Psalm 139 and Four Comforting Truths in Our Sufferings


Where do you turn in Scripture when God calls you to walk through suffering? During a particularly difficult trial 20 years ago, a wise Spiritual Mother asked me, “What if the worst thing you fear in this circumstance comes true? What is still true?” Her answer pointed me to Psalm 139. The entire Psalm is filled with comforting truths; here are four which have guided me through many a dark valley.

God knows me

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Psalm 139 begins with God’s intimate knowledge of me. Not only does he know everything there is to know about me, even the ugly and shameful secrets which I hope to hide from the world, but he knows my thoughts before I think them and my words before I speak them. His knowledge of my path and acquaintance with my ways is not based on observation, but on his sovereign providence in my life, for he predestined my steps according to the counsel of his will before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4, 11). God doesn’t merely know my steps, but he is guiding my every step and holding me close.

God is with me

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.

This passage declares that from our highest highs to our lowest lows we are still in the presence of our loving God. But what are the uttermost parts of the sea? The ancient Israelites were not seafaring people, but people of the land and accustomed to traveling dusty roads. The sea was a mystery to them, and the thought of traveling to the uttermost parts of the sea was terrifying in the extreme. Yet the psalmist declares that even there, God’s hand will lead us and his right hand hold us.

What is your terrifying unknown? In your hard circumstances, what is the worst that you fear? Even if it comes to pass, the truth is that if you are his child, God will hold you close as he leads you through your “uttermost sea.” Whatever the fearful circumstance and worst outcome God calls his children to dwell in—you can be assured that he is with you.

God planned my days

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

Before he breathed life into you, God determined and planned every single day of your life. From the first day to the last, the best days to the worst, they are each and every one formed by the will of God for the good of his children (Rom. 8:28).

God loves me

The God who planned your days is the Father who loves his children and gives them good gifts. His gifts are more precious than mere earthly blessings such as health, wealth, and happiness, though he may grant those as well. God’s blessings here and now are varied and innumerable, but the best gifts are found in his thoughts, as revealed in Scripture, which give us insight into his wisdom, goodness, and love, and find their most brilliant revelation in the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2).

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

As you contemplate the precious and life-giving truths in Psalm 139, I pray that your heart is overwhelmed with gratitude and a desire to draw closer to the Father who knows you intimately, is always with you, who planned your days, and loves you.

About the Author:

Barbaranne Kelly

Barbaranne reads, writes, cooks, runs, and shoots an occasional photo in Texas.  She and her husband Jim are the parents of five of the neatest people they know and grandparents to the first two of (hopefully) many grandchildren.  She has been blogging ever since she accidentally signed up for a blog while attempting to comment on a friend’s blog post and figured, “Why not?”  She now blogs at Gratefuland Women of Purpose, a ministry of the women of her church. Barbaranne and Jim are members of Christ Presbyterian Church in New Braunfels, Texas, where she leads a Bible study for women in the hope that she and they may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

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