When I Don’t Have All the Answers

Psalm 116
1I love the Lord, because he has heard, my voice and my pleas for mercy.
2Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
4Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”
5Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.
6The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
7Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
8For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;
9I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
10I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted”;
11I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.”
12What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?
13I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,
14I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
15Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
16O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds.
17I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.
18I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,
19in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!
This psalm, like many others, contains both a declaration of faith and a prayer. In the first few verses we find the writer telling us why they believe in the Lord. The stark realities of this life are laid out in vivid detail; the snares of death, pangs of Sheol (the underworld or place of the dead), distress and anguish. We can relate. But so too we find words of acknowledgment for the deliverance of God. He is gracious, merciful, righteous, a Savior.

Verses 5-7 almost seem like “self-talk” as the writer remembers who God is and what He has done in the past. Sometimes, we must remind ourselves to rest in the Lord, as we frantically run from project to project, convinced of our own importance. Verses 8 and 9 stands in the middle of this poem and here we find what this life brings (death, tears, stumbling) and how we are delivered by the Lord “in the land of living.” There is that holy tension once again. Even as believers, we are bound to a life where we don’t have all the answers. We live both in this world and in the Kingdom of God. But the psalmist looks back and by remembering the past, he receives assurance and dedication for the present and the future. It is easy to submit to One who holds our lives in His hands, for in that place there is no fear. It is a place of trust and love. We are supported, encouraged, and have purpose.

Finally, these words ring out for those who have participated in liturgical worship, as we sing “What shall I render to the Lord, for all His benefits to me . . .“ on a regular basis. The melody instantly swirls around the words and they are unforgettable “in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.