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 Often when a Christian suffers their suffering is on two levels. One is the physical pain the other level is what I call spiritual pain or spiritual conflict. David in this psalm talks of both. Some kind of physical sickness and spiritual taunts from some of his enemies. Recently I heard a talk from Lee Hatcher. Lee is a very well- known Australian T.V news and current affairs presenter who wrote a book called “I’m not Crazy, I’m just Unwell”which he wrote after he came out of two and half years of suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. He also suffered from the often well meaning misguided advise and comments he got from people who had no idea of what he was going through. These comments and advice often from Christians helped only to intensify the pain he was suffering.

In this Psalm talk we will look at:

  1. How we can better face times of suffering and testing when it comes upon us.
  2. How we can better support and minister to others when they are going through times of suffering and testing.

I have broken this Psalm into four sections:










We will assume that the sick man is David but we have no idea of the context of this Psalm. We do not know what sickness David was suffering from but we do know it was a serious illness or at least in David’s mind it was very serious and painful. He speaks as though this illness has come about owing to his sin. That God was disciplining him for some sinful activity he had recently done.

The bible teaches that sickness comes to us for a number of reasons and discipline for sin or as a tool of correction by God is probably only one of three reasons why we suffer illness.

To help you understand the four main reasons why we might suffer illness let me quickly state them with some bible teaching to make them clearer.


The most well- known example suffering being a test of our faith in God in the Old Testament is the story of Job. In the first two chapters of Job we read of a conversation between God and Satan and God acknowledges the sound faith of Job and Satan challenges that faith and asks for the power to test him. In verse 12 of chapter 1 we read;

“The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger”.

Note that Satan has no power over Job and God has to give it and also God sets the limits of that power. Job goes on to suffer both materially and physically but remains faithful to God.

Peter also speaks of this reason for suffering when he writes in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.


The most well- known example of this is in the Gospel of John when Jesus heals a man born blind. The disciples ask Jesus the question, (John 9: 2)

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

Jesus answer in the next verse,

 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life”.

 I believe from verses like this and many others in the bible that God can and does answer our sincere prayers to him for healing but I want to point out that miraculous healing is only one of four ways God deals with our suffering but in all of these four ways I believe in what Paul states in Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose”.


From the time of the fall on all mankind has been cursed with pain, difficulty and death, this is summerised in the words in Genesis 3 verse 19,

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were taken: for dust you are and to dust you will return”.

As we live in a fallen world with bodies that are fallen as we grow older all kinds of sicknesses and problems can come our way. Even people who are caught up in natural disasters are victims of living in a fallen sinful world. Paul in Romans 8: 19 – 21 makes this clear,

“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”. This reason for suffering is probably the most common and all of us will know this in our lives probably in a number of ways”.

 I have prayed for very sick friends in past years but the curse of physical death has taken them but as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15: 54 – 57 for the Christian believer death is not a curse or defeat but a great victory,

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”55 “Where, O death, is your victory?Where, O death, is your sting?56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.


Sometimes we suffer because God wants to stop us from going the wrong way or wants to bring us back from that wrong way. Maybe we have fallen into sinful ways or attitudes. The best example of the teaching on this is in Hebrews chapter 12 when we read in verse 4 to 8,

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son”.  7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons”.

The suffering that comes to us to correct us or put us back on the path to eternal life with God is the act then of a loving Father who wants the ultimate best for us.


The last reason for suffering, suffering coming from God’s Disciplining him, seems to be what is in David has in mind as he suffered this mysterious illness. In verse 1 David writes,

 “O Lord do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath”.

David then virtually begs God for mercy and healing. I have heard of many Christians as they faced serious illnesses seeking lots of prayer and going to all sorts of places for help as they suffer but ultimately the one and only person who they should go to is the Lord Jesus Christ who the writer to the Hebrews speaks of this way, Hebrews 2: 9,

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

 David then uses the words that really make you cringe in sympathy for him and the pain he was feeling, in the words,

“How long, O Lord, how long?

