speaks! He just has to pour out his feelings that are acting like poison within his heart… he’s got to get the poison out, and where does he pour it? To whom does he speak?
He speaks to the Lord. All throughout the Psalms, we see the people of God pour out their raw emotions to the Lord. They don’t bottle up what is going on inside in order to try and prove themselves externally virtuous while rotting internally. Nor do they commend pouring out contempt upon others… no… they pour out their hearts to the Lord.
They are honest… they get all the poison out. The speak until the final flame of their hot heart is extinguished.
And what puts out that fire? Perspective…
“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!”
The Psalmist prays for perspective. To see himself rightly in light of seeing God rightly. To put what he is feeling into perspective so that he will feel right about it and about others. When we pour our hearts to the Lord, we not only pour out the poison that so often feels us but his presence pours into us a right perspective!
The end of pouring out our frustrations is faith in the one who can handle them and who holds us! “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
Don’t stuff or dump poisonous things going on in your heart… pour them out to the Lord today. Let him put everything into perspective… who he is… who you are… and what you are going through.
Pour out the flames of your frustrations until they reach their end in faith.
After all (the proverbial saying should be), if you can’t say something nice, say it all to the Lord who can handle it and hold on to you.