Read Psalm 102
Featured Verse: Psalm 102:18
“Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD.”
The writer of this psalm is in a bad way—a very bad way. In fact, the title says the author was a man who had been severely “afflicted”. We don’t know the man, nor do we know the specific nature of his affliction, but we do know the depth of his despair since, to a greater or lesser degree, we have all been there at some point in our lives.
Perhaps you haven’t experienced the severity of the psalmist’s affliction, but you can at least identify with portions of what he is feeling. There have been times when something so hurtful has happened that you can’t even eat: “I forget to eat my food.” (Psalm 102:4) It could be that you are so devastated that you have even experienced a notable weight loss: “I am reduced to skin and bones.” (Psalm 102:5) Perhaps you have gone through something that has caused sleepless nights and has even isolated you from sustaining relationships: “I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.” (Psalm 102:7) Maybe you have even had something happen that has made you the fodder of gossip and ridicule: “All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse.” (Psalm 102:8) Chances are, you have gone through a dark period that has reduced you to nothing more than an emotional wreck: “For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears.” (Psalm 102:9). And at the bottom of all this despair, like the psalmist, you have laid the blame at God’s feet: “Because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.” (Psalm 102:10)
Now we can debate whether God is the source of all that pain (although the ancients tended to look at both personal pain and national despair, first and foremost, as the result of God’s displeasure with their sin—no matter what form his wrath came in), but I think the more important point of discussion ought to be what we will do about it going forward.
The psalmist decided to take his pain to God: “Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come to you.” (Psalm 102:1) Then he boldly made an appeal to the Lord’s greatness and compassion: “But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her.” (Psalm 102:12-13) And then he even had the holy chutzpah to ask the Almighty to make an example of grace and mercy out of him to future generations: “Let this be written for a future generation that a people not yet created may praise the LORD.” (Psalm 102:18)
I love it! I think that is a great way to pray when you find yourself in a really bad way! Of course, pouring out your lament before the Lord is appropriate. Repentance, or a least honest soul-searching will certainly be called for. It is not even a bad idea to detail the cause and effect of your situation. But at the end of the day, simply appealing to God to use you as a example of grace and mercy for future generations is a great way to squeeze blessing out of what is otherwise a really bad way.
Making an example of grace and mercy out of you—it is certainly better than the alternative!