God Knows Our Suffering
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
Psalm 56 begins with David’s cry for mercy because his enemies are attacking him. He implores the Lord to help him and to punish his opponents. Then, with striking imagery, David recognizes that God knows his suffering: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (56:8).
The verb translated here as “you keep track” is closely related to the Hebrew word for book (sefer). David envisions God writing down his sorrows so as to remember them.
In the original Hebrew, the next line reads somewhat differently from our translation. The verb is actually in the imperative mood (“Keep track!”). The word for bottle (no’d) does not refer to some small capped jar, but rather to a skin-bottle used for large quantities of liquid. It’s as if David, after affirming God’s awareness of his sorrows, cries out in hope: “Collect all of my many tears in your canteen!”
Thus Psalm 56:8 not only reassures us that God knows our suffering, but also reminds us of just how much we desire this very thing. When we are hurting, we want God to be aware of us. Of course, we desire his help and healing. But, almost more than this, we want to know that he is still there, that he knows and cares for us. The good news of Psalm 56:8 is that our God does indeed pay attention to our sorrows. Every cry, every tear, every pain matters to God.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you think God pays attention to your sorrows? Why or why not? Why do you want God to know when you’re hurting? What helps you to be assured of God’s presence even in hard times?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for the reassurance of this psalm. How good it is to be reminded that you know my suffering.
I am also encouraged by the give and take of Psalm 56:8. David confidently confesses that you write down his sorrows in your book. And then he cries out for you to collect his tears in your skin-bottle. I know this kind of dialogue as it moves from faith to longing, from confidence to crying out.
As I think of how you know my suffering, I want to pray for others, for those who are in great pain today. May they experience your presence in the midst of their sorrows. May they know your love and mercy. And, dear Lord, I pray that you will deliver and heal them, even today. Amen.