What Happens When Trouble Strikes?

Somerset Maugham, the English writer, once wrote a story about a janitor at St. Peter’s Church in London. One day a young vicar discovered that the janitor was illiterate and fired him. Jobless, the man invested his meager savings in a tiny bicycle shop, where he prospered, bough … More


In this passage the psalmist is lamenting the condition of the nation of Israel. There is much disagreement among scholars as to who wrote this Psalm. However, many agree that it was written in the closing days of the Babylonian exile. John Phillips, in his book Exploring The Psalms, suggests that it may have been Daniel. At any rate, the Psalmist is in trouble.  He prays earnestly that God will hear him and not hide his face (vv. 1-2). He tells the Lord his troubles and they are basically three things:

  1. His endurance is gone (vv. 3-5). He said that his days are consumed by fire. He compares himself to a piece of charred wood (v. 3). His heart was withering like grass and he had lost his appetite for food (v. 4).
  2. His environment is wrong (vv. 6-7). He compares himself to “a pelican in the wilderness,” “an owl of the desert” (v. 6) and “a sparrow on the housetop.” Each of these three birds is in the wrong environment. He is lamenting that his environment is wrong.
  3. His enemy is strong (vv. 8-11). He says the enemies reproach him (v. 8) which suggests great defiance and railing. To eat ashes like bread (v. 9) expresses the humiliation of his situation. Likewise, to mingle the drink with tears shows great distress. Because God had allowed all of this to happen he felt his life was about over (vv. 10, 11).

The psalmist saw his countrymen adapting themselves to the land of exile and it saddened him.


What a lesson this is for me! This world is not my home and I must resist all of its efforts to swallow me up. I must constantly remind myself that I am bound for another land.

Psalms 102:1-14 (English Standard Version)

Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse. For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink, because of your indignation and anger; for you have taken me up and thrown me down. My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass. But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations. You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come. For your servants hold her stones dear and have pity on her dust.

View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »