Read PSALM 94:16–23
Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins sometimes struggled with anxiety and spiritual depression. In one poem, “Carrion Comfort,” he remembered feeling that God had stomped him with a “right foot rock,” pinned him down with a “lionlimb,” and was glaring at his “bruisèd bones” with “darksome devouring eyes.” He lay in a heap, enduring storm after storm—like Jacob, “wrestling with (my God!) my God.”
Hopkins endured a dark year and learned in a deep and difficult way, as the writer of Psalm 94 had, that God is our best consolation. The psalmist was worried because he was caught in a threatening situation. The wicked appeared to be in power, able to gang up on the righteous and accomplish injustice (v. 21). His very life was at stake; he was about to slip and fall (vv. 17–18).
These very real problems naturally led to questions: Who will stand with me? Who will rescue me? How can God allow this (vv. 16, 20)? Asking such anguished questions is a perfectly legitimate spiritual thing to do. In fact, directing our questions to the Lord shows faith that He’s big enough to answer them.
Even in the midst of his worry, the psalmist knew the answer: God. The Lord is the best “consolation” in the midst of painful events (v. 19). Consolation here is not a pat on the head. The knowledge that God is a “fortress” and “rock” in whom we can “take refuge” brings joy (vv. 19, 22). Another way of rendering verse 19 is, “When worries threaten to overwhelm me, your comforts cause my soul to delight.” The psalmist knows that God is a God who saves because of His unfailing love (vv. 17–18). He is not a God who allies Himself with corruption but who guarantees justice (vv. 20, 23; Ps. 89:14).
APPLY THE WORD
God often ministers to us through His people, and we can be instruments of His consolation through kind and encouraging words. As Proverbs 12:25 says: “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Pray for specific opportunities today to use words for others’ good and for the Holy Spirit’s help in saying the right thing.