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5 Phrases from the Psalms when suffering seems overwhelming

Prayer Vigil for Priests


Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 08/17/21

The woes of the world seem more than we can take in. Let us pray with God's words ...

As the headlines and images of these days have us all horrified, it is good to turn to God to seek comfort.

The Psalms are a wonderful fount of comfort and renewed hope.

As Pope Francis has said:

In the Psalms we hear the voices of men and women of prayer in flesh and blood, whose life, like that of us all, is fraught with problems, hardships, and uncertainties. …

In the Psalms, however, suffering is transformed into a question. From suffering to questioning. …

And among the many questions, there is one that remains suspended, like an incessant cry that runs throughout the entire book from beginning to end. A question that we repeat many times: “Until when, Lord? Until when?” …

[I]n life suffering takes a thousand forms, and takes the name of sickness, hatred, war, persecution, distrust… Until the supreme “scandal,” that of death. Death appears in the Psalter as man’s most unreasonable enemy …

But in the Psalter, pain becomes a relationship, rapport: a cry for help waiting to intercept a listening ear. It cannot remain meaningless, without purpose …

All human suffering is sacred to God. So prays the prayer of Psalm 56: “Thou hast kept count of my tossings; put thou my tears in thy bottle! Are they not in thy book?” (v. 8).


Here are 5 psalms to take to heart, and to raise to God on behalf of those suffering today.

1Psalm 34:18

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
    and saves the crushed in spirit.

2Psalm 121:1-2

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
    from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

3Psalm 9:18-19

For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
    nor the hope of the poor perish forever.

Rise up, O Lord! Do not let mortals prevail;
    let the nations be judged before you.

4Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff—
    they comfort me.

5Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
    God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
    see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I am exalted among the nations,
    I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

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