The Howling Psalm

When I started to read this psalm, I was taken aback at the words “will you forget me forever”, then, “how long will you hide your face from me.” As I reflected on these lines, a feeling of anxiety overwhelmed me. I can’t imagine what living would be like without the firm knowledge that I am in the palm of God’s hand. Psalm 91 reassures me: You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, Say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.” I can’t imagine “doing life” on my own.

How devastated David must have been when he wrote this psalm. The opening verses suggest enormous trials and heartache. I have read that this psalm has been called the “How Long Psalm” or the “Howling Psalm.” How appropriate. It is difficult when we are going through problems which never seem to have a positive conclusion in sight. I know I have asked many times that God would provide resolutions to my requests and I have followed that up soon after with, “How long?”

David’s pleas turn into a prayer in verse 3: Look on me and answer, Lord my God. He is confident that he has been heard and asks that his eyes will be opened so he will be able to see the way forward and not succumb to despair which could so easily steer him to a darker place.

What a difference in David’s thinking in the last verse! I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. I am encouraged by David’s example of pouring out his woes and still being able to remind himself that God has been good to him, to be thankful for so many blessings every day.

This psalm reminds me that I too need to be thankful for who God is, his character, his perfection, his omnipotence and all that He has promised to do for me. There will always be challenges to face each day, but to know that my Heavenly Father will always be there with me, is an enormous comfort.

I came across the following paragraph from Spurgeon’s book The Treasury of David. It appeals to me at many different levels: “David’s heart was more often out of tune than his harp. He begins many of his psalms sighing, and ends them singing; and others he begins in joy and ends in sorrow; ‘so that one would think,’ says Peter Moulin, ‘that those Psalms had been composed by two men of a contrary humour.’ It is worthy to be observed that the joy is all the greater because of the previous sorrow, as calm is all the more delightful in recollection of the preceding tempest.”

Remembering the sorrows or the “tempests” from the past, hopefully, will magnify our joy and appreciation for what our Heavenly Father does for us each day and what his Son did for me on the cross. I pray that as we daily bring our heartaches to the foot of the cross, we can lay them there and then rejoice in what our Lord has done for us already.



3 thoughts on “The Howling Psalm

  1. Thank you Iris. In those difficult times of waiting for God to answer its easy to forget all that God has done for us. The Israelites were a classic example of this. Within days of leaving Egypt they were murmuring and longing to be back under the bonds of slavery. As New Testament Christians when trials and sorrow visit us we can ask God for more of His Grace to get us through. God knows who are His and He gives generously to His children. Day by day I am asking for more and more of His Grace to tackle the challenges that come my way. And His Grace never runs out. He never says,” We’ll my daughter I think that you have had your share of My Grace for today/ week/ month/ year”. He just lavishes more and more as we call out to Him.
    May we enter His courts with praise today. May our week have been one of worship on a daily basis so we can worship Him in spirit and in truth this Sunday.

  2. Thanks Iris. I always enjoy reading your posts with their personal touch. As you point out this Psalm reminds us that we need to be thankful to God. The last two verses of the psalm touched my heart and I have made special note of them.

    5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
    6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

    We must trust God; we must rejoice; and we must praise God because he has been so good to us.

  3. I love David’s rawness in his writing. He expresses his anguish, despair , anger and questions Gods care for him. But he always remembers the character of God and his “unfailing love” Which provokes adoration and worship. I sometimes get the impression David rides an emotional roller coaster . Maybe he was bipolar – at least in a spiritual sense. Nonetheless he was a man after ” Gods heart”.

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