This comes out even more in his obvious deep- felt pain in the words,

“My Soul is in anguish”

Some bible scholars translate this as,

“My soul is terrified exceedingly”.

David is feeling pain in both his soul and body and is really in need of God’s help as he so simply and beautifully expresses in verse 2 of this Psalm,

“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony”. 


 David’s agonizing words of,

“How long, O Lord, how long”

are not just applied to the physical length and depth of his pain but to how long God is going to stay inactive in coming to his assistance.

David pleads for God’s deliverance and basis this cry on God’s “unfailing love”.

For he writes in verse 4,

“Turn, Lord and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love”

 David knew that his God was not just a God who judges and pays out on people in this world but he is a God of mercy and love. Love is not the best word to describe the love of God as we, owing to our sin, deserve no love. God’s love is best described as Grace, Love given even though we don’t deserve it as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2 : 4 – 10,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

 Even in the old testament covenant, Grace what it is based upon. God decides himself to set his love on Abraham and his descendants. God decides to help Israel escape from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. God decides to give the promised land to Israel and helps them fight to obtain it. Finally, David was called from keeping sheep when God decides out of grace to anoint David as Israel’s King and helps him become just that.

David now asks God to not let him die, so serious is this illness he is in danger of loosing his life.

Verse 5, “Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praise you from the grave”.

David is saying he wants his healing and deliverance to bring glory to God. He wants God to get the praise for his return to healthy life. This probably the best grounds to ask for help from God, no matter what kind of suffering we are in. Pray for deliverance on the basis of God’s Grace and on the basis of God’s Glorification.


 Now we will get to squirm a bit more as David describes in more practical terms the pain he is suffering.

“I am worn out from groaning: all night long I flood my bed with weeping”verse 6.

These words describe a night of sheer torture as he groans and weeps with the pain he is experiencing. Add to the physical pain is this spiritual pain and agony. We will see in our study on Psalm 22 the pain and suffering Jesus endured on the cross when he became sin for us and his Father in heaven turned his back on him. Something of the pain Jesus bore both physically and spiritually for us David is describing here.

Finally, in his description of his pain he speaks of the effects his pain is having on his eye’s,

Verse 7, “My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes”.

This effect on David’s eyes is strangely linked with some enemies of David who are using his unfortunate predicament to torment him further. Its been said that,

“The state of a man’s health is often revealed by his eyes, and here his eye “grows old”, that is, wrinkled and careworn” (Dr Peter Pett).

It would seem then that David has suffered and cried so much it had effected his appearance especially in his eyes and this gave some of his enemies the chance to gloat over him, probably questioning his faith in God or his God’s power to save and help him.

As I said in the introduction, Lee Hatcher who suffered for a number of years from chronic fatigue syndrome was often made feel worse by, so called Christian friends who tried to advise him how he should be dealing with his problem.

Lee said the two forms of counsel that hurt him were either those who told him to simple get out of bed snap out of his depression and get on with life. The other even more painful counsel was from those who told him that all he had to do was pray and God would heal him and implied when it seemed God wasn’t healing him there was something deficient in his faith.

When we encounter Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering it is not wise at all to try and tell them either what is causing this (we will probably be wrong any way) or how we think they can simply find an answer to their suffering. Job’s friends did both of these things with long poetic sermons and only succeeded in intensifying the pain Job felt. Jesus on the cross felt the same intensifying affect of his suffering and pain as people under and around the cross jeered and threw insults at him.


What Lee and many others who have suffered great pain in sickness seem to say they appreciated most from their Christian friends was when they simply where just there as a support, praying for and with them. Sometimes they just want to be alone and other times they want that shoulder to cry upon or just have someone in the room to sit with them as they go through “the valley of the shadow of death”, which we will see in our study of Psalm 23 is not death itself but difficult times when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel of pain and strife.

We should be friends who are not consciously or unconsciously passing judgment on our suffering brothers or sisters in Christ but simply offer loving, empathetic and quite support which they long for as they face their hour of need.


 Finally, David sees his light at the end of the tunnel in verses 8 to 10,

8Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping.

9The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.

10All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.

