Collection of Tears

Morning Prayer: Psalm 56

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 56:8)

Somewhere this morning someone is waking up from a fitful and short sleep, their head on a pillow that just hours earlier had absorbed tears that ran down their face in the darkness.

Perhaps, at some time, that person has been you.  

The words of Psalm 56 are spoken out of such moments. This is the prayer of someone immersed in personal conflict and opposition. The exact nature of this opposition isn’t explained in the prayer. The prescript says this is David’s prayer when “the Philistines seized him in Gath.”

I like the NLT use of the English word “hounded” (56:2). Ben Patterson notes that this particular word evokes the image of the way hunting dogs pursue their prey. The relentless chase and constant yelping run the animal to exhaustion. The opponents of Psalm 56 don’t seem to land a decisive blow, but their constant criticism and slander is exhausting. 

This is the prayer of a person who is very alone.

The trouble or threat is very real – nothing imagined.

This is the prayer of someone who feels fear. And yet the prayer is at the same time a firm resolve to not live that way.       

As you read Psalm 56 (be sure to do that) there a few things worth noticing and lingering with.

First, the lived experience of fear finds a home in our prayers. This where our fears can be named and expressed. The prayer owns the fear: “When I am afraid.” Not if, but when. But this acknowledgment of fear is met by a declaration of trust. The Psalmist is determined to live with confidence in God. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (56:3,4,11).

Second, this confidence isn’t stubborn bravado in the face of fear. Rather, this confidence is rooted in God’s word. The NLT of 56:4 says, “I praise God for what he has promised.” The NIV says, “In God whose word I praise – in God I trust and am not afraid.” God’s words or promises feed a life trust. They are the foundation upon which a life of trust is built.

Finally, this prayer rehearses a basic truth about what God is like. This truth is captured in the words of 56:9. “This I know, that God is for me” (ESV). Or, as the NLT renders it, “God is on my side.” The adversity of the moment should not be confused with God’s posture toward us. God is with us and for us. God is indeed “near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

This brings us to the most poignant image of the prayer. Not a tear we shed is wasted, ignored, unnoticed. God notes every one of them. He collects them all in a bottle like precious treasure. He keeps track of each one, as if recording them in a journal. Our restless tossing in the dark of night is marked and counted. Yes, a day will come when God will “wipe away every tear” from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). But until that day, in the words of Psalm 56, our tears are collected.

Take a few moments and let Psalm 56 shape your praying this morning.

Name your trouble and the fears it stirs in you.

Claim the simple promises of God’s word. Maybe Psalm 34:18 (above) is a place to begin.

Rest in the assurance of his intimate knowledge of you and what you’re dealing with today.        


Gracious God, help me to live this day with the firm resolve of the Psalmist. By your Spirit, teach me to hold fast to your promises in the midst of my problems. I would love for you to take away my tears and sleepless tossing. Until that day comes, I will trust in you knowing that you are for me – and for that I give you thanks and praise through Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.   

2 thoughts on “Collection of Tears

  1. WOW! As I have told you many times the Psalms protected me late into the night when stuff really sucked. I’m going to keep this Commentary for when they roll around again. Seems they have a nasty habit of doing that!!


  2. Thank you, Mark – this was very timely for a new friend of mine. Glad to see you writing these again! Love to you & Marnie


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