Grandma Joy and Psalm 139

BY DANIEL EMERY PRICE

My Grandmother recently lost a long battle with cancer. Her name was Joy, and a name has never been more fitting. When our family was going through her belongings, they discovered a note stating that Psalm 139 was her favorite Psalm. I was then asked to write something about this Psalm to be read at her funeral. I didn’t plan on publishing it, but a few trusted friends encouraged me to do so, stating that “there are people who will find this helpful.”

While I was still unsure about sharing it, a call came in with news that someone I have known since childhood had tragically taken their own life. I’ve been dealing with death a lot lately. Maybe you have too. If not, you will.

I hope you find these words comforting.


Psalm 139 was Grandma Joy’s favorite Psalm. I didn’t know that until after she was gone. Psalm 139 isn’t among the most popular of Psalms. It isn’t stitched on pillows or printed on coffee mugs the way Psalm 23 is. And while I can’t say exactly why she loved this Psalm, I think based on what I know of her, I can offer a likely option.

The heart of Psalm 139 goes like this:

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;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
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.
(v. 13-18, ESV)

Psalm 139 is about how nothing escapes God’s attention or control over what to us, looks like chance and sometimes chaos. It speaks words of Divine intentionality:

God made you. God loves you. God has not left you alone. No moment has passed where God has forgotten you. You are immortal until He says otherwise. God has written out your days ahead of time, and He knows the number of them. God knows the highs and lows and the joy and pain. And that ultimately these days end with God bringing you home to be with Him.

There is nothing in Psalm 139 about life being easy. But it does tell us that life is a gift. And a good one. That life is something to be celebrated. It tells us that God’s thoughts toward us are innumerable and “precious.” That we walk this life with God and God walks it with us.

Death is not the end of the gift of life. It is only part of it. It’s the great transition. Jesus speaks of death as merely sleeping (Luke 8:52-53). He doesn’t see it as any more “final” than last night or any other night before that. He views death as the thing that happens before you finally wake up. Which makes these words of Psalm 139—“I awake, and I am still with you”—incredibly comforting.

Joy went to sleep with God at her side, and when she awakes, she will find that God is still with her. More real than ever before.

So it appears that I misspoke at the beginning of this eulogy. Psalm 139 wasn’t Joy’s favorite Psalm—it IS her favorite Psalm.

Daniel is the Director of Christ Hold Fast, an author, church and conference speaker, co-host of the podcasts 40 Minutes in the Old Testament and 30 Minutes in the New Testament and leader of the interactive online Bible Study For Normies. He has served as a church planter, pastor and worship leader and currently lives in Bentonville Arkansas with his wife Jessica and daughter Anna.

Twitter @DanielEmeryPrice