The Psalms are a lens through which I see a clearer picture of God: His power, sovereignty, compassion, and faithfulness to His people. The Psalms are also a mirror in which I see myself in the lives and words of the writers: my doubts, fears, weaknesses, sins, and marvel of marvels, my importance to God.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post titled “3 Psalms That Assuage My Despondency.” I explained one insight from each, then gave study questions so you could find other truths as well. I used Psalm 42, 62, and 103. If you haven’t read it, go the link at the end of this post.
This week I am sharing from two other Psalms that buoy my spirit when I’m feeling down. This time I’m merely explaining how each Psalm benefits me. Read each Psalm before absorbing my commentary. Each is relatively short, and both were written by King David.
An honest God-follower can’t help but identify with King David in verse 1: “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide your face from me?”
How long have you prayed for a lost loved one, without any movement closer to Christ? How long have you looked unsuccessfully for employment in your field? How long have you waited for marriage to a godly mate? For the baby you long to nurture? How long has a foe prevailed over you? How long have you pleaded for relief from depression, without a shift in mood?
After his complaints in verses 1-2, David pleads for God to answer him (verses 3-4). Then an interesting shift occurs: not in David’s circumstance, but inside him. The shift begins with the ultimate word of contrast: “But…”
“But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (Ps. 13:5-6).
How did God answer David? By lifting his chin so David could better view God’s character. By putting a song of praise in his heart. And by reminding David of past instances of faithfulness to him. God didn’t instantly eradicate the situation that spawned David’s lament. Instead, He transformed David’s mindset. Here are the two primary insights I gleaned from Psalm 13.
- Honest venting to God of negative emotions is okay. The same person who was called a “man after God’s own heart” told God in no uncertain terms that he felt abandoned by Him.
I’m not advocating bitterness toward God, or shaking my fist in the face of a holy God. But biblical precedent suggests that it’s okay to express to God what’s really inside me, even when it’s cruddy. (For another example of honest venting, followed by praise, see Jeremiah 20.)
When I acknowledge my bad attitude or inappropriate emotional reaction, I’m giving God the green light to change my thinking and feelings. He usually doesn’t transform negative thoughts and emotions that I’m unwilling to disclose.
What painful emotions or unbiblical thoughts do you need to admit to God today? Are you willing to ask God to transform your reaction, in addition to asking that He remove the cause of your lament?
2. Reminding ourselves of God’s past deeds on our behalf is a means of sustenance when we’re discouraged.
In Psalm 13:5-6, David says, in effect, “I don’t like or understand what’s happening to me, but I do know You, God. And I remember times when You dealt bountifully with me in the past. These memories increase my capacity to trust You now.” Faith needed for current trials is rooted in our past pilgrimage with the Lord, and the cultivation of specific memories of His faithfulness.
How has God dealt bountifully with you in the past? What are the implications of those past interventions for your response to the current burden or stressor you’re facing?
My flight from Singapore to Colombo, Sri Lanka landed around midnight. Lanka Bible College had invited me to teach a couple classes on their two campuses. But as I walked off the plane, it happened.
My eager anticipation vanished, replaced by a dark oppression that grabbed me and held on with a python-like grip. The best way to describe it was a spiritual panic attack, a smothering dread of being there. As I walked through the airport, I felt a revulsion toward the people I saw, an aching loneliness, and fear that ramped up my heart rate. Plain and simple, it was a spiritual terrorist attack on my soul and my reason for the trip.
For three hours during the drive to the campus in Kandy, I repelled the spiritual attack with S.O.S prayers and recitation of every Bible promise I could retrieve from my memory bank. An effective two weeks of ministry ensued, but not before a long night of warfare. Of special significance during those hours were several verses in Psalm 138.
Verse 3: “On the day I called You did answer me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” Since my class began the next day, I needed strength of mind, body, and spirit soon. Within 12 hours, all symptoms had vanished. I needed boldness to repel the enemy’s attacks on my spirit. God heard my desperate plea, prompted by verse 3.
In what way do you need boldness and strength in you soul? Will you call on Him for what you need today?
Verse 7: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me.” I arrived to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to train church leaders, in a country dominated by Buddhism. I was literally in the midst of trouble, with statues of Buddha dotting the landscape along roads in the city. But the only true God quelled the disturbing symptoms and revived my spirit.
What trouble are you facing? In what way do you need to be revived? Do you believe God will revive you if you ask Him?
Verse 8: “The Lord will accomplish all that concerns me; Your lovingkindness, Lord, is everlasting; do not forsake the work of Your hands.” I arrived in Sri Lanka with a heavy burden for a loved one back home. My concern for that person morphed into outright worry, and in itself posed a threat to the concentration I would need for teaching. The Holy Spirit used this verse to remind me that the person on my mind belonged to Him, and He was more than capable of working in this person’s heart. Though my concern prompted prayer for him daily while away, the anxiety did not impinge on my teaching. And after returning home, I saw evidence of the Spirit’s initial work in the heart of my loved one.
What concerns you today? Do you believe God loves you enough to accomplish what needs to be done? Will you claim this promise?
Though in this post I’m utilizing how Psalm 138 enabled me during a bout of spiritual warfare, these verses apply to any problem or source of discouragement. Even a depressive episode.
Which of these Psalms resonates most with you today? Why?
Who else could be encouraged by the material in these Psalms? Send this article to the persons who come to mind.
Here is the link to the previous post about three encouraging Psalms.