Summary: Psalm 55 can serve as a prayer when you experience reversals in life
When the bottom falls out
I read of a brick layer who ended up in the hospital with extensive injuries because of a work-related accident. His insurance company wanted information about his injuries, so he attached the following explanation:
In your letter, you asked for clarification regarding my insurance claim. I hope the following information is adequate to explain my situation.
I am a brick layer by trade. I completed a 6 story building. When I got done, I had 500 pounds of bricks left at the top of the building. I rigged up a barrel to a rope and pulley, secured the rope carefully below, and after climbing to the top, filled the barrel with the 500 pounds of bricks. I then descended to let the bricks down. I carefully untied the rope to let the barrel of bricks down, but as you can see from Box 6 above my weight is only 135 pounds. I was so surprised when I started to ascend that I clung tightly to the rope and in the vicinity of the 3rd floor I met the barrel on its way down, which explains my skull fracture and broken collar bone.
I continued up to the top and the barrel of bricks hit the ground just as my one hand in its glove wrapped itself in the pulley, trapping me there. Meanwhile, because of the heavy weight in the barrel, the bottom fell out, leaving only the shell. With the reduced weight, the barrel started up. In the vicinity of the 3rd floor I met the barrel coming up which explains my fractured ankle. I fell onto the pile of bricks which explains my broken vertebrae, and was so surprised that I let go of the rope and the barrel came down on top of me.
In the world of hard knocks, sometimes we get to the end of the rope, the bottom falls out, and we feel like we’ve been hit by a ton of bricks. Maybe you have been there.
Sometimes it seems like circumstances have conspired to do us in. It may be an accident, illness, unemployment, or a relationship that went sour or a combination. Whatever it is, it puts you down and you wonder how in the world you can take another blow or can ever get up again. When you end up there, read Psalm 55. This psalm describes the pain and anguish of one who has experienced one of life’s most painful reversals, when one whom he trusted turned against him.
We have been sampling some of the types of psalms during the past several weeks. Psalm 55 is in the category of lament, crying out because of pain and anguish, asking for God’s judgment on whoever caused it, and turning to God for help. But as modern readers of this psalm, we dare never forget that we are reading it on this side of the cross and that the death of Jesus and the power of his resurrection makes a difference in the way we understand our troubles.
First, the Complaint. There are 23 verses in the psalm. The first 8 describe the distress level David is feeling. Run your fingers over the words he uses beginning in v. 2: troubled, distraught, anguish, fear, trembling, horror, to name some of them. If have been in the hospital, you know that sometimes a doctor will ask about your pain, “On a scale of 1-10, how much does it hurt?” David’s emotional pain is off the chart. It is extremely intense. Some of you have gone through pain like that. Maybe it was excruciating physical pain. About 2 weeks ago, our grandson in Cleveland wiped out while he was riding his bike and fractured his arm. He said it hurt. Maybe you were laid off from your job or terminated and you winced every time someone asked you, “Did you find a job yet?” I know what that is like. During the year after we returned from Japan in the 80s, for a whole year I called companies, sent out resumes, and scoured the newspaper for ads for a fulltime job. It was a painful time. Or maybe someone you thought you could trust betrayed you by molesting you, abusing you, or turning against you. And inside you felt all upset and emotionally you became a basket case. Whatever it may have been, you are able to understand what David is talking about here.
There are two things we can learn in this first part. First, as David begins this psalm he is not just venting or running at the mouth about his problems. This psalm is written as a prayer. “Give ear to my prayer,” he says. “Attend to me. Answer me.” And every word after this is a part of his expression to God. Psalm 50:15 says, “Call on me in the day of trouble,” and that is exactly what David does. When life caves in, pray. Did you know that God cares so much for you, he can’t let you go? He can’t get you out of his mind. He wants to hear from you. That is why we sing the words of the hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” The second stanza asks,