When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; He brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Feeling uncertain about what lies ahead in your life? Feeling distressed? Feeling anxious or stressed? Afraid?
In Psalm 118, King David describes how he managed his countenance when he felt surrounded and overwhelmed from the stresses of life. Interestingly, as I read this Psalm, I noted that it begins with this thought: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” For indeed, His love is an everlasting love. (Cf. Psalm 103:17; Jeremiah 31:3) And His love is the source of the courage we need to face the challenges and hardships that we will encounter in life.
This passage affords us insight into what action we should take when “hard pressed” in life – namely, we should cry out to the Lord. Go to the quiet place … the secret place … and pour out your heart before Him. Yes, it is natural and normal to cry … to weep … to seek refuge … to seek consolation and understanding. When we become distressed, our first thought should be to find the place of refuge God makes available to those who love Him. To cry out is not to groan and complain! To cry out is not an attempt to run from our problems or to ignore them. Rather, to cry out is the first step we need to take to confront them. We need to go to the Father in prayer … release our feelings to Him … and then wait … and listen.
What you and I go through in managing our emotions and our responses to the circumstances of life in this fallen world is a common process for us all. There are physiological aspects for sure (we’re human), but there are spiritual aspects as well. And getting distressed and anxious and fearful is not what God has in mind for us. On the contrary, He wants trust and faith to abound within us. David wrote, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” He goes on to share: “The Lord is with me; He is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. 14 The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” (Psalm 118:7-9; 14)
James indicates that the emotion we should feel is joy whenever we face various trials. Now I agree to feel joy would be difficult at best when we are suffering, hurting, feeling overwhelmed or hard pressed, but I encourage us to consider the reason that James goes in this direction :
James 1:2:8 (NIV)
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Trouble, hardship, suffering … these test our faith – our trust in God. But the outcome of this process is to produce perseverance. When David cried out to the Lord, he probably did so in an effort to find consolation for his emotions … or the reassurance God had not forsaken him. But I believe David also prayed to seek wisdom from God. He had difficult and complex problems to manage and resolve. He was stressed out because of the pressures he felt. Yet, David knew God loved him and would understand what he was feeling and going through. He knew where to find both comfort and answers. Indeed, God will give us the wisdom to solve our problems if we would but ask Him – and then trust in the answer He gives. Yet, sometimes that wisdom does not take the form of an executable plan of action. Sometimes wisdom is just silence in the deep quiet of God’s presence … trusting Him for the unseen and for the unknown. Did He not say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you?” (Cf. Hebrews 13:5-6)
A final thought on the consolation we receive from God when we paddle through the rough waters of life. What we experience, the triumphs and failures … the victories and defeats, all these shape us. They grow us. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) As James wrote, they make us “mature and complete” in faith. And so, I believe God wants to use all of the brokenness each of us has felt and endured and navigated, to be useful and effective as we minister to others in their situations. As overcomers, God has created us in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) So I will end with this passage from 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 where Paul wrote: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles (and afflictions), so that we can comfort those in any trouble (or distress) with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
When you reflect on your life … the stresses and anxieties and fears that arise … when you are hard pressed and need to make decisions, cry out to the Lord! He is there! He is waiting for you! He is listening! As you trust Him, the Lord will order your steps and delight in the progress you make growing in faith. (Cf. Psalm 37:23-24) Then as you mature, and your faith is being completed, share your story with others. Your own life experience is a proven platform to minister to others … to love others as you have been loved. As the Scripture above stated, the comfort you will receive from God is given so that you can comfort others who experience the same trials you have endured. I pray our own prodigal experiences can be used by the Father to bring other prodigal children home to Him. For it is our own stories of repentance … return … reconciliation … restoration … and redemption that testify to the incredible, unsurpassed, love of God for us. As David said: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”