“A Stranger With Thee”

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a stranger with Thee, A sojourner like all my fathers.” Psalm 39:12 [NASB]

This month has been tremendously painful.  Senior Prom, Mother’s Day, Graduation festivities, and the constant yet staggering unavoidable awareness that this is the last month of our first year without Sarah.  That dreaded date is upon us, just around the corner.

In my last post I had resolved to be transparent, not stoic.  I must confess though, each day I struggle more and more to be transparent.  The reverberating call to “move on” continues to ring in my ears, despite my best attempts to throw it off.  I know the precious band of supporters who remain close around our family is undoubtedly weary of our struggles as well.  If I continue to be transparent, how much longer can they bear up before they, too, withdraw to a safer distance.   Through those thoughts the fear of abandonment and alienation creeps in.

Giving way to this fear, I have inadvertently allowed myself to create a walled fortress of silence.  Choosing to be silent about the pain and struggles of my soul can protect me from the harsh judgements and words of those who lack understanding.  But even more tempting, my silence can safeguard against unintentionally driving away those who yet remain with us.  Outwardly my silence allows me to appear normal and to blend back in where I once felt I belonged, but inwardly it fails to thwart the alienation I dread.  My silence comes at the expense of transparency and authenticity, and in so doing actually amplifies the aloneness it was supposed to prevent.

“I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good, And my sorrow grew worse.”  Psalm 39:2 [NASB].

I’ve been meditating on Psalm 39 for a couple of weeks now.   The struggles and cries of David’s heart in this Psalm are very much mine as well.  Aside from relating to David’s observation of his silence intensifying his sorrow,  I also deeply relate to David’s longing for God to hear his cry, and not be silent at his tears.  On initial reading I thought David was saying in verse 12 (below) that God was like a stranger to him.  However, as I continued to study and meditate I learned he was affirming the opposite.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a stranger with Thee, A sojourner like all my fathers.”  Psalm 39:12 [NASB] 

“I am a stranger with Thee.”  Lord, You and me, we are strangers together.  This phrase points back to what God himself spoke in Leviticus, “for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me” (Lev. 25:23).

Divinely inspired, David connected his suffering and longing for God’s attention to the fact that we are strangers and sojourners with God Himself.  Likewise, this prompts me to ponder the correlation between God’s silently allowing my pain and tears to persist with my role as a sojourner.  Perhaps He allows the pain, struggles and sorrow to remain indefinitely to remind us that this is not our home.  Perhaps they are thorns left to remind us we are sojourners with Him, and we are only passing through.

“I am a stranger in the earth; Do not hide Your commandments from me. My soul is crushed with longing After Your ordinances at all times.” Psalm 119:19-20 [NASB]

“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  Psalm 63:1 [NASB]

Would my soul be crushed with longing after his ordinances if walking righteously in this life came easily or at little cost?  Would I truly understand what it is for my soul to thirst for Him and my flesh yearn for Him as in a dry and weary land if I never actually journeyed through a desolate and parched land?  With certainty, this pain and sorrow cause me to gasp for Him as for the very air my lungs require to survive.

“Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah.  “Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.  “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:5-7 [NASB]

We do not belong here, this world is not our home.  This life is but a single breath, and it is for Him alone that we wait.  As I wait for Him, I will continue to surrender to His use of my sorrows and struggles as refining flames to burn away the dross of my sinful nature.  I will persevere, purposefully utilizing the pain and tears as catalysts to lift my eyes from both past and present to fix my focus on joining all of creation in groaning with great urgency for what is yet to come.

“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.  For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Romans 8:22-25 [NASB]

As His Word has testified to me, I will testify to others that the persisting pain and barrage of struggles this world holds are not evidence of God’s abandonment or His being a stranger to us.  They are evidence that we are but sojourners in a land in which we do not belong.  I am so thankful for the unfolding of God’s Word that faithfully encourages weary and wounded hearts.  We may be alienated, but we are not alone.  We are strangers WITH Him.  We are aliens WITH Him.  We are sojourners WITH Him.  So, press on with perseverance weary homeward bound travelers.  Let’s fix our eyes together on Him who is with us.   He hems us in, both behind and before, and He will usher us safely home (Psalm 139:5; John 14:3).  Come, Lord Jesus.

