The psalms teach us how to cry out to the Lord. When we are reluctant and don’t know what to say, they give us words. These words can speak of painful depths and are sometimes quite bold, almost audacious. At other times, they call us to go slowly, to reflect. One way to do that is to know a particular psalm well enough to adapt and paraphrase it. Then, after we make it our own, we can update it in view of Jesus Christ, the one who animates every psalm.
Here is my attempt with Psalm 102. It is not necessarily one of my favorites, but I want to live in it for a while and paraphrasing will help me do that. It is a psalm that seems to reflect what God’s people were experiencing when they were exiles, displaced from Jerusalem and under the authority of pagan rulers. For me, the psalm has present implications and also considers the inevitable difficulties ahead.
Listen, please; listen, please.
My misery threatens to overtake me.
It is so consuming that I can forget daily tasks.
It isolates me; it feels like death itself.
It feels as if you are angry with me.
But You, You are on the throne. You are ruling.
You care about me, your people, and your church
much more than I do.
So I think about those people.
Generation after generation—you will be with them.
I would rather not die now, and I would rather not die
in painful ways.
But I know that you are eternal.
I will be with you, you will be with them, and we will be one.
And its New Testament update.
My grief can be overwhelming.
It can threaten to suffocate me.
But I can’t help but think of how Jesus himself endured
the full extent of pain, physical agony, isolated, taunted,
and truly under the wrath of God.
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him” (Is. 53:10).
Now he reigns, and nothing can separate us from him.
So I am comforted.
The risen Lord goes before his people, from generation to generation.
He goes before the church, he goes before my family.
And we will dwell with him.
May the name of Jesus be praised.