Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt.1

We are looking at Psalm 123 as part of our series on the Songs of Ascents.

Abuse is torture. It’s difficult to go into that without raising triggers for people. But in the many different forms of abuse: all are dehumanising. Among the dozens of abusive behaviours a perpetrator is likely to be practised at are many that seek to disrupt a victim’s capacity to know and see clearly. Those behaviours include passive aggression, manipulation, blame-shifting, and many others. A practised abuser will commonly enlist others to support the abuse, especially good-hearted people if they can. A narcissistic abuser will most likely look like a wonderful person to others: charming, competent, trusted, respected, believable.

Far too often, and tragically, victims are disbelieved and isolated. A practised abuser will deliberately work to achieve those goals. So, as we see time and time again, good people in an unfair fight. They deserve our support.


Relating to God can be difficult

Relating to God can be a very complicated thing for a victim of abuse, but here in this psalm, we hear the cry of those who desperately long for God to show his mercy in action. Their plea, as in many psalms, is to Yahweh, “I AM”. The God who is all-powerful and, I believe, his most personal name.

Here we find an intimate cry to a very personal, relational, powerful God. For mercy. Longing for him to provide in the face of ongoing contempt and ridicule. From an individual who is aware not only of their own plight but also the plight of others. Someone who has begun the pilgrimage out of danger and towards sanctuary yet, in the context of these pilgrim psalms, has a long journey ahead.

One description of the purpose of the psalms is to teach us how to pray. Finding prayers like Psalm 123 included as part of God’s word to us can be incredibly affirming for those who experience abuse or other traumas.


Please will you join us in praying for those who are suffering in this way?

I know that some of you reading this will be suffering yourselves. Heart and soul, we want to stand with you.

I lift up my eyes to you,

to you who sit enthroned in heaven.

As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,

as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,

so our eyes look to the LORD our God,

till he shows us his mercy.


Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy on us,

for we have endured no end of contempt.

We have endured no end

of ridicule from the arrogant,

of contempt from the proud.2

Ideas to care for others or yourself

  1. Stay connected, as best you can. Abusers love to keep victims isolated.
  2. Stay alert. Are you concerned about the wellbeing of someone you know? Pay attention to those cues.
  3. If you are worried someone might be experiencing abuse or are struggling yourself, try 1800 RESPECT or another agency. Even if you are unsure what is going on, they can help you work out what to do, or just listen to you.


Steve Wade

A practised abuser will commonly enlist others to support the abuse, especially good-hearted people if they can. Click To Tweet



  1. Psalm 123:3
  2. Psalm 123


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