“I am in pain and distress – may your salvation, God, protect me.”

[Psalm 69:29 NIV]

A Simple Confession

A spiritual exercise and discipline I try to encourage in people’s lives is the practice of confession.  The word confession can have a strong stereotype in the negative.  We tend to think that confession only means confession of sin.  But it is much more.  Confession is merely the use of our lips in the pouring forth of things in our heart.

When we share our struggle with a friend, we are confessing our struggle.  When we appeal to Christ in our struggle, we are confessing Christ.  When we pray with each other, we are confessing our need through our appeal by prayer.  The prayer is a confession of need. 

For Christians, confession is a daily habit, perhaps more so than we realize, but it is also a habit we need to deliberately cultivate.

The Psalmist’s simple confession, I am in pain, denotes what is understood as an indicative.  That is to say, as it is right now.  Right now, the psalmist is in pain.  Right now, he is in distress.  

If we read the whole Psalm, the pain and distress appears to be both physical and emotional. 

Verse 3 – I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.

Verse 20 – Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.

Salvation is found only in Christ

When pain and distress overwhelm our hearts, we seek salvation (i.e. relief).  When the temporary distresses persist many days, weeks and even years, we are tempted to look for salvation in some variety of sin: lust, drunkenness, coarse joking and even murder.  We think the work of our hands can bring us what we need but as we do so, we do nothing more than deepen the wound of our pain and distress.

If we want salvation, we must appeal to Christ every single time. 

Lingering Pain

Physical and emotional pain may last for days, weeks and even years.  I work with people every day who bring their pain to the counseling office where in some fashion their pain is confessed throughout a session.  Their distress lingers and it often appears to be the only thing they can see in front of them. 

Lingering pain tempts us to not only forget God but to forget even the basis of our knowing God.  The longer pain lingers in isolation from God, the easier it is for things like anger and resentment to begin to develop in our heart.  Sometimes it’s shame because perhaps we’ve confessed the pain and distress to someone and their crass compassion suggested we needed to “move on” by now.

Pain and Salvation 

As hard as it is for us to accept, we must arrive, by the Spirit’s help, to the belief and conviction that relief from pain and distress is not the most important thing we need.  Relief is good but God’s salvation is better.

True and lasting relief is the outcome of a Spirit-led cultivation of a firm belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When the truth of the gospel is firmly established and hoped-in in our heart, then, like a mother whose pain of child birth appears suddenly gone at the sight of their child, our pain likewise subsides in the wake of the joy of our salvation.  

Protection in Pain

Notice the contour of the psalmist’s confession – I am in pain and distress, may your salvation protect me.

The salvation of God in Christ keeps us from all sorts of harm more so than the Christian often realizes.  The psalmist next refrain is noteworthy:

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
[Verse 30]

Protection in pain is realized when the Christian makes a proper confession of pain and distress that leads to singing instead of complaining.  When we sing lieu of complaining our heart has been fortified.  It has been fortified by the pillars of a steady faith in Christ who bore our afflictions and distresses while also becoming our salvation at the same time.

The Protection of Christ

When the Psalmist exclaims, “may your salvation, God protect me” he is alluding to a protection that will ultimately come in the person and work of Christ.

When we read this part of the Psalm, our mind must turn to consider Christ as the manifestation of protection in pain and not necessarily from pain.

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

[Heb 12:1-4 NIV]

Since Christ is your salvation and nothing or no one else can be, the counsel we need in our pain and distress is to the fix our eyes on the greatest man whose ever lived – Jesus Christ. 

To consider Christ in our pain is first done by no longer considering other things as sources of relief and salvation.

What are the kinds of thing we tend to consider for relief?  Often, we consider drugs, sex and materialism.  We become addicted to the temporary salvation we find in them but in the end they bite like a snake.  

To consider Christ in our distress is to go ahead and make a comparison of his perfection in the face of pain to our tendencies in the face of pain.  Christ struggled against sin as do we, and we are told to consider how he resisted sin to point of shedding his own blood.

As you consider Christ by fixing your eyes on him in the midst of your pain and distress, you will find relief that can even make you sing.  As we consider Christ, we will have within us the ultimate protection of God – the salvation of your soul.