They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a great lion crouching in cover.
This verse from Psalm 17 expresses David's great fear of his enemies around him. It reminds me of a line in a Graham Kendrick hymn: 'evil crouching near'.
David's cry like Job's goes up to God, "Why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this?"
He can see no reason in it. His prayer "does not rise from deceitful lips," verse 1.
Examine his heart and "you will find nothing," verse 3.
He has kept himself "from the ways of the violent," verse 4.
He has always followed God's path; he's not a backslider, verse 5.
We know this doesn't mean that he is sinless for surely all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But just as Job's comforters can find no wickedness in Job to justify his terrible suffering, and just as Paul can declare himself "as for legalistic righteousness; faultless" (Philippians 3:6) without claiming to be sinless, so David here is appealing to the justice of God.
"Am I not your chosen and anointed king? Am I not in a covenantal relationship with you? Am I not the apple of your eye?" (verse 8).
So it is that a Christian who finds himself suffering feels like calling out to God, "Why?"
It's easy to talk about God's will and to say, "That's God's business." Isn't that what the book of Job tells us? Job wanted to confront God and ask him why he had to suffer like that. God grants him an audience but he doesn't give him an answer. Instead, he poses a question, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" In other words what gives you the right to question how I run my world? You, Job, who don't even know when the mountain goats give birth; would you question my choices? And of course Job acquiesces. "I am unworthy - how can I reply to you?"
Job ends, "I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."
And yet, and yet - we would not be human if we did not rail against the slings and arrows.
David cries out to God and asks the Lord to vindicate him, to strike down his enemies, to save him from such men. He wants to hide in the shadow of his wings. So we may cry out to God in our pain and suffering. We too are the apple of his eye. He has loved us so much that he gave his one and only son to die for us, that we might not perish but have everlasting life. He has sent his Holy Spirit to dwell within us. He has promised that he will not just forget our sins but will dis-remember them - not just an act of forgetfulness, but a positive action not to hold them against us. He has clothed us in the righteousness of Christ, so that when he looks at us it is as if he saw his beloved son. He has made us heirs - co-heirs with Christ.
Why then does it hurt so much? Why do I have this dreadful diagnosis hanging over me? Why am I being poisoned with chemicals? Why am I laying myself open to infection?
I know all the answers - but I still hurt!
The most famous villanelle in English poetry is by Dylan Thomas. The repeated lines are "Do not go gentle into that dark night." and "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." I quote them with approval. They were written by an alcoholic, womanizing atheist; why should I do so?
Thomas was right to rage against death. It is not part of God's plan but part of the curse that we live under. Christ has defeated death; but we are not yet free of it, that part of our salvation is yet to come. When Jesus approached Jerusalem he wept over the death and destruction he knew was to come. When he stood over the grave of Lazarus he wept, even though he knew he would raise him from death.
Of course, we must all accept death but we enter death acknowledging that it is already a defeated foe, and we don't have to like it; it is still a foe.
For those who have an incurable disease let me give this advice: don't be afraid to hate it. I have spent my life fighting cancer; I won't stop now. One former mentor told me, "It is a disease with no redeeming feature." He was right. When you are given the diagnosis, don't be afraid to weep. Cry out to God as David did, as Job did, even as Jesus did on the cross. If necessary use groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26).
These are your real feelings. If you think you have to put on a brave face you will alienate yourself from your spouse, who will be feeling wretched and wondering how you can face this with equanimity when he or she is so distraught. Honesty between you will break down.
The psalm ends "And I—in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.
That is how it ends.