Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God…
It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me…
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up,
or the Pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant,
for I am in distress—make haste to answer me…
I looked for pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Let their table be a trap for them, a snare for their allies…
I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah;
and his servants shall live there and possess it;
the children of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall live in it.
Reflection – Well, the psalms are back at it today with lamentation and cries of distress! This is actually only about half of Psalm 69; I have edited it for brevity.
This psalm is distinguished, though, for being one of the psalms applied to Christ in His passion. First there is the ‘zeal for you house has consumed me’, which is quoted in connection with his cleansing of the Temple (John 2: 17), and then the ‘for their thirst they gave me vinegar to drink’ of course recalls his sufferings on the Cross.
It is significant that we see in these very human, very plaintive and poignant cries of human suffering and distress, something of the anguish of God expressed in Jesus Christ. It is always the tragic tendency of human beings, in the face of this or that calamity or affliction, of this death or that illness, this impoverishment or that terrible injustice, to conclude that ‘God doesn’t care.’ It is, in its own way, a logical conclusion—if God cares so much about humanity, and about me, then why did He allow this to happen?
This psalm—but more importantly, the real historical event to which it points of the suffering and death of God in Jesus Christ—is the answer of God to the question of ‘do you care?’ It is not the answer we were looking for. We wanted God to say, “Well, of course I care, and so now I am going to instantly take all your sufferings away.”
He will in the end (such is our Christian faith) do just that (cf Rev 22), but for reasons of his own inscrutable Divine Wisdom, here and now He chooses to show His caring not by removing our sufferings but by entering into them Himself in the only way He could—by becoming a human being with a human body and a human soul—and transforming suffering from within.
Why He went this route, He has not really chosen to explain to us Himself. Philosophers and theologians have done yeoman’s service on His behalf, but I’m not sure He ever asked them to do it, to be honest. In my own personal spiritual life, whenever I have asked God plainly why this or that suffering has come to me or to those who I love, the only real answer I get from Him is ‘Trust me’, and I think that is the best one of all.
At any rate, and I say this with all reverence and faith, this is the God we have been given, not the God we would make up for ourselves. A God who does indeed fully intend to end human suffering, to wipe every tear away in the final state of things, but who here and now does not do that, but rather enters into it to share it and shape it and make it the royal road to the kingdom. Psalm 69 and the other psalms that are taken up into the Passion narratives bear witness to this, and this is their abiding value in our Christian tradition.