I can’t count the times that I have found Divine comfort in Psalm 139 through the years.
It is an amazing prayer David wrote that glorifies God as the One who created and knew him intimately long before David came to know God. It reveals that God is truly our “Immanuel” or…our “God with us God”…who has always been very nearby to help us. It also speaks of God’s ingenious original design woven into both the visible and invisible parts of the human being. It addresses ways in which all of us are “image bearers” who are truly the crowning touch of God’s creative work. At the very end of the Psalm, David prays a very vulnerable prayer that if there are any hurtful ways in him that lie beneath his anxious thoughts, that God would expose and resolve them. This exposure and healing has happened in my life in some very significant ways through the years.
In the first translations of Psalm 139 that I read as a young believer, the “hurtful way” of v. 24 is rendered as “wicked way”. I always found this wording to be somewhat “out of tune” with the spirit of the prayer. Recently, I noticed in the margin of the New American Standard Bible, the literal Hebrew says “way of pain in me” and my heart exploded with inspiration.
As a pastor and spiritual director of over 40 years now, I have discovered that there are typically unresolved pains deep in the souls of people who are manifesting anxiety, fear, depression, rage, bitterness, addictions, unhealthy relational patterns…and the list goes on. I have also discovered hidden and repressed pains in my own life as the root problems to the visible brokenness in my way of being and style of relating. You have probably heard the expression, “Hurt people hurt people”. A colleague of mine, once told me, “If we do not resolve our pains vertically, they will come out sideways.” Wow…that one stuck with me!
Weapons Against the Ways of Pain
Our “ways of pain” may be rooted in injustices done against us, perceived injustices and/or our own trespasses and sinful choices and reactions to circumstances and people – along with the guilt and shame associated with all that. Through the wonderful ministry of Dr. James Wilder and our friends at Life Model Works, we have also seen more clearly how we all get stuck in our pathway to maturity by historic personal traumas of various kinds that are also buried and unresolved. However the pains come, the evil one is always looking for a personal narrative to twist and exploit and confine us into some kind of spiritual, mental, emotional or relational “prison cell”. Often, he accomplishes this significantly and early on through the angst of our childhood. Too often, these matrices of lies…or strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4)…plague us and drive us well into our adulthood.
However, the beautiful and wonderful Body of Christ is arising now with mighty spiritual weapons for the destruction and resolution of these “ways of pain” that have jerked us and our friends around long enough. We are becoming more skilled at accessing and applying, simply and profoundly, the healing presence of Jesus and the power of His cross and resurrection deeply into human hearts and lives. The first order of business of the Messiah’s anointed mission to proclaim the good news in the prophecy of Isaiah 61 is that he will “heal the brokenhearted”.
Our communities of faith would do well to also make this our first order of business as we set out inspire one another to “be” and to “make disciples” of Jesus, since all of our hearts have been broken in one way or another to one degree or another. We simply will not have the joyful inner capacities to be fruitful in life and ministry if we try to pile Bible knowledge and/or spiritual responsibilities on top of our unresolved traumas. I encourage you to pray through Psalm 139 in preparation of some Immanuel healing in your life.