 “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.  And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”  Hebrews 11:13-16 [NASB]


Artwork: Sarah Harmening

8 thoughts on ““A Stranger With Thee”

  1. Truth and Amen.
    We will not withdraw from you and continue to pray. I’m thankful for your heart.

  2. Karen, you and your family are not far from my thoughts each day. I read your words and stand in the gap for you, praying when you may not have the strength and feeling, in part, your soul’s grief. One glorious day we will all be in His prescence, but until then the pain is real. Praise God for the tenderness of your heart; it may be terribly painful, but the alternative is a hardened heart and one that cannot possibly minister in the transparent way you do so graciously. Bonnie

  3. Thank you, Karen, for your careful study of the Word and for sharing it with us. It helps.

    “Perhaps He allows the pain, struggles and sorrow to remain indefinitely to remind us that this is not our home. Perhaps they are thorns left to remind us we are sojourners with Him, and we are only passing through.” “…the persisting pain and barrage of struggles this world holds are not evidence of God’s abandonment or His being a stranger to us. They are evidence that we are but sojourners in a land in which we do not belong.”

    So very well said, Karen. The thorns, the sorrow, the pain are blessed emblems of His perfect wisdom and love, sort of like stamps in our passports as we travel home. The thorns hurt but they remind us 24/7 that we are on our way to meet our Lord and our loved ones.

    Transparency and authenticity are merely different words for honesty. There is no dishonesty in showing people that grieving a child sometimes involves sharing your pain and at other times it involves keeping it to yourself. I don’t believe your silent withdrawal at this time is a betrayal of your desire for transparency and authenticity. It may be a natural and necessary place for you on this journey. Solitude, aloneness, loneliness, disconntectedness: these are some of the classrooms where different lessons are taught. This is where the real grief work takes place and when you emerge, you will be stronger and even more useful to the Master. ❤️

  4. Amazing! Your writing is so amazing, Karen. I am here. Sojourn was one of the vocabulary words I assigned my students. It is an incredible word that connects us to one another and to our Lord. I love that you understood the word “with.” Strange that prepositions can have such power and comfort. This was beautiful.

  5. Thank you dear Karen for sharing and continuing to share. Your posts are a balm to the hurts of my soul. I do not weary of your struggles, I only wish I were close enough to be more a help to you than only lifting you and your family in prayer. I do know with complete confidence that God uses our hurts and struggles for our good and His plan for us. It is our hurts, our suffering, our pain that transform us, and one day we will see the wonderful results. We are not at the end of our story, but in the middle as we continue our sure and unstoppable journey to our home of joy unimaginable and where every tear will be wiped away. I pray that God richly blesses you and your family with His comforting presence and intimate love.

  6. Thanks so much for this digging into the Psalm & pulling out significant meaning, then blessing us with it. So rich. So true.
    Thanks too for the 7 replies you’ve shared above.
    I had a passionate Bible Study leader who had lost her adult younger sister, in her early 30’s when she succumbed to cancer that had metastasized through her body. She was so sad & so raw for quite some time.
    Toward the end of her sister’s battle, my husband’s only sister shared she had been battling colon cancer that resurfaced and began metastasizing to her pancreas & liver- she was in her early 40’s with 2 children in their early 20’s. Our Bible Study guide said she was so sorry that we had joined the club- the club of a dying younger sibling – her dark humor was communicating that until one has felt a very significant & similar loss they don’t come close to comprehending that loss- the depth & width of it. Years later I lost my only brother, my younger sibling in different circumstances yet what a loss. So final. I couldn’t change it or fix it. And the sadness seemed to go on forever. And I remembered her words about the “club”. I was sad when my sister-in-law died yet glad she had to struggle no more & was with Christ. I had No Clue about the depth of my husband’s pain or the depth of my Bible Study leader’s pain for the loss of her sweet sister. There was guilt that came with that realization. Though I had tried to empathize, I was ignorant.

    I’m also reminded of a verse that I became aware of when going through a time of significant (to me) loss- 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
    I was wondering why God would allow this loss to happen at all. This verse reminded me of the uniqueness of individuals & the many types of losses. People can empathize but until they have been “veterans” of the exact or nearly same kind of loss they cannot truly relate or provide the depth of comfort needed.
    Karen, I’m praying that God will continue to shower you with comfort through Christ and that you will be blessed when you then pass that comfort on to those who are troubled in a similar way or any way. We have not forgotten you my dear sister in Christ. Thank you so much for staying transparent for Christ.

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