For Those Who Wait: Reflection on Psalm 38

Psalm 38

But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. – Psalm 38:15

Making Deals on the Bathroom Floor

“God if you get me through this…I will never _______ again…” went my prayer as I sat on the bathroom floor. I had never felt so bad. All I wanted was the nausea to leave me, but until it did, the bathroom floor was my friend. Eventually, I got better, forgetting the “deal” I made with God!

There were other times I got sick, and I found myself in the same place, making the same “deals” with God. At the time, I was serious about my end of the bargain, but as I began to feel better, my thoughts turned to other things leaving my “deals” on the bathroom floor.

I know I’m not alone when it comes to “deal making” on the bathroom floor. Others have recounted the same behavior, making me feel a bit better about renegotiating (or rather breaking) my end of the deal.

Facing Illness

Psalm 38 doesn’t contain any deals. Instead the Psalmist simply cries out to God in his illness. Pain grips his body with burning loins, aching bones, and festering foul wounds. He has nowhere to turn but to God.

The commentary I use (Word Biblical Commentary) counsels readers to not diagnose the illness, believing the description contains a compilation of medical conditions. I was tempted to make my own diagnosis, but after reading the commentary’s comments, I realized not making such diagnosis broadens the scope of the Psalm allowing us to relate.

We get sick and have been sick, perhaps experiencing some of the symptoms listed. We have cried out to God during sickness, asking God to take way the pain and give us better days.
The psalmist makes a connection between his sickness and his foolishness, leading me to believe he saw his sickness caused by his actions. He talks about being rebuked and disciplined, referring to God’s “arrows”, indignation, and hand coming down on him, while referring to his sin, foolishness, and iniquities.

Self-Inflicted

Yes, sometimes we are the cause of our own sickness. Fast food, lack of sleep, and limited exercise all contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle which could lead to illness. Other times we are sick for no apparent reason. Nevertheless, I appreciate the Psalmist’s desire to look deeper than the surface of his life and show that illness can be a time for reflection.

No one likes to be sick. We hope that anytime we do get sick, the sickness will be short-lived and doctors can help us get over our ailment quickly. We may, however, face an illness that doesn’t leave quickly. Waiting becomes our only companion. Our illness hangs on, perhaps causing us to wonder if God cares.

The Long Haul

Verse 15 says, “But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait; it is you, O Lord, who will answer.” The psalmist’s only hope is in God. This psalm does not end with some great statement of faith looking forward to when God heals him. Instead, he prays that he would not be forgotten, that God would be near, and quickly help him.

My heart goes out to those who are in the midst of illness and can pray this psalm from the deepest part of their being. Waiting is hard, but sometimes all we can do is wait. Yet, we do not wait alone. Even the healthy must wait though they pour their heart out to God.

Waiting with Him

Perhaps you are waiting; waiting for a wayward child, or an unbelieving spouse who you desperately love, or for change in your life. You have prayed, asking God again and again for an answer, but yet you wait.

The psalmist’s prayer that God would be near (see Psalm 37:21) has been answered in Jesus. Jesus is Immanuel which means “God with us.” You may have to wait, but you never wait alone. He is with you even in your illness. He is and will be your help, hope, and salvation.

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