Psalm 31:1–24 is another of those that finds us listening in to the desperate cries from one who seems adrift in their own particular wilderness.
“For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.”
I can’t help but wonder what it was that brings about this despair and this sorrow. So often in the Psalms we never discover the cause of the outrage or the loneliness. The calamity is almost irrelevant to the prayer. It is as though because God knows, there is no need to repeat it. But it is absolutely necessary to share the feelings, the present bleakness and hurt in order to engage with God.
“I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have taken heed of my adversities”
You are there ahead of me, Lord. You can look out for me and ensure I am delivered safe on the other side of whatever it is I am finding to dreadful, so dispiriting, so appalling.
Tolstoy remarks at the beginning of Anna Karenina that “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Likewise, our own personal grief is special to each of us, but the prayers we offer to God can be shared. God alone can know and understand fully our own grief and despair, but in offering that to God, we can hear the love that God shares with others, and draw strength from that. Our relationships with one another are deepened in the relationship we each have with God, and that can cut straight across our despair at each other.
In Psalm 31, once again, we hear of a paranoia that stems from such uncertainty about others. Is there truly a ‘net that is hidden for me’ (Psalm 31:4), or is it simply in having turned from God that such traps seem to emerge from the gloom and despair? Is it in turning back to God that the nets can be seen for what they are, and we can move towards each other, united in our praise and worship?