Listen to my prayer, O God,And do not hide Yourself from my plea. Listen to me and answer me;I am restless and distraught in my complaint and distracted Because of the voice of the enemy,Because of the pressure of the wicked;For they bring down trouble on me,And in anger they persecute me. My heart is in anguish within me,And the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling have come upon me;Horror has overwhelmed me. And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!I would fly away and be at rest. “I would wander far away,I would lodge in the [peace of the] wilderness. Selah. “I would hurry to my refuge [my tranquil shelter far away]From the stormy wind and from the tempest.” Confuse [my enemies], O Lord, divide their tongues [destroying their schemes],For I have seen violence and strife in the city. Day and night they go around her walls;Wickedness and mischief are in her midst. Destruction is within her;Oppression and deceit do not depart from her streets and market places. For it is not an enemy who taunts me—Then I could bear it;Nor is it one who has hated me who insolently exalts himself against me—Then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man my equal and my counsel,My companion and my familiar friend; We who had sweet fellowship together,Who walked to the house of God in company. Let death come deceitfully upon them;Let them go down alive to Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead),For evil [of every kind] is in their dwelling and in their hearts, in their midst. As for me, I shall call upon God,And the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will complain and murmur,And He will hear my voice. He has redeemed my life in peace from the battle that was against me,For there were many against me. God will hear and humble them,Even He who sits enthroned from old— Selah.Because in them there has been no change [of heart],And they do not fear God [at all]. He [my companion] has put out his hands against those who were at peace with him;He has broken his covenant [of friendship and loyalty]. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter,But his heart was hostile;His words were softer than oil,Yet they were drawn swords. Cast your burden on the Lord [release it] and He will sustain and uphold you;He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (slip, fall, fail). But You, O God, will bring down the wicked to the pit of destruction;Men of blood and treachery will not live out half their days.But I will [boldly and unwaveringly] trust in You.
Marian Evans, who wrote under the pen name George Eliot, described the beauty of friendship: “Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words but to pour them all out together, knowing that a faithful friend will take and sift what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
David had a friend like that, but something terrible happened. The friend turned against him. Psalm 55 pours out of David’s heart as he struggles with the unbearable emotional pain of abandonment, betrayal, disillusionment, and disbelief.
David begins with a plea for God to listen. The “listen is punctuated by urgency: “Do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me.” Did David fear God would be as insensitive as the departed friend?
As Psalm 55 progresses, we see David summarizing his deep depression noting the dark physiological and psychological trauma he is experiencing. Verse five records these words: “Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.”
These kinds of emotions usually never arise from the loss of a casual acquaintance. These kinds of wounds are only caused by someone close and dear to you. When this hurt comes, its feelings far surpass the former comfort of friendship. You may long to escape from the hurt, but there’s no place to run and hide. In the sixth through the eighth verses, David expresses those feelings this way: “Oh that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and rest….far from the tempest and storm.” It’s interesting to note David’s choice of birds. He doesn’t choose the eagle that soars high above the storm. Nor does he choose the hawk that would swoop down on its prey. Instead he chooses the dove- the most gentle, vulnerable, and defenseless of all birds. I think that’s because in such place of abandonment by a close friend leaves us feeling defenseless.
In David’s case, he not only suffers the breakup of a close relationship but the breakup is accompanied by the dangers of violence, strife, malice, abuse, threats, and lies. We may not face such depths but the terms David uses describes accurately the devil’s assault: “Destructive forces are at work.” We may be sure that the devil’s work is never constructive for he is only interested in our defeat.
Perhaps nothing else is more difficult to take than the betrayal of a spouse, a relative, a friend, or a close companion. In Psalm 55, David speaks for all who have been so wounded when he laments in verses 12 to 14: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you….my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship.”
The remembrance of the “sweet fellowship” only serves to intensify the pain and in David’s case and often ours, the friendship had included spiritual togetherness (“ as we walked with the throng at the house of God”). He certainly never- and neither do we- expected the companion who loved and worshipped God with him to now turn against him.
One of the more common responses to this hurt is anger. George Wood tells of a husband whose wife left him for another man that admitted, “It was all I could do to restrain myself from going to her new home in the middle of the night and torching it with her and her lover in it.”
David pens the words that express these emotions. He is wishing that the worst things imaginable to happen to those who hurt him including being buried alive or sudden death.
One of the blessings of reading the psalms is that they teach us how to deal with our emotions of anger when others hurt us. God gives us permission to express our anger to Him but it is not acceptable for us to act on that anger. James says: “Be angry, but sin not.” Most of the time when we act with anger, we find ourselves sinning. As we grow and mature in Christ, He takes us to an even higher place- that of forgiveness and overcoming evil with good. We even can come to the place that we can honestly “bless those who despitefully use us.”
Even if others disappoint us, one things for sure- God won’t. His actions are always consistent with His words. He never plays with our emotions, never betrays nor abandons us even in our worst behaved moments. We can truly rely on the Lord, so David closes the psalm with a word of counsel that is later given by the apostle Peter: “Cast your cares upon the Lord.”
None of this is easy for we want to solve our own problems so we can get the outcomes we desire. Prayer, on the other hand, makes me desire the solutions of God.
If you are in a place where broken relationships with close companions that are dragging you into the emotional fight of your life get God involved by putting the whole matter into His capable hands. As we read through Psalm 55, we begin by demanding God give us immediate attention. Once we press through a season struggle in prayer and with God’s help, we relinquish our situation to the Lord’s care, we can say with David: “But as for me, I trust in you(Jesus).”
George Wood offers a prayer of response:
Lord Jesus, I am having a hard time trusting You right now. It’s difficult for me to trust anyone. I do not want hurt to drive me to bitterness, despair, resentment, or devolution, but to You instead. Please help my faith to grow. I know the safest place to be is the one in which I trust You completely to resolve this brokenness in my life. I do trust You. Help my unbelief.