I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.
The glowing numbers on your bedside clock are at a standstill. The night drags on. You’re supposed to be asleep like everyone else, but you can’t do it. Carrying your crosses in life can feel a little bit like that long, sleepless night. It’s lonely, it’s frustrating, and it seems like it’s never going to end. Pain can be a heavy cross to carry. Full of pain, a believer pleads with the psalmist, “Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior!”
In Psalm 38 where David asks the Lord for help, he says “My back is filled with searing pain.” We don’t have medical reports telling us exactly what was causing David’s back pain, but if you have ever had a herniated disc, you know that the pain can rightly be described as searing. But it’s more than his back. He says, “There is no health in my body.” Then he also says, “I groan in anguish of heart.” In addition to his physical pain, David is groaning under the weight of discouragement and despair. He says: “I am feeble and utterly crushed.”
At one time or another we’ve all dealt with some kind of pain. From a sprained ankle to painful arthritis; from migraine headaches to emotional pain; from the pain and weakness that comes from being sick to the pain that can come with old age, we can relate. You may be dealing with pain right now.
It might seem like church is the wrong place to talk about pain. God can provide a miraculous healing, but that’s his choice, not ours, and we shouldn’t make miraculous healings a regular part of our church service, as if we can order a miracle on demand. Take your pain to a doctor; he’s God’s gift to you, too. But let’s not be too quick to throw all talk of physical pain out of church. There is a real connection between our physical pain and our spiritual need.
God shows us that connection immediately after the very first sin. Now there would be pain in childbirth, pain in the marriage relationship, pain in the work we do, and the pain of physical death. Or remember Jesus on the day of his death. He felt each and every lash of the whip. He felt all the excruciating pain of his death sentence. This physical pain came because of our spiritual need. David makes the connection, too, in psalm 38. He says, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” And listen to the opening verses of the psalm: “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me.” David sees a connection between his pain and his sin.
There is a natural question we ask when pain comes our way. You were feeling fine one moment. Then, all of a sudden you find yourself dealing with more pain than you can handle. The natural question is: “Why?” Sometimes we answer it in our minds by saying, “I must have done something wrong to deserve this.” We have indeed done things to deserve pain. We’ve neglected God and his Word and prayer in favor of other things. We’ve hurt people by what we’ve said and done. We’ve failed to help when we could have and should have, because we were thinking of ourselves. But it’s more than that. Sin is our condition. We have inherited the guilt and the punishment of sin from Adam and Eve, and everything the sinful nature does is always stained through and through with that sin. If you want to talk about what you and I deserve, we deserve intense and unending pain every day of our existence. If anything we should be surprised that we ever feel o.k.
So we shouldn’t try to play connect the dots when we’re in pain, tracing the cause of our pain to one specific sin. We suffer pain because we live in a sinful world, and we are sinful people. When you have pain, let your pain take you to where David’s pain took him. It’s time for humility before God. It’s time to fight your sinful nature and carry your cross. It’s time to repent.
Then, together with King David, it’s time to trust God to help you. In verse 15 we hear David say, “I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.” The first “LORD” is in all capital letters in our English Bible, signifying the great covenant name for God. David is remembering God’s covenant with his people to send a Savior. The second “Lord” has a capital “L” and then lower case letters following. Now he’s acknowledging that God is his master: David will accept anything God has for him to do or to deal with. But perhaps the greatest word of trust that David uses is the word “will.” David doesn’t wonder if God’s going to help him. David doesn’t use the word “might.” He says, “You will answer, O Lord my God.”
He will. God’s mercy toward us is as sure as the sunrise. He will do it. He will take away your pain. He may use his gifts of doctors and medicines to accomplish this. He may use the healing properties he created in your body. He may perform a miracle. He may take you out of this world of pain to heaven. But he will make you better. And every time God restores you to health in this life, he is offering you a foretaste of the perfect physical health he’s going to give you in heaven. The day is coming. He will raise you and all believers from the dead. He will create your body anew, and it will be holy and perfect, without sin or weakness or disability, and you will be unable to suffer pain or death ever again. And it’s all because of Jesus, the babe in the manger, the Savior of the world.
Even here, even now, God offers us relief. Just as our Savior came in the flesh on Christmas day, just as he suffered and died and rose again in the flesh, so now he comes to us in the flesh in Holy Communion. He gives us his own body and blood under the bread and wine. Like a good doctor he treats our problem of pain at the source. He forgives us our sin, and his body and blood is the medicine. And once you’re healed of sin, it’s only a matter of time before sin’s symptoms, including your pain, go completely away.
Our life in this world is a little bit like an unopened present sitting under the tree. Glorious and great things are coming, and it’s all God’s gift to you in Jesus.But for now, we wait.But even as we wait, know this: God won’t leave you alone in the dark to count the hours until morning.In his Word and Sacraments he gives you his Son our Savior, and with along with him, he gives you what every insomniac craves in the middle of the night: rest.
Devotion Copyright 2021 St. Paul Lutheran Church (WELS), Green Bay, Wisconsin