The Life-Giving Comfort of Psalm 139

Do you have a favorite Psalm? With 150 sacred songs in the book of Psalms, it may be difficult to narrow the possibilities to only one (and really, choosing a favorite isn’t necessary). There is a Psalm for every moment life, and yet, there is one specific Psalm to which I return again and again. During a particularly difficult trial about 20 years ago, God gave me a wise Spiritual Mother who asked me, “What if the worst thing you fear in this circumstance comes true? What then? What is still true?” Her answer pointed me to Psalm 139, and since then it has provided life-giving comfort through many dark valleys.

God Knows Me

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

Psalm 139 begins with God’s intimate knowledge of me—a knowledge deeper than I myself possess. Not only does he know literally everything there is to know about me, even the ugly and shameful secrets which I hope to hide from the world, but he knows my thoughts before I think them and my words before I speak them. His knowledge of my path and acquaintance with my ways is not based on observation, but on his sovereign providence in my life, for he predestined my steps according to the counsel of his will before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4, 11). God doesn’t merely know my path, but he is guiding my every step and holding me close.

God Is With Me

You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.

The depth and detail of God’s high and wonderful knowledge is unattainable to such limited creatures as you and me. But the understanding that he lovingly cares for us is available to his children because he has revealed this truth in his word, and his Holy Spirit abides with us. This passage declares that from our highest highs to our lowest lows we are still in the presence of our loving God. But what are the uttermost parts of the sea? The ancient Israelites were not seafaring people, but people of the land and accustomed to traveling dusty roads. The sea was a mystery to them, and the thought of traveling to the uttermost parts of the sea was terrifying in the extreme. Yet the psalmist declares that even there, God’s hand will lead us and his right hand hold us.

What is your terrifying unknown? In your hard circumstances, what is the worst that you fear? Even if it comes to pass, the truth is that if you are his child, God will hold you close as he leads you through your “uttermost sea.” Whatever the fearful circumstance and worst outcome God calls his children to dwell in—you can be assured that he is with you.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

Your worst-case-scenarios may threaten to plunge you into despair. Do you believe that the darkness of your circumstance has hidden you from God? Or because of fear, sin, or shame, are you trying to hide yourself from God? Beloved child, even in your darkest despair, he is with you and sees you clearly.

God Made Me

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

God sees you this clearly, because he made you for himself; you are one of the uniquely wonderful works handcrafted by the Master Artist and stamped with his image. I might wish that I was taller or had straighter teeth, thicker hair, and lower cholesterol, but when God knit me together he chose from my genetic heritage exactly the strands of DNA which he decreed to be the best for me. And so I am taller than my mother and shorter than my daughters, wore braces as a teen, must wear a hat in the sun to avoid burning my scalp, and am committed to daily dietary and exercise routines to keep my heart healthy.

As his workmanship, you and I are created in Christ Jesus for good works—we have work to do!—which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). This is the path he has searched out for us to walk. With his loving hand guiding us, let’s stay on the path and pursue the work he has specially designed and called each of us to do, using our gifts and graces for his glory.

God Planned My Days

in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

Before he breathed life into you, God determined and planned every single day of your life. From the first day to the last, the best days to the worst, they are each and every one formed by the will of God for the good of his children (Rom. 8:28). There have been days which I believed I would not survive for the weight of the soul-crushing pain which they brought. There may be days which continue to haunt you and painful memories which tempt you to despair. Illness, tragedy, and evil visit our homes, and though I cannot fathom how God works these things for good I must believe his word when he says that they do. Though evil and suffering falls on his children, God planned and purposed an even greater evil to fall upon his own Son (Acts 2:23-24). By the death of Jesus at the hands of evil men, God provided for everlasting life for all his beloved children. We may not comprehend why he calls us to walk through difficult providences now, but there is coming a Day when he will himself wipe every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).

God Loves Me

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.

The God who planned your days is the Father who loves his children and gives them good gifts. His gifts are more precious than mere earthly blessings such as health, wealth, and happiness, though he may grant those as well. The tastes of God’s blessings here and now are varied and innumerable, but the best gifts are found in his thoughts, as revealed in Scripture, which give us insight into his wisdom, goodness, and love. In his word, God reveals himself to us—read it, memorize it, meditate upon it, delight in it (Ps. 119:11-16).

God Forgives Me

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

God’s best gift is found in the gospel of Christ (John 3:16), through which confession and repentance are available to every believer. When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). When we come to him in confession, we aren’t telling our Father anything he doesn’t already know. In fact, we need to ask him to reveal our sins to us. When we then confess these grievous ways, we may turn from them in repentance and walk in the way everlasting with our precious Savior.

As you contemplate the precious and life-giving truths in Psalm 139, I pray that your heart is overwhelmed with gratitude and a desire to draw closer in faith, entrusting yourself to the Father who knows you intimately and loves you, and that you are moved to confession and repentance, so that no sin would remain to hinder your walk with him.






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