Psalm 38

Psalm 38

Word, Share, Prayer: Read the scripture, share what you heard (with someone or in a journal) and then pray. Simple. Meaningful. Get a wordier description from by Psalm 6 blog post.

Liturgy writing exercise: Similar to ‘word, share, prayer’ but what makes this a little different is that the intention is to have something ready for worship. I mentioned in the Psalm 102 blog that I did a liturgy writing exercise with the Third Church Session in February 2020. We didn’t have time to do a lot of editing but maybe you do. Edit until you like what you have. Don’t forget to read it aloud.

Lectio Divina (Divine Reading): This one is difficult for me. No writing. No analyzing. Just a calm state of mind, reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. You can listen to an example in my Psalm 142 blog. 

Click on the link for the Psalm above (my links show up as red words) or find it in your favorite Bible or digital Bible or listen to my Mom read Psalm 38:

Bonus: The Lord’s Prayer is about the amount of time you need for hand scrubbing 😉 

My Notes:

Psalm 38 has a similar opening to Psalm 6

Sometimes when we read Psalms like Psalm 38 we are tempted to believe that sickness is inflicted on those who sin. While the author of Psalm 38 may have felt that way at the time, we know that is not good theology. Remember that is Psalm 6 and in the entire book of Job, sin has nothing to do with sickness. Although, I don’t imagine someone this sick was able to write or recite a Psalm… shouldn’t that person really be resting?

Psalm 38:12-21 record the reaction of friends of the sick person (I hope you have a better circle of friends than this). “The alienation may be partly paranoia and partly real, as some evil persons take advantage of the psalmist’s weakened condition. Verse 12 may reflect near-paranoia—even friends and loved ones stand back, and though they many have stood back to avoid infection or because of he stench of infected and open wounds (v 6), their simple action creates deeper anxieties in the patient.” Word Biblical Commentary Psalms 1-51 Peter C. Craigie p.304

The psalmist prays despite feeling despair. The psalmist continues to believe that God is loving and merciful. “And the act of praying — even though no answer appears to come — functions as a lifeline in moral life, for to pray is to keep open the relationship with God, in which ultimately is to be found the meaning of life itself. As so often is the case in the Psalter, Ps 38 survives not merely as a tribute to the poetic artistry of an era long since passed, but as a prayer for use in the modern era, in which sickness remains as an ever-present reality. “Word Biblical Commentary Psalms 1-51 Peter C. Craigie p.306


I wonder if being abandoned by friends and surrounded by people who are clearly trying to take advantage of weakness and thus making you feel like you are abandoned by God, is worse than the actual illness? Sometimes it seems the psalmist is asking for healing and sometimes it seems that the assurance of God’s presence is what the psalmist wants more than anything else.

It’s difficult to read anything and not immediately relate it to the pandemic, especially psalms about sickness and separation form loved ones. I remain hopeful that the social distancing strategies will help to slow the spread of the sickness, but I fear that it will lead us to different kinds of sickness that comes from being isolated. Maybe if we put our collective positive energy into spreading love and hope over whatever communication we have, we can help each other feel less alone.

This Psalm actually reminded me of a different medical issue, obstetric fistula. You can click on those red words if you wish but I promised I wouldn’t give gory details on these blog posts that are supposed to be for extra “worship like” experiences for my congregation, so suffice it to say, obstetric fistula is an injury that a women sustains during difficult childbirth. Some of the women that sustain these injuries are isolated because they stink. And of course, there is a lot of stigma around women’s bodies in general that make this even more humiliating and difficult to treat. There are a lot of reasons why women suffer. If you’ve clicked on the link already you will notice it takes you to the fistula foundation page and not just a medial definition, so there are ways to help and there is hope. It’s a worthy cause and a highly rated charity.

I believe that we are called to care for one another, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Let us pray:

Holy God, giver of all good things, we have failed to live in thanksgiving for earth, for our families, for neighbors, and for strangers, fo the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil that grows our food. Forgive us for sins against you, your creation, and one another, through disobedience to your will in world and deed. Teach us to seek our holy way and to be happy in your steadfast love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

This prayer can be found in the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship p. 584

If this was fun (or if you are staying in with nothing else to do), you can do the same type of reflection for the other individual laments (63251102130 and 143). 

I would be happy to receive recordings of Psalm readings or prayers that you would like to offer for use in the blog and “worship like experiences” our congregation. 

Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Love self. Breath out. Love others. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.

Wash your hands. 😉

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