Psalm 102 (ESV) contains a heading. It says, “A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.” Before the opening line, Psalm 102 already signals us that this will be a plaintiff cry. This is the Psalm of one who is suffering. Indeed, the suffering has been going on for a long period of time. Up to the point of the writing of this Psalm, the suffering shows no sign of lessening.
The first two verses set the stage for what is to follow:
“Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!” (Psalm 102:1-2).
From the outset, we see the suffering man as a man of faith. His focus is God directed. But he is also mindful of what appears to be the case. Even while he has called upon God, it would appear that God has hidden His face.
And then, the Psalmist tells us the nature of his troubles.
“For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse” (Psalm 102:3-8).
Clearly this man is in great distress. He has enemies who show him no mercy. They have been destroying his life. And all the while, the years of his life, years that he might have thought to have been kind, are almost gone. His youth has passed him by, and still there is no relief. It may well be that his entire life will pass away under the merciless persecution of those who delight in doing him harm. And still, God has not spoken.
But then, rather than carrying on in despair, the Psalmist turns his face towards God.
“But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations” (Psalm 102:12).
One wonders how this is helpful. Yes, it is true. We are temporal. God is eternal. We are vulnerable. God is forever enthroned. There is a vast difference between our fragile state and God’s omnipotence. And yet, how is this helpful? But it is.
It is helpful because there is more to say about God. God remembers the promises He has made and is not indifferent to the cries of the needy. The Psalmist knows that he will not be left in anguish. The day of his deliverance will come. That’s what verse 17 says.
“He regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer.”
That’s a promise. That promise means there is a cause for the Psalmist’s hope. God won’t despise him. God will remember him. His end will not be a whimper. Rather, in due time, God will act.
Sometimes, we wonder why the answer to our cry does not come earlier. Why are the sufferings and difficulties we face so long? Why do we cry for years, while it seems our lives are ebbing away? Is God only stirred to act after a period of time?
Psalm 102 doesn’t answer the question. We need to look elsewhere for that. The eternal plans of God for His elect are for the purposes of His glory and for the eternal well-being of His people. God chooses the best for His own. But while we await the unveiling of these purposes, we may suffer. But we believe the promises of God. God will never forget His own. The last verse of the Psalm ends with a promise.
“The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you” (Psalm 102:28).