“My back is covered with cuts, as if a farmer had plowed long furrows” – (Psalm 129:3 NLT)
“Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.” – Anonymous
No man, woman or beast gets through life without getting hurt. When I see a three-legged dog or a bird with a broken wing, I’m reminded that life can be painful. Although it’s never wise to compare pain, like the old guys sitting in the park playing the “my-pain-is-worse-than-your-pain” game, there is no doubt some have it tougher than others.
It’s true that every living soul experiences pain, suffers wounds and carries scars to the grave.
But when life gets painful or discouraging, we have choices to make. We can either give up or get up. I love the way my wife, Joy, who is no stranger to pain, responds when setbacks come. With true resilience she simply says: “Worse things will happen in my lifetime.”
That’s true for all of us, right up to the point when the worst thing that could ever happen, does happen. We all know those who endure levels of trouble or profound loss that causes others to crumble. A midnight fire turns every earthly possession into smoldering ashes. The abandonment of a parent or spouse that raises questions, which linger for a lifetime. The doctor suggests it’s time to “put our house in order.” The death of a child. Those and an endless list of other human tragedies leave lasting scars. So let’s be honest and compassionate and acknowledge that the anonymous observer was correct, “…Everyone we meet is carrying a ‘heavy burden.’”
The author of Psalm 129 reminds us of the heavy burden of the nation of Israel. “Many times they have afflicted me.” The Message paraphrase says, “They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young.” Though the destruction and pain of the past was very familiar, this poet could never have known what lay ahead for Israel: endless waves of persecution, repeated, brazen attempts at genocide, the slaying of millions upon millions of Jews, both young and old. The graphic description in verse three is not metaphoric; it was literal. “My back is covered with cuts as if a farmer had plowed long furrows.” Did you notice that six of the first 10 of these pilgrim songs remind us that life is seldom easy?
Psalm 120 – “Woe is me.”
Psalm 121 acknowledges the dangerous and difficult hills we have to cross.
Psalm 123 is a cry for mercy over inner conflict.
Psalm 124 recalls days when enemies were everywhere.
Psalm 125 identifies conflict with “workers of iniquity.”
Psalm 126 has us shedding tears for those still held captive.
Though it may not be God’s designed purpose, it is an undeniable truth that trouble is often allowed as our uninvited traveling companion, and all of us now living can rest assured that we have not yet faced our last challenge. Even Eliphaz, one of Job’s miserable counselors, stumbled upon this truth when he said, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). But in Romans 5:3-4 Paul told his friends, “…Problems and trials develop endurance, endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope.” No sane soul goes looking for trouble, but this truth remains, “The sheltered life breeds weakness.” So God allows the weight of trouble and even suffering in our lives in order to form His image in us (Galatians 4:19).
Carefully read through this Psalm, and you’ll see that the writer, though battered by persecution, is not blaming God.
They rejoice in Yahweh’s attentive care in their pain. Notice two powerful confessions:
Verse two – “My enemies have persecuted me, but have not defeated me”
Verse four – “The Lord is good. He has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly.”
And just how many times had God cut those ropes for Israel? Verse two says, “Many times.” Here’s a partial list of Israel’s perennial persecutors: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Rome, Nazi Germany, Russia, Muslim-controlled nations like Syria, Iraq, Iran and now Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS along with many terrorist organizations who stand dedicated to terrorizing and destroying Israel today. Most of those nations have disappeared, yet today Israel is thriving, having miraculously regathered from their last dispersion after AD 70. Why? Because God keeps promises like the promise in Psalm 121:5, “The Lord is your keeper.” Throughout history God was not sleeping, but rather keeping Israel. Sometimes God keeps us from suffering. Sometimes He keeps us through suffering.
So let’s learn a lesson from this favored nation of Israel and determine that when our path leads through pain, we’ll focus on our Protector who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrew 13:5). The same God who was faithful to Job, Joseph, Jeremiah, Daniel, David and Samson in their caves, prisons and pits, is also faithful to us. Yes, Samson too. God was as faithful on that final day for the humbled prophet as He will be to us on our final day, when we rise to see Him face to face.
So let haters hate. They fight a losing battle because we turn the fierceness of their hatred into refining fire.
Paul said it best:
“…Hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted but nor forsaken, struck down but not destroyed, always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
So, when our path leads through pain, let’s remain unshaken, knowing we are not forsaken because Jesus’ back was also literally “plowed to shreds” for our forgiveness and ultimate victory. Hold fast! Even in the worst day of our lives, His grace is sufficient.