LORD, in your wrath rebuke me not; In anger do not chasten me. Have mercy, LORD, for I am faint; LORD, heal me in my agony.
My soul with anguish is distressed. O LORD, how long will you delay? Turn to me, LORD, and free my soul; In steadfast love save me, I pray.
No one in death remembers you; Who from the grave can give you praise? My groaning weakens me; at night My bed is drenched with tears always.
My eyes grow weak with tears of grief; They fail because of all my foes. Away from me, you evil crowd! The LORD has listened to my woes.
The LORD has heard my prayer for help; The LORD has listened to my plea. My enemies, disgraced and shamed, Will turn back from me suddenly.
You can hear a congregation sing this to the tuneSoldau here. It can also be sung to the grand Welsh tune Llef which you can hear here.
When it rains, it pours. When one part of our being gets out-of-joint, everything else feels the strain. Sickness of body disturbs peace of mind. Tiredness unsettles our temper. When we are ill-at-ease with ourselves, we stop trusting other people. Then isolation makes it harder to hold onto faith. And on, down the spiral, until we forget how it all started. Where was the cause, and what is the consequence? The whole experience feels like one big tangle of misery.
Welcome to the Psalms, or at least to a good number of them. Individual laments, some call these – prayers for troubled times, for dog days, discouragement and darkness. Psalms of disorientation is another label. Fog has fallen, life’s landmarks have been taken away, and direction is impossible to find.
Part of the trouble in Psalm 6 is other people, ‘foes…evil crowd…enemies’. What these people had done, we never find out. Put another way, which came first, the sickness or the aggro? The writer’s inner distress, or the outer dispute? What was cause and what was consequence? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. The value of this psalm goes beyond the precise situation that led to it. It speaks in the tangles and trials of our days. It serves those seasons when one mishap has followed another, and all of life has become painful and disjointed.
On those days, a psalm such as this talks for us and with us. It puts words into our perplexity, and offers understanding when we have ceased to understand ourselves. It witnesses that other believers have walked this way before, and so God has been here too. God has answered prayers like this one. God has made a difference in situations of this kind. So God can reach into your pains, laments and disorientations, and into mine.
God of our dis-locations, when we find ourselves in the wrong place, in our circumstances, and in our spirit … God of our dislocations, when the pieces of our life have ceased to fit together well … Move us on, we ask, mend us, re-make us. But while we wait with things as they are now, thank you for understanding, and for being big enough to handle the situation with us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Revd John Proctor is a member of Emmanuel URC, Cambridge, and General Secretary of the URC.
Sing Psalms! Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS