Two years ago I was diagnosed with a severe infection. It took me over six moths to recover fully. When I was in the hospital, the nights were long and lonely. I found comfort in praying the Compline, the last prayer of the night in a monastic community. The words of the psalms I carried in my heart became companions. I also remembered what Henri Nouwen wrote about the psalms and the Compline in August of 1974: “I start realizing that the psalms of Compline slowly become flesh in me . . . slowly these words enter the center of my heart. They become a real presence.”*
The most difficult part of healing from an illness is the waiting. It can be “the pits.” Waiting is not easy for anyone. We wait for the results of tests. We wait to feel better. We all have experiences of waiting. The psalmist waited with patience, yet that can be extremely difficult. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.”
The psalmist then tells the story of God’s presence and deliverance: “I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation . . . I have not hidden your saving help within my heart.” The story of God’s saving help echoes the prophecy we read in Isaiah. The words of Psalm 40 may have been the same words the exiles sang on their way home.
What about us? There are days when we feel in the pits, sinking in a muddy bog. On such days, we can reach into our hearts and bring forth words of hope, mercy, and faithfulness. We sing along with the ancient words that God “put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise.”
*The Genesee Diary, 99–100.
What psalm(s) of praise do you have in your heart?
These readings contain the common theme of the power of spoken testimony. Isaiah begins by telling his audience, “Listen to me!” He then recounts not only his own story but also the promises of restoration given to him by God. The psalmist gives testimony of his experience. Although he has been in a difficult place, God has called him out and has given him a new song of praise to proclaim. Paul and Sosthenes write to the Corinthians to remind them of the powerful testimony that they had given them in person, which was confirmed by God. John the Baptist cries out that Jesus is the Lamb of God and bears testimony to the miraculous signs at the baptism. Our testimony as believers today can be just as powerful.
Read Isaiah 49:1-7. What does it mean to be God’s servant? How does this Servant Song speak of your experiences of serving God?
Read Psalm 40:1-11. When has scripture sustained you? What words have become a real presence to you?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. When have you turned your gifts inward as a sign of spiritual or social status? How can gratitude help you use your gifts in service to God and others?
Read John 1:29-42. How have you experienced Jesus saying to you, “Come and see”?
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