“Pain and suffering is God’s megaphone to a deaf world” – C.S. Lewis
There is no denying the Psalms can be raw and honest – Psalm 38 is like a festering wound from which we would avert our eyes. Here are the cries of grief and pain and complaint from the beginning to the end from a man knocked to the floor – his only view is up.
Psalm 38 is one of the penitential psalms – a prayer for deliverance from God’s chastening for his sins.
It has been suggested that Psalms 38 may have been written after Psalms 51 and 32, following the events surrounding David’s sin with Bathsheba. While forgiven of his sin, David was told he would still suffer consequences (refer 2 Samuel 12:10-14).
Whatever the nature of his illness, this psalm is the penitent plea of a sick man who understood that the physical ailments he was suffering were because of his sin and God’s righteous anger (3) and his eyes had been opened to his spiritual plight. The impact of the illness on his body was devastating (5-10). It has left him estranged from his relationships with family and loved ones (11), while his enemies used it as opportunity to plot his downfall (12,16,19-20).
Matthew Henry in his commentary on this passage writes – “When we perceive our true condition, the Good Physician will be valued, sought, and obeyed.”
Our struggles, our sins, our “enemies” – and the ways we describe them – may be different, but this psalm can draw us into coming before our God, as sinners, with real needs helping us come to know God’s love and mercy.