One Of The “All Things”
In You, O Lord, I have placed my trust and taken refuge;Let me never be ashamed;In Your righteousness rescue me. Incline Your ear to me, deliver me quickly;Be my rock of refuge,And a strong fortress to save me. Yes, You are my rock and my fortress;For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. You will draw me out of the net that they have secretly laid for me,For You are my strength and my stronghold. Into Your hand I commit my spirit;You have redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth and faithfulness. I hate those who pay regard to vain (empty, worthless) idols;But I trust in the Lord [and rely on Him with unwavering confidence]. I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love,Because You have seen my affliction;You have taken note of my life’s distresses, And You have not given me into the hand of the enemy;You have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious and compassionate to me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;My eye is clouded and weakened by grief, my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrowAnd my years with sighing;My strength has failed because of my iniquity,And even my body has wasted away. Because of all my enemies I have become a reproach and disgrace,Especially to my neighbors,And an object of dread to my acquaintances;Those who see me on the street run from me. I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;I am like a broken vessel. For I have heard the slander and whispering of many,Terror is on every side;While they schemed together against me,They plotted to take away my life. But as for me, I trust [confidently] in You and Your greatness, O Lord;I said, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hands;Rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from those who pursue and persecute me. Make Your face shine upon Your servant;Save me in Your lovingkindness. Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I call on You;Let the wicked (godless) be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead). Let the lying lips be mute,Which speak insolently and arrogantly against the [consistently] righteousWith pride and contempt. How great is Your goodness,Which You have stored up for those who [reverently] fear You,Which You have prepared for those who take refuge in You,Before the sons of man! In the secret place of Your presence You hide them from the plots and conspiracies of man;You keep them secretly in a shelter (pavilion) from the strife of tongues. Blessed be the Lord,For He has shown His marvelous favor and lovingkindness to me [when I was assailed] in a besieged city. As for me, I said in my alarm,“I am cut off from Your eyes.”Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications (specific requests)When I cried to You [for help]. O love the Lord, all you His godly ones!The Lord preserves the faithful [those with moral and spiritual integrity]And fully repays the [self-righteousness of the] arrogant. Be strong and let your hearts take courage,All you who wait for and confidently expect the Lord.
When Wayne Kraiss, president of Southern California College (now Vanguard University), was a rookie pastor in Wheaton, Illinois, he called upon a dear elderly woman who had immigrated to this country from Europe. He found her bedridden and very I’ll.
Following his prayer, he was quite disappointed there was no apparent change in her condition. Reading the consternation on his face, she said, “Well, pastor, this must be one of the ‘all things.’”
He asked what she meant.
“When I was a little girl in Germany,” she replied, “one day I asked my mother what it means that ‘all things work together for good.’ My mother was baking a cake and without directly answering my question, she handed me a spoonful of baking soda. It tasted awful. Finally I asked her what she was doing and she responded that she was answering my question. “Amelia,” my mother said, “I don’t want you to ever forget that all things taken by themselves are not always pleasant. But when they are mixed together and fired in the oven, you’ll love the results.”
Psalm 31 finds David tasting the baking soda of three separate and overwhelming problems while simultaneously trusting the Lord for a good result at the end of the process.
David opens Psalm 31 by seemingly seeking assurance of protection more for trouble that is looming than from an actual experience of trouble. The last words of Jesus on the cross is a quote from verse five, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” However Jesus adds the word “Father” to it. In this psalm David is praying for deliverance from physical death- confident that God will help him escape- but Christ committed Himself to God in death, knowing that even then, “You have not handed me over to the enemy, but have set my feet in spacious places.”
In those moments when everything seems to be against us, we too can trust in the Lord that evil will not ensnare us.
In addition to facing the coming trouble, David is sick. Anguish, groaning, affliction, weak bones, and failing strength describe the acuteness of his sickness.
As triune beings health issues also affect us emotionally and spiritually. In those moments we may feel abandoned and undone. Apparently David’s disease frightened away any visitors: “I am the utter contempt of my neighbors. I am a dread to my friends.” Unfortunately when we most need the encouragement others, they stay away and we lie forgotten. Often I think it is because they don’t know what to say or do, not knowing that often presence is sufficient. It’s not that we’re being asked to solve the problem or cure the disease or fix the situation. Sometimes it’s just to know we aren’t alone.
Psalm 31 records that David feels as worthless as a piece of broken pottery, and often prolonged illness can make us feel worthless.
In addition to the mixture of trouble and sickness is the third element of David’s pain: false words from those bent on hurting him. We often quote, “Sticks and stones will break your bones but words can never harm you.” That may be true, but words can hurt you especially when they are untrue and ugly. Our first instinct is to set the record straight, but often as it is with David, there is no opportunity to do so.
George Wood says, “In fact, there would be far less strife in family and the body of Christ if more believers were willing to suffer unjustly and leave their defense to God.”
What do we do when untrue things are spoken against us? Do we, like David, look to the Lord for the needed deliverance? Can we say with David, “But I trust in you, O Lord….My times are in your hands…Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.”
Once someone escapes from the threefold cord of hurt described in verses 1-18 and emerges with their faith intact can only give God the praise. They can’t help but to praise Him for His faithfulness to us even during our times of doubting. The end of this is that from our distress we reach out to encourage others to trust in the Lord, even as we ourselves found help in Him.
George Wood says, “Worry over the prospect of trouble, bodily illness, and false accusations might each taste like a spoonful of baking soda. But trust the Lord that He knows how to make the ingredients of your life into a final result which brings you fulfillment and satisfaction. Amelia summed up best the testimony of a believer who has lived Psalm 31: “Pastor, God will take this unpleasant experience, and other disappointments and discouraging events in my life, and mix them all together and someday I will love the results.”
I would only add that we’re it not for faith to believe that someday and someway, God will use everything He allows in my life to come together for my good, I would have no hope. In the darkest moments of life, our trust even when we cannot see, lies not in our circumstances but in the love of God who gave us His Son as a sacrifice so that we might have eternal life. Paul captures the essence of this when he said:
“If we who are [abiding] in Christ have hoped only in this life [and this is all there is], then we are of all people most miserable and to be pitied. But now [as things really are] Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, [and He became] the first fruits [that is, the first to be resurrected with an incorruptible, immortal body, foreshadowing the resurrection] of those who have fallen asleep [in death]. For since [it was] by a man that death came [into the world], it is also by a Man that the resurrection of the dead has come. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
1 Corinthians 15: 19-22
Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. That is a sufficient foundation.
May God visit you today in your place of distress and may the Holy Spirit encourage you in your despair and may the abiding presence of Jesus be felt.
Dr. John Thompson