Troubles are equal opportunities events, having no regard for social class status, race or ethnicity, gender, or occupation. Everyone at some time or another will suffer a trial or tribulation that seems too overwhelming to survive. One trouble that often appears too dark and deep to weather is an attempt to defame our character by slander, making false and damaging statements about someone to ruin their reputation. Slander and lies cause us great fear and anxiety. In the psalm for this week, Psalm 56, David wrote that in those times when people constantly slandered him, he would put his trust in the God of Israel to protect him, and he would not fear what human beings could do to him.
Psalm 56: 1-4 O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me. My foes attack me all day long. I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me. But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?
This psalm is a prayer to God, as David dealt with the constant harassment of enemies, many loyal to King Saul, who was trying to find David and kill him. David began by relating the problem of constant physical and emotional harassment on the part of his enemies. David asked God to show him mercy, meaning undeserved help and protection from his enemies.
I like that David felt that he could tell God that he was scared, for this admission did not, in any way, distract from the fact that he believed in the promises of God. Too often, when Christians encounter trials, friends and fellow believers tell them not to let their fear show because it signals lack of faith. But, it is human to fear the unknown.
When I was told I had to have chemotherapy, I was afraid, mainly because when I was a child, that was a death sentence. My fear of the pain and suffering inherent in chemo had nothing to do with my faith, for I knew that God would bring me through chemo, on this side or in glory, and I knew that God was not diminished by my fear. David understood that God knew that he was not questioning God’s ability to help him by admitting that he was scared of his enemies, for David had some powerful enemies, including King Saul who was a powerful and determined man.
David was being real and truthful with God. God was still his confident hope, the One in whom he trusted and continually praised. David, believing and trusting that no one was greater than God, knew that, ultimately, his enemies were human like him, and they would not prevail over God’s plans for his life.
Psalm 56:5-7 They are always twisting what I say; they spend their days plotting to harm me. They come together to spy on me—watching my every step, eager to kill me. Don’t let them get away with their wickedness; in your anger, O God, bring them down.
David made his request specific, and so should we when we pray, rather than a simple generic prayer. There are times when a simple prayer will do, when events in our lives are just fine, but when troubles come, let us be specific regarding what we need from God and why. David outlined exactly what was happening in his life, all of the many ways that his enemies were harassing him and making his life unpleasant and full of anxiety.
His request for God to punish his enemies was justified, for David knew that for those who believe and trust in God, our enemies are also God’s enemies. In Exodus 23:22, God directs the children of obey the angel of God, telling them, “But if you are careful to obey him, following all my instructions, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you.” Still today, we are assured that if God be for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31).
Psalm 56:8-11 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help. This I know: God is on my side! I praise God for what he has promised; yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?
David knew how to praise the Lord! His descriptions of the ways in which God’s tender and merciful love is displayed in the lives of His people is extraordinarily beautiful! The thought that God records all of our tears in a bottle makes me feel so loved, especially as God promises in Revelations 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
David’s declaration that his enemies would retreat when he called on God for help reminds me of the words of the song, In the Name of Jesus: “In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, we have the victory. In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, Satan, you have to flee. On, who can ever stand before us when we call on that great name? Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, we have the victory.”
Yes, victory in Jesus means that while we may fear the unknown, we continue to trust that victory will be ours, in the name of Jesus. For ultimately, it is God who has power over life and death for both the body and the soul.
Psalm 56: 12-13 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help. For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.
What is beautiful is that, despite his fears and frustrations, David promised to continue doing the work that God had called him to do. So often when trials come, many Christians retreat from the church, giving up the ministries or calling on their lives, either in shame or in anger. But, it is in the most difficult of times that one must continue be about our Father’s business, as much as physically and emotionally possible. It is in our troubles that we need the prayers of the elders and the strength that comes from hearing God’s words.
David had been rescued from death a few times, and he remembered to be thankful, even in the midst of his most recent troubles. He realized that to overcome the darkness of constant harassment and bullying behavior, he needed to depend on the Light-giver from Heaven. He knew that the Light of Heaven would lead him and guide him safely. Today, we must trust and believe in God, who constantly brings us out of the darkness of illness, unemployment, marital strife, and our own sinful natures into the His marvelous light.
Trusting God in the dark times of our lives helps us to see the light, even if it is only a pinprick. As the light grows, so do our faith and trust in the One who created the universe. God promises to keep us in perfect peace whose minds are stayed on Him. In this psalm, David gives us a glimpse of what trusting in God in the trials of our lives looks like, reassuring us that when God is for us, then those against us will surely not conquer us.
This beautiful psalm-prayer is another of David’s masterpieces that helps us understand the goodness, compassion, and unfailing love of God. Although David was in the midst of a difficult life, running from King Saul, unable to live a normal life, he still prayed to God for help, and he assured God that he still trusted in God to keep his promises. That trust meant that, even in his fear, he believed that victory would be his and his enemies would be defeated.
That is the same attitude we must have today, for God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore. Victory is in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. There is nothing too big for Him to overcome in our lives. I try to remember the words of Sir Thomas More that I have read often: Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for grace, new and tender mercies every day, and unfailing love. It is in knowing that You hear and answer prayer that I come with my trials and troubles, believing that You can do all things and that there is absolutely nothing too hard for you. Oh, Lord God, defeat my enemies, for You are stronger than I am, and Your grace is still sufficient for me. Let the Light from heaven shine down on us this day, Lord God, and deliver us from the darkness that threatens our minds and hearts. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.