March 30: No longer alone
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Loneliness is one of the most profound human emotions. Isolation from other human beings, from the vital connection of community, can be devastating. Sometimes this isolation is physical; at other times, we can be in a room full of people and not feel connected to a single soul.
I experienced this loneliness during a semester spent in Peru. The only English speaker within miles, my limited Spanish did not allow me to communicate well. I could not ask the questions I wanted nor understand answers; I felt invisible. Though surrounded by people, I was alone.
It was my 8-year-old host sister who pulled me back into community. She adored playing games. Nothing delighted her more than convincing me to play one more round of Uno. Since we had similar vocabularies, I was able to talk to her and feel understood. She genuinely liked me and wanted to spend time with me. She became my little sister and friend, and I was no longer alone.
I think it is this connection that David is desperate for in today’s passage. He is alone, dead to his friends and persecuted by his enemies. He has no one to depend on or connect to. He asks to be saved, but he also asks for God’s face to shine upon him, to be seen and recognized by God. He holds on to the promise that he is in God’s hand even when God is unseen.
David’s prayer reminds me of the benediction I heard every Sunday growing up. It is this that I pray we hold on to even in the moments we cannot feel God’s presence: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 31:9-16 (NRSV)
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.
I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror to my neighbours,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many —
terror all around! —
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.