LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? Turn, LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.–Psalm 6
I was born with a rare bone disorder that causes my bones to break easily. As a result, I have broken over thirty bones throughout my life. So when the psalmist says, “O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror” (6:3), these words hit home for me.
But you needn’t have experienced a disorder like mine to be able to relate to the gut-wrenching words of the psalmist. Many of us have cried out to God, “how long?” (6:3). Many of us have known, all too well, the painful reality of grief—the way it knocks on our door at the moment we least expect it. Like the psalmist, many of us have begged for God to save us from the brokenness of this world.
What I appreciate most about the Psalms is their brutal honesty. Together they express the full spectrum of the human experience. Many of the Psalms, like Psalm 6, are not always easy to read, but I find a sense of comfort in the raw vulnerability of the words. Psalm 6 reminds me that we worship a God who wants us to be real, a God who hears our cries for help—cries we are often too afraid to voice aloud; a God who can be present with us in even the darkest times, because God too experienced the pain of the darkness.
Over the years, the people who have been the truest expression of God’s presence to me and with me are the people who have allowed me to be real with them, because they were real with me. They didn’t feed me cliché statements. They didn’t tell me that God wouldn’t give me more than I could handle or that “this” was all part of God’s master plan. Instead, they sat with me in my pain. They cried with me. When I didn’t have words to pray, they prayed on my behalf. In those painful yet sacred moments, they let me be me—tears, doubts, pain, frustration—every broken part of me, body and soul.
When I read Psalm 6, I’m challenged to be the kind of person with whom others can be brutally honest as they share own cries for help, too.
“The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping” (Psalm 6:8). May we be a people who allow one another to weep, who cultivate spaces for authenticity and vulnerability, and who seek to be God’s real presence with others, even if our bones shake.
“Turn, O Lord, save my life; deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.” (Psalm 6:4)
Mary Alice Birdwhistell is originally from the beautiful state of Kentucky and a graduate of Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky. In 2009, she moved to Waco, Texas, to attend George W. Truett Theological Seminary and joined the staff at Calvary Baptist Church as children’s minister. Upon completing her Master of Divinity degree in 2013, Calvary called her to become their associate pastor. Mary Alice now calls Waco home and considers ministry to be the sacred gift of sharing life with a diverse community of people. She loves the color purple, anything chocolate, coffee shop conversations, and Kentucky basketball.