David finds some kind of healing and restoration and he immediately tells his tormentors to simply, “Get lost”, God has heard his cries for help and delivered him. God has again acted with Grace as he cried for mercy and he has given it to him. David is actually saying victory has come to him through God hearing his prayers to him and acted to take away his sickness and pain.

This then is a powerful testimony to those who would say, “There is no God” or “God, if he existed, would not listen to a puny thing like a human being”.

God does listen and God does answer, not necessary in our time frame or as we might think he will answer but he does listen and answer. I love the expression,

 “God moves in mysterious way his wonders to perform’.

This comes from the first verse of a hymn written by William Cowper which reads:

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea

and rides upon the storm.

I looked up on the net to try and find what event lay behind this great old hymn and found this suggested story from the life of William Cowper.

“Cowper often struggled with depression and doubt. One night he decided to commit suicide by drowning himself. He called a cab and told the driver to take him to the Thames River. However, thick fog came down and prevented them from finding the river After driving around lost for a while, the cabby finally stopped and let Cowper out. To Cowper’s surprise, he found himself on his own doorstep: God had sent the fog to keep him from killing himself. Even in our blackest moments, God watches over us’.

Cowper knew then from person experience,

“God moves in mysterious way his wonders to perform’.

David finishes the Psalm with a final -words to his former tormentors,

 10“All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace”.

He is having a final dig at those who sought to use the time of his terrible sickness as an opportunity to put him down and they ended up doing to themselves what they were trying to do t David, becoming “ashamed and dismayed”. They sought to disgrace the suffering King and in doing so disgraced themselves.

This makes me think of Jesus again and what will happen to those who sought to shame and bring disgrace on Jesus as he hung on the cross. Their fate is tied up with the fate of all who seek to bring down the suffering King as revealed in his second coming as the triumphant King, Revelation 1 verse 7,

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him”.

David so often in the Psalms is a prophecy of the greater Anointed King to come, the Lord Jesus Christ who longs to help all his followers in their times of trial and suffering as he declares in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”



 What ever the cause of suffering is Christians are encouraged by the writers of the new testament to view it as a positive thing that can teach us many things about our faith, our Lord and how we can grow by it. This is a concept that three of the main writers of the new Testament all mention. We will now look at these three writers, Peter, James and Paul and see what they say about how we should view suffering,

  1. 1 Peter 1 : 3 – 9  – PETER

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

Peter recognises that all Christians suffer or will suffer in some way or another and he tells his readers that suffering is an opportunity to prove our faith and refine it like gold is refined by fire. The fire in the Christian life is the pain and difficulty we sometimes have in this life and if we come through this fire we will receive and experience the glory of God.

      2. James 1 : 2  – 4 – JAMES

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

James goes a step further than Peter and tells us to see trials or suffering as “pure joy”. This will seem a strange thing to say but James sees trials as joy because of the benefit we can get out of them. Coming through times of suffering with God helping us develops perseverance and leads to maturity in our faith.

Most of the great men and women of faith have stories of great hardship and suffering and through those times of trial God did great things in and through them. On of my favourite stories is of William Carey, the great Baptist Missionary to India who spent 10 years slaving away at translating the bible for many Indian languages only to lose all his hard work in a fire at his printing house.

Here is a extract from a Baptist church publication written by Percy Jones,

 “The work of ten years was gone in a few hours, the types for fourteen Eastern languages melted into lumps of lead, ten printed versions of the Bible, and Carey’s priceless translations burnt together with twelve hundred reams of paper.

Marshman went himself to Calcutta the next morning to break the news to Carey, and he was so stunned by it that for some time he could not utter a word.

When in the evening they got back to the smoking ruins, they found to their great delight that Ward who was busy clearing up, had found uninjured many of the punches and moulds used in making type.

We understand what stuff Carey was made of, when we learn that without wasting a day he set to work to make new translations and to cast fresh type; and within a month the press was busy once more turning out Bibles.

