Editor’s note: This post is part two of two that looks at four responses to trouble in our lives and four reasons to trust God found in Psalm 27. These responses or instructions reveal the “how” to trust God when we have trouble. This post looks at the third and fourth responses; part one is found here.
There are various kinds of troubles in life that find us, though we don’t want them. We wish that troubles, trials, and difficulties were rare and unusual, but Scripture regularly reminds us of the reality and regularity of problems and trouble in life (e.g., Job 5:7; Ps 22:11; 25:17; Jer 20:18; Lam 2:11; Jn 16:33; 2 Tim 3:1-5a; 2 Tim 3:12-13; 1 Pet 4:12; 1 Thess 3:4).
When we have troubles, what is our source of help? How might we live as those who are “more than conquerors?” When our counselees are experiencing overwhelming grief, pain, and sadness how will we console and strengthen them? Psalm 27 provides an answer. Whether we are experiencing trouble or we are helping a counselee who is experiencing great distress and trial, the solution is to learn to trust God. Trouble does not preclude God’s power; God never fails or forsakes his people.
The first response to trouble is to remember God’s character. This provides encouragement and confidence. David’s response brings him to a place where he rests in God who is an unwavering rock and fortress of defense. Like David, God’s faithful people have always started with his character as the basis of their trust and rest (e.g., Rom 8:38-39; Phil 1:6; 2 Tim 1:12). If someone’s heart is troubled by trials and difficulties, help them cultivate genuine confidence and trust in God. He is (infinitely) strong. It is his nature to be our defender. Help them rest in him (alone).
The second response is to seek God. Instead of following the fleshly inclination to run from God, the believer must intentionally run to God and embrace him in fellowship. As we seek God, David reminds us that God will conceal me (v. 5a), he will hide me (v. 5b), he will lift me up on a rock in victory (v. 5c), and he will lift up my head (v. 6a). Those phrases all indicate that God gives security and safety and protection and shelter for his people. He will give victory and he will remove shame. This is no guarantee that the believer will always be restored to health and never suffer harm, but it is a reminder that whether it is now or in eternity, he can trust God to provide for him. When God’s people go to him, they will have all the provision and protection they need.
3. A Prayer for Troubled Hearts: “Teach Me, God”
David demonstrates that when in trouble, it is good to remember the character of God and it is good to seek fellowship with God, and then thirdly, he also illustrates the priority of prayer. When his problem arose, David prayed. And then… things apparently did not change (vv. 10, 12). So these verses constitute David’s prayer even when God didn’t immediately answer. These verses are not a “whine,” but a declaration of complete abandonment and trust in God.
Notice all the ways David affirms his dependence on God in prayer: Hear, O Lord (v. 7a), be gracious (v. 7b), my heart said (v. 8), do not hide (v. 9a), and do not turn (v. 9b). This repetitive language indicates an intensity of soul and a great trouble and problem — PLEASE, God. But it is not a prayer of despair, it is a prayer of “abandonment to God,” as one commentator says. David sees God as loyal and able and knows that God is the only one to whom he can go.
Notice also the content of David’s prayer:
- He affirms God’s character when he appeals to God’s grace (“be gracious to me,” v. 7).
- When David says, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek” (v. 8) he means, “I want You…” This is a parallel thought to verse four — “I want to be with you.” And then he reasserts that same desire in verse 9 — “do not turn Your servant away,” and “do not abandon me nor forsake me.” These are desires for sustained fellowship with God. He cannot bear the thought of being estranged from God, particularly since all others — including family — have left him (v. 10).
- When he says, “Teach me … lead me in a level path” David is also asking God for correction and transformation (v. 11). Because of the attacks of the enemies, David needs to know how to respond and what to do (cf. 25:4-5). And because of the troubles and dangers incited by the adversaries, David didn’t want to walk down the crooked path of those unrighteous men. So he wants direction and instruction from the Lord.
- Having asked for God’s glory and to know God and to be sanctified, then David finally asks for protection as his last request — “do not deliver me over to… my adversaries” (v. 12). David entrusts himself to the Lord knowing only God is able to protect him from the enemies (cf. 41:2). David’s trust in God is a great contrast to the violent treachery of the ungodly.
This four-fold prayer of David guides the sufferer in how he might similarly pray: trusting in God’s attributes and character, pursuing his fellowship, seeking transformation, and asking for provision.
And, again, God did not immediately answer this prayer (as vv. 10, 12 suggest). This is a reminder that prayer is not a lottery ticket provision. Prayer is the way we affirm our trust in God — even when he doesn’t answer immediately. When your counselee prays, and there is no immediate provision, remind your counselee that because the objective is transformation into the likeness of God and fellowship with him, it is better to have prayed and not receive the desired answer than to get relief from the trial without prayer. The suffering may be God’s means to make the counselee continually dependent on the Lord in prayer.
4. A Commitment for Troubled Hearts: Wait for God
It’s hard to wait.
But notice what David says. First, “I would have despaired…” (v. 13). His goal was not protection from his enemies, but to see demonstrations of the goodness of God (which was not necessarily the removal of his problems). Then he affirms that he believed he “would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (v. 13b). He trusts that God will do good and protect him here on earth (though sometimes God’s earthly provision is by taking his people to glory, e.g., 2 Tim 4:17-18).
Then he exclaims, “Wait … be strong … take courage” (v. 14). These are David’s summary exhortations to those who would sing this song. They are a reminder that the Lord is working, the Lord is strong, and the Lord will accomplish his work in his time. In fact, twice in the final verse David says to wait. It is a double reminder for the weak-hearted: It is worth waiting for God.
But these words are not just for the singers of the song — they are also David’s words to himself. As he is waiting for the Lord’s answer, he is speaking to himself, commanding and counseling himself to wait for God. He reminds himself that however long it takes for God to answer, it is worth the wait; “rest in him … do not despair … he will provide.”
These are good words for our counselee’s souls as well. Wait for the Lord. Be patient. Don’t be fearful. He will accomplish his good purposes through this trouble in his good time.
Our counselees (and us too!) will have problems in life. And sometimes it may feel like they are only moving from one problem to the next. This is neither unusual nor extraordinary.
As we walk with our counselees through their difficulties, we want to gently ask them if those trials move them closer to God. The temptation may be to ask, “Why, God?” or “Won’t you stop this trial now?” But the one thing to ask God is, “May I see you and be with you in the midst of this trial — so I can know I am safe?”
Terry Enns is the pastor of Grace Bible Church in Granbury Texas. He has over twenty years of pastoral counseling experience, and is a certified counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC, formerly NANC). In addition to his preaching and pastoral duties at Grace, Terry maintains an active blog at Words of Grace.
Want content updates by email?
Visit our subscription page to select what type of content you would like to be notified about!