I lie awake,
lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.
The heading of Psalm 102 identifies this psalm as “A prayer of one overwhelmed with trouble, pouring out problems before the LORD”. The text of this psalm is, indeed, the outpouring of a desperate heart. The unnamed psalmist begins by asking the Lord to hear his prayer (102:1-2). Then he explains that his heart is “sick, withered like grass” (102:4). He has been “reduced to skin and bones” because of his misery (102:5). His prayer is “like an owl in the desert,” calling out plaintively with no one to hear. As he prays, the psalmist describes his sad situation: “I lie awake, lonely as a solitary bird on the roof” (102:7).
Have you ever experienced this kind of loneliness in prayer? I have, more times than I wish to remember. Some of my loneliest times in life have come in the middle of the night, when I have been awakened from a fitful sleep. Worries that plague me fill my consciousness. My pulse begins to race. The darkness amplifies my desperation. I feel utterly alone. Though I know God hears my prayers, it seems as if he is a million miles away from hearing me. I am much like a solitary bird, sitting alone on a roof, crying out with nobody to listen or care.
The author of Psalm 102 knew this sort of feeling. The fact that his Spirit-inspired poetry resides in Scripture reassures us that we are not really alone when we feel alone. For one thing, God’s people throughout history have experienced the “bird-on-the-roof” feeling of isolation. Moreover, Psalm 102 reaffirms the fact that God is there for those who cry out to him, even if the timing of his response is not what they would prefer. Indeed, “He will listen to the prayers of the destitute. He will not reject their pleas” (102:17).
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When have you felt alone in prayer, like a bird on the roof? What eventually reassured you that God was with you?
PRAYER: O Lord, you know how hard it is for me to feel as if I’m alone in the universe, calling out to you like a bird on the roof, with no one to answer, no one to care. My theology tells me you are there for me. And I do believe this. But sometimes your silence is louder than my professions of faith.
How thankful I am that you inspired the writer of Psalm 102 to speak so openly. Here I find encouragement for lonely times, for desperate times.
I am also thankful, dear Lord, that you do hear me, that you have not abandoned me. When I consider my life, I am astounded by your faithfulness to me.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling, along with Laity Lodge, is part of Foundations for Laity Renewal.