In Psalm 31:9-13 David tells us about his suffering. He describes the four faces of suffering: fear that weakens your body; enemies that wish you out of the way; friends that desert you; people that gossip about you.
When you are affected by HIV and AIDS, these words will sound all too familiar to you. They might have been uttered by David three thousand years ago, but they are very relevant to people today who, because of HIV and AIDS, feel isolated and helpless, and that life has no meaning.
However, the Psalm holds a wonderful surprise to those who continue reading. Yes, the hope lies in what is said in verses 14 and 15. David has decided not to remain in isolation and hopelessness, but to change his view on life. His life has not changed, but the way in which he looks at life has changed substantially.
Two things assisted David in changing his outlook on life. The first is God’s grace. God’s grace has convinced David that he is not alone, but that he can talk to God. He can tell God about his fears, his anguish, his mistrust in people and his lack of hope in the future.
Secondly, David has changed his position in relation to his problems. He has decided no longer to see himself as a victim, but as somebody who is victorious over his circumstances, a victor. You can sense it in the way he starts to talk about himself, leaving behind the passive language and replacing it with words of action.
In verses 9 to 13, David uses passive verbs to refer to himself: I am in distress… I have become a disgrace …I am an object of dread… I am forgotten… I have become like a broken vessel … I heard the evil gossip of many…
And, then, in verse 14, David suddenly starts to refer to himself as a person of action: I have put my trust in thee, I said aloud, Thou art my God!
David breaks his own isolation and his helplessness. He no longer sees himself as lonely. He is not alone. God is there for him. He can talk to God. He can tell God about his suffering. And he is no longer helpless. He has chosen to trust God. He chooses to confess his belief in God. Earlier in the Psalm he starts rejoicing.
This is the time of year when we commemorate the suffering of Jesus. We remember how Jesus too was afraid, was isolated by his friends and disciples, was slandered and eventually was killed. In a sense, it gives us hope. God understands our suffering. There is nothing that we suffer, that God in Jesus has not suffered too. And then, of course, our hope lies in Jesus who was awakened from death, so that we can live a worthy life on earth, and forever hereafter.
Our suffering as believers is not without hope. We shall never be alone, for God is always with us. We shall never be helpless, because God gives us lives of action, of participation, of contributing to the meaning of our lives and the lives of others.
To think about or discuss: What gives you hope when you are confronted with suffering?
Written by Christina Landman