It was hard to begin all over again the books that had taken him years to translate; but Carey found that he could do the work much better the second time. Other good also came out of this trouble. The fire made Carey famous through Europe, and men all over the world wished to help as far as possible to replace the loss. The actual loss in money, which was £10,000, was made up in England in fifty days, and £800 was given by one congregation in India”.

 As you can see

God works for the good of those who love him whohave been called according to his purpose”Romans 8: 28.

Even though the tragedy of a fire as William Carey discovered.

    3.   Romans 5: 1 – 5  PAUL

 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but wealso rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”.

Carey’s story leads us to Paul who like Peter and James speaks of how Christians should view times of suffering and difficulty. Like James he says we should, “Rejoice” and see that suffering develops character and hope. Like Peter Paul sees suffering as a means to a greater faith in a God who pours out his love in our hearts.


 Many might ask, if Christians get sick, suffer and even die like anyone else, what then is the point of being one?

Of course, this is a silly question because only Christians have a God to turn to in their times of suffering. The reality is of course Christians don’t get out of suffering but rather they are helped through it. Those who refuse to bend the knee to God face their times of suffering with only human moral support but Christians have their Christian brothers and sisters for support and even better they have a God who listens to their prayers and cares for them.

The best example I could find of this in the New Testament is found in 2 Corinthians in the opening chapter, 2 Cor. 1: 3 – 7,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort”.


 I have heard from time to time Christians who speak of the death of a brother or sister who they prayed for as some kind of failure of prayer for that person. This always amazes me as I cannot understand why death is a defeat for any Christian as death for us is not the end but the great beginning of a greater existence with God forever.

All of us will one day die and some Christians, sadly hang onto life like a non- believer does. A wonderful mature Christian man in our church who headed up the ministry to senior citizens in our church died two years ago in his late 70’s of cancer. I heard that the doctor who attended his death spoke to this man’s wife and said,

 “I could have brought him back if you would have allowed me to resuscitate him”,

He had asked for the doctors not to resuscitate him if he passed away. His wife’s answer was,

“Why would he want to be brought back when he is now enjoying the glory of being with his Lord in Heaven”.

Paul speaks of this victory we will have in death when he explains to the Corinthian church what is the reality of a Christians death in 1 Cor. 15: 50 – 57,

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


 As I said at the beginning of this Psalm Talk we will find the answer to two questions:

  1. How we can better face times of suffering and testing when it comes to us.
  2. How we can better support and minister to others when they are going through times of suffering and testing.

The answer to both these questions begins and ends with two things, Faith and Prayer. In many ways they are one and the same thing or maybe different sides of the same coin. If I have faith in God and believe that even the difficult times of life are part of his purpose and plan then I will pray and like David find that God has heard my weeping and helped me with his Grace and mercy.

On the other hand because I pray I show that I really have faith in God. That faith will help me to be a support to my brothers in sisters in Christ who I will support with my prayers. Finally, like Paul, I will seek to comfort my suffering brothers and sisters in Christ with the same comfort I have received through Christ.

I close as usual with an original poem inspired by my study of this Psalm and a final word of prayer:


(Based on Psalm 6)

How long must I suffer the pain I bare?

How long will I feel my God doesn’t care?

How long till I know you are there

Helping me see your love so fair.


How long must I have these fears?

How long will I fall to sleep in tears?

How long will I feel I have wasted my years?

Not telling of your love to my peers.


Troubled and weak

Guilty and broke

Give me strength to cope

When I have little reason

To believe and hope.


How long to I see your mercy and love?

How long till you give my pain the shove?

How long till I see the Lord Above?

And know his everlasting love.


How long will my enemies hold me down?

How long will I lie in death below the ground?

How long till we hear the heavenly sound?

When Christ returns and we are crowned.


Forgiven and loved

Dying for me

Jesus has set me free

Defeating sin and death

In him is victory.


How long

As long as it takes.


By: Jim Wenman



 Lord we thank you for your great love to us, love we don’t deserve but love that has won for us a place in heaven with you. Please help us to remember this always even when we face times of suffering and when we suffer help us to turn to you for help and peace. When we meet others in times of suffering help us to lovingly support and pray for and with them. In Jesus name, we pray Amen.