When something catastrophic happens, how do you feel? Do you feel shock, numbness, surprise, anguish, or anger? When something happens, what do friends do? Do they come to help and comfort or do they seem to stay away? When a personal disaster occurs, who do we turn to for help?
Different writers believe that David wrote this during the time that he was being pursued by King Saul. Still others point to the time when his son, Absalom, revolted and forced David to flee from Jerusalem. But the specific event is not as important as how David faced whatever that great danger might have been.
Reading the account of David’s life in 1st and 2nd Samuel, gives a good description of the events that occurred in David’s life, but Psalm 31 captured the emotions that David was experiencing. A struggle for survival is only considered exciting after the person successfully survives the event! During the ordeal, emotions such as terror, betrayal, fear, shock, and despair are probably more evident.
David’s grief was very real. In verses 9-10 David wrote, “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; my strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my body has wasted away.” This is a picture of a man carrying a very heavy burden indeed.
How did David cope? What were his options as he faced such devastating events? After all, such grief, such pressure and rejection could destroy – has destroyed – many seemingly strong men and women. How can anyone face the loss of a kingdom, rejection by a son and the people? Where could a person possibly find help in such a situation? David knew. Incredibly, he began his Psalm, “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; in Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength. Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.”
David put into practice what the New Testament writers have stressed time after time. The only way a person will survive, grow, and thrive spiritually in this world is to place his, or her, life in the hands of the Lord. With God, a person will be secure. That is a hard lesson for Christians to learn. Intellectually, a person may say, “Yes, I trust my Father. He guides my life.” But in the face of the harsh realities, if that faith and trust is not absolute, a Christian will stumble and fall.
There is a hymn, “I have decided to follow Jesus”. The fourth stanza reads, “Though none go with me, still I will follow…” That is a beautiful hymn with beautiful, uplifting thoughts. But if that situation actually occurred, how strong would a Christian be? In the past, Christians DID face that terrible. Today, Christians in different parts of the world face the same challenge.
No one truly knows how he, or she, will react in such a situation. Surrounded by Christians at services and in gatherings of Christian friends and families, the threat seems so distant. It is easy to be lulled into a sense of security – a sense that nothing bad could happen here. But Christians are warned to always be prepared. Christians are warned to grow in faith, and to put on the full armor of God, because the reality of peace in this world can end abruptly.
David had experienced that, and his words point to the source of his strength. In verses 1-3 he wrote, “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; in Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.”
He goes on to say in verses 4 and 5, “Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth.” These words were not written because David felt good, or because things were going his way! His words expressed the innermost feelings and beliefs that he had. In a time of great distress, a person will automatically reach out for what is the most precious.
For David, that was the Lord. David hurt just like any man or woman today, but he faced and overcame tremendous obstacles because he trusted in the Lord.
The world can be a very cruel and heartless place. Any faith that is placed in the world will fall, but the Lord will never fail. This is truth because Psalm 31 is the personal testimony of a man who KNEW. “Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”