In the multitude of my anxieties within me, your comforts delight my soul. (NKJV)
I love that picture and I have found it to be an accurate description of my experiences in relationship with God. My anxieties don’t go away, but there, right in the middle of them, God’s comforts do delight and help me.
For the bigger picture of this verse, I recommend reading the whole chapter. The author is not neat and clean about his situation and trust in God. He doesn’t just say, “God, you are so great. I trust in you. End of discussion.” While he does praise and thank God in beautiful ways, he also challenges and asks God a series of questions. His trust in God’s ways and purposes comes out of a questioning heart.
I love how he affirms what he knows to be true about God, and also what he has experienced of God.
I have been thinking a lot about questions that come out of our anguish and the answers that we feel compelled to give when other people ask such questions.
I appreciated the dialogue that grew out of his post as well. One person said,
When a friend (or anyone) is suffering, that’s not the time to indulge our own uncomfortable feelings by reciting stuff that makes *us* feel better.
Another person asked, “So what should we say to people in situations like yours?” Several people pointed out that the best response is often to say nothing, but to be there and to offer very practical help.
I was thinking (self-centered person that I am!) of my own suffering and questions as I read that post and then as I read Psalm 94. Sometimes people have quoted Scripture in answer to my doubts and frustrations and it has really annoyed me.
Other times, assurances about God’s faithfulness seems to miss the point of my questioning (because usually I’m not actually questioning if God is faithful, but if I’m really going to make it through), but I can bear hearing those words because I see the bigger picture of my friends’ deep seated concern for me and uncertainty about what to say or do. At those times, their words, even when they miss the point are a gift that I receive from my friends.
And still other times, people have offered Scripture or words of encouragement that might have sounded trite if I were describing the conversation to someone else, but for me, at that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear. The comforts from Scripture and truths about God are good to hear and remember. But not when they are presented as a panacea for my problems, almost like, if I just understood these things, I would no longer be distressed.
When my questions are acknowledged and shared in, when I know that my friend feels my burden and helplessness with me, at that place, then I can hear assurances in a very different way. Assurances at that time, for me, are like Habakkuk’s assurances at the end of his book–everything he affirmed was spoken in the context of being terrified about what was yet to come. Not as a magic formula to make it all better.
That is the same sense I get when I read Psalm 94. There is peace and comfort in that chapter, but it is not mutually exclusive of the anguish and questions. The anguish and questions may not go away because of the peace and the affirmations of God’s faithfulness. But neither is the peace imaginary or non-existent because the questions and anguish are still there.
Here are the links to several versions in which I just read Psalm 94 (and some of the things that stood out to me in the different translations):
Contemporary English Version (When I felt my feet slipping, you came with your love and kept me steady, v. 18)
New Living Translation (The Lord isn’t looking,” they say,“and besides, the God of Israel doesn’t care.” Think again, you fools! When will you finally catch on? vs. 7,8)
English Standard Version (I normally like reading comparatively from this version, but online I found the cross reference links to be very distracting)
New King James Version (Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O LORD, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit is dug for the wicked. vs. 12, 13. Even though this translation is hard to get through sometimes, I appreciate the way the connections are a bit more clear to me than when longer sentences in the original are chopped up into several smaller sentences.)