To me this is a beautiful psalm, whose images draw me into seeing myself in its words.
It talks about being dejected, down-cast. I can relate. As I meditate on the words of the Psalmist, I imagine the various situations the Psalmist might have been writing about. It might be a description of exile. Famine. Warfare. It might be a description of those times King David fled for his life in caves, or hid incognito among another land.
I think of the areas of my life where I have felt down-cast of late. In my case, these feelings are real and it helps to offer them to God as I do in reading this prayer. In my case, as I relate these feelings to those in the psalm, I realize these feelings are in part a symptom of my comfort and privilege. I am discouraged about not having opportunities I’ve been looking for and pursuing career-wise with the speed I’d like. Yet, as I offer these feelings to God I have to acknowledge I am not unemployed, I am not struggling in my health, nor am I as the Psalmist may have been: in exile, or on the run, or in drought, famine, or war. My feelings are real and right to offer to God, as are all people’s. But offering these to God in the context of this psalm provides a bigger picture. I offer my feelings of being downcast alongside those of saints who have paved the way before me. It removes the feeling of being alone in my struggles, yet also it challenges me to recognize the many way I am blessed, secure, safe, and provided for by God. So it moved me to gratitude.
This moves me to think in solidarity with others whose feelings of being down-cast are in situations of deep threat. I remember Christians and believers in other faiths throughout the world facing religious persecution. I remember people facing famine, dictatorship. I pray for those facing illness, cancer, loss. I pray for those socially oppressed here in my home, and throughout the world. I recognize my need to be moved to care for and speak up for their crises.
Praying the psalms is, even when done alone, praying in community for it awakens me to how my ups and downs connect me with the moments of joy and liberation, sorrow and pain, faced by people of God in all times, lands, and situations. It reminds me of the value of communal prayer, mindfulness, and meditation.
Another image strikes me to – of God sheltering us under God’s wings. This is a repeated image in the psalms, of God as mother. The mother bird shelters her chicks under her wings in protection and for safety. Whether my moment of trial is cosmically large or small, God treasures me and casts the mothering arms of grace about me. I am not alone. Nor are you. Nor are any of these far worse threatened ones I remember now in prayer.
Thank you God that you see our hurts, however small or large, and extend grace. Help our cries of pain, confusion, and fear to open us up to such feelings in others, motivating us to prayer, solidarity, service, and compassion.