Today: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Favourite psalms: Psalm 86    (11/23/2014)

When things go wrong for us, really wrong, it’s tough. Not only is everything a disastrous mess, but it’s an isolating place to be.

It can seem like everyone around us is having an easy time while we’re barely coping, fire-fighting one problem after another or trying to cope with people who are out to get us. It’s a lonely feeling, even if there are others who genuinely care and sympathise… after all, how can they understand how our particular situation really feels? No one does.

Except for God. He knows exactly how we feel—even before we do. Not only does he know just what we’re going through, but he’s the world’s best and most patient listener. In fact, he’s not only willing to listen: he wants to listen and he will act. Psalm 86 tells us so.

So what can we learn from the psalm about the way the writer, David, goes about praying through his difficulties?

Humility before God
This psalm is a prayer of humility before God: David recognises his own rightful place (“I am poor and needy… your servant”) and puts God in his (“you are great, and do wondrous things; you alone are God”).

This is a prayer which submits entirely to God (“I lift up my soul for you, O Lord”) and trusts in God’s desire and power to help (“In the day of my trouble I call on you, and you will answer me”).

No self-pity
One of the things I like about this psalm—besides its calm assurance that God will step in to help—is the fact that it isn’t self-pitying. There’s no snivelling “It’s not fair!” or whining “Why me?” from David. Instead, in the midst of his troubles, he remembers to give praise where it’s due: “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart”. So often when we have a problem we can forget all of the other blessings we have. We can forget that God is not on the outside looking in, but actually right there in the situation with us. And that, of course, means that our loneliness is really just an illusion.

Looking to God for the answer
David clearly doesn’t like his situation, and refuses to accept it—but he looks for a solution from God, not from within himself. How often do we wait to pray until we’ve tried every possible solution in our own strength? God is so often our last resort, when he should be our first!

Remembering God’s track record
Overwhelming difficulties do just that—overwhelm us. We can lose perspective. At times like this, it’s good to take a moment to think back. Have I been in trouble before? Did God come through for me then? So why would I doubt him now? David remembers God’s power to change his situation in the past, and trusts it now: “You Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”

We don’t know what troubles David is experiencing as he writes this psalm. But what shines through is his faith in a God who loves us and cares for us—and who will not only act on our behalf, but has all the power necessary to resolve our situation.

Pray: Lord, give me the confidence to trust you. Take pity on me when I can do nothing for myself, and be with me in my hour of need. I ask this because you are a loving God, and you've said that all we need to do is ask. Amen.

Think about: Why is turning to God so often our last resort?

Challenge: Read Psalm 86 for yourself.

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