URC Daily Devotion The Rev’d Gethin Rhys

Sunday, 3 December 2023
 

Psalm 13
 

How long, O Lord, will you forget me?
How long will you hide your face?
How long must I bear grief in my soul,
this sorrow in my heart day and night?
How long shall my enemy prevail?

Look at me, answer me, Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes lest I fall asleep in death,
lest my enemy say: “I have prevailed”;
lest my foes rejoice to see my fall.

As for me, I trust in your merciful love.
Let my heart rejoice in your saving help:
Let me sing to the Lord for his goodness to me,
singing psalms to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

The Psalms: An Inclusive Language Version based on the Grail translation from the Hebrew
© 1963, 1986 The Grail (England) GIA Publications

Reflection

For 18 months I have suffered from chronic pain, caused by a herniated disc in my spine. I have asked the Psalmist’s questions many times – especially when well-meaning friends said “Oh yes, I had sciatica – it went away after 2 weeks/6 weeks/3 months”. I know now that sudden recovery is not on the horizon. So, how long? If, like the Psalmist, I am kept awake by pain at night it seems much worse, the situation more hopeless, and the question more urgent.

The first fear of the Psalmist in the second verse is that they might die. This is unlikely with chronic pain. One physio asked me how I felt. “Worried,” I replied. “Oh, you don’t need to worry” he said, in that tone of voice that was clearly reassuring me that I would not die. But my worry was not dying – it was having to live like this. 

The Psalmist’s second worry is falling, and letting down my colleagues has certainly worried me. Not that they are “foes,” but the fear of failing gnaws at me.

Everyone I meet has their pet solution – chiropractice, massage, mindfulness, sea water, surgery, some cocktail of medication, miraculous healing, or prayer. I have considered some and tried others, so far without success. But, as the pain makes attending church difficult, I do recommend the Daily Service on Radio 4 Long Wave (shortly Radio 4 Extra) which has been a solace.

How long? I have no answers, but I hope that sharing the question may help readers today, as it has since the Psalm was written, to know that you are not alone. There are people who do understand the experience – and refrain from offering quick fixes – and a God who still enables us (at least on good days) to sing his praise.

Prayer

How long, O Lord, will you forget me?
How long will you hide your face?
How long must I bear grief in my soul,
this sorrow in my heart day and night?
How long shall my enemy prevail?
Lord, I know there is no answer –
but the lack of answer is what propels my fear.
So please hear my prayer,
groan and wrestle with me in my pain
and let my cry come to you.

 

 

 

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Gethin Rhys is Policy Officer for Cytun (Churches together in Wales) and a member of Parkminster URC, Cardiff.

 

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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