16 December 2010

Psalm 30

"You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent, O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever." (vv. 11-12)


Like yesterday's reading, Psalm 30 is something of a roller-coaster ride. The first section (up to the beginning of verse 7) is full of glorious praise about the great things that God has done. The psalmist is so full of praise that he calls on others to join him in worship and to give thanks for God's faithfulness. 

But in a heartbeat the situation dramatically changes and the author goes from the heights of a strong mountain to the depths of sudden dismay as God withdraws from him. 

Sometimes it takes hardly anything at all for us to go from high to low - an unkind word, a phone call bringing bad news, being let down by someone you care about... But in today's passage there's simply no explanation for the change. Often we can't understand why things happen, why life can go from good to bad without missing a beat. But the psalmist doesn't dwell on his confusion or the circumstances that have lead to his despair. Instead, he launches straight into prayer - urging God to come to his aid. He even seems to bargain with God, saying that if he's not saved from his predicament there will be no one to sing God's praises. 

And then, just as suddenly as before, there's a dramatic shift and our desperate psalmist is no longer mourning, but dancing and praising God, pledging to worship forever because his joy has returned. 

The one thing that is consistent throughout this passage is that the psalmist is constantly talking to God. For ten out of the twelve verses of this psalm, the author is addressing God directly. If he's in a place of despair he's pleading with God to pull him out of it; if he's in a place of happiness, he's crying out words of thanksgiving. Prayer seems to be at the heart of everything he does, even when things aren't going well. 

To Ponder

Can you remember a time when your life suddenly changed, for the better or worse? What happened and how did it make you feel?

How easy do you find it to talk to God when things aren't going well?

What do you find easier - prayers for God to help you or prayers of thanksgiving? Why?

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.