Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.
I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror to my neighbours,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.
I spent the entire day yesterday in the hospital with a dear friend. Helen was 94 years old and her body was failing her. She and her family had been told that her lungs could no longer do all of the work necessary to provide her body with enough oxygen. She had been on oxygen 24 hours a day for many months and now she was being told that she would not be able to live without a machine to force oxygen into her lungs. She decided not to use this machine and so yesterday I found myself, with much of her family, in a hospital room waiting for the inevitable. We laughed and we cried as we waited. The day before we had the privilege of having an entire day where Helen was able to communicate with us, telling each of us that she loved us. But yesterday she was not able to talk and didn’t really respond to us. And so we waited. Often I found myself watching as she took each breath. As the day wore on I noticed that her breaths were becoming more shallow and farther apart. But I kept reminding myself that Helen had faith in God who loved her as a beloved child. So that no matter what was happening with her physically, she was certain that God was with her. She trusted God to care for her. And so as we watched her slipping away, I remembered that her time was in God’s hands. I reminded myself that God would deliver her from death and take her to a place that my human mind could not even comprehend.
In this season of Lent, I am reminded of Jesus’ death, a gruesome, brutal death on a cross. But I also know the end of the story. And I know that Jesus defeated death so that death no longer has a hold on us. Our time here on this earth is short. Even Helen’s 94 years is just a blink of an eye to God. So in times of sorrow and despair, as the writer of this psalm describes, we know that God has the last word. We know that God will deliver us and save us with steadfast love. Thanks be to God!