A man was complaining to a friend that family stress had him down. His friend suggested that maybe he was taking it too seriously - that there were two sides to every situation. "Thatís right," agreed the stressed-out friend, "but in my house the two sides are always my wifeís side and her motherís side."
All of us face stress from time to time whether itís at home, on the job, or in our encounters with other people. This seems to be a favorite modern malady. We have more leisure time and more time-saving devices than any previous generation, and yet we also have more obligations, more pressure, and more ways to go into debt.
Here in Psalm 56 we see how David responded to a difficult situation in his life.
Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack. My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride.
Do you sometimes feel this way? It seems like everyone is out to attack you or say bad things about you. David says they attack him because of their pride - perhaps they think too highly of themselves or perhaps they are jealous of Davidís successes. When it seems others are against us, we feel helpless because it doesnít seem there is much we can do about their attitude toward us. If it continues, this can lead to stress and feelings of hopelessness.
There is not much we can do when others attack us, but we can do what David did and go to God. He prays, "be merciful to me, O God." Whenever you feel overwhelmed by burdens or troubles, go to God. He will reach down to you in his mercy.
When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
David says that when he is afraid, he trusts in God. This is a trust which can only come with determination and commitment. He will not allow the situation to overwhelm him. Instead, he will trust God.
In our backyard my wife Lorna has a Wisteria vine. Itís a clinging vine so Lorna tied it up a trellis and sure enough the vine grabbed onto the posts and climbed its way up. But it didnít stop there. It reached the underpart of the roofís overhang and started spreading both ways. It reached the side of the house and started climbing up the electrical power lines. It even started pushing its tendrils between a tiny gap in the kitchen window and underneath the doorway of the utility room. As long as it was clinging to something solid, it grew quickly and abundantly.
When we place our trust in God and cling to him, we will find that neither stress nor trouble will hinder our growth in the Lord. We will be able to reach out in faith and stretch out far beyond our problems. But the key is to cling tightly to God and trust in him.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
One of the best ways to get a handle on stress is to spend time praising God. As we worship and thank God, we begin to count our blessings and realize how much God is with us. If we are thinking of God and his goodness, it is difficult to dwell on our problems. As David spends time in praise, he asks himself, "what can mortal man do to me?" He understands that he serves the Creator of the universe. There is nothing that God cannot take care of. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by stress, itís a good idea to count your blessings and thank God for what he has done for you instead of dwelling on the negative things that are occurring in your life.
Iíve got a heap of troubles
All day long they twist my words; they are always plotting to harm me. They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life.
Do you feel that others are twisting your words or are plotting things behind your back? There are times that things happen at work or school or community activities over which we have no control. Whenever we feel pressure from circumstances over which we canít prevail, it is a time ripe for feelings of stress. We cannot control what others are thinking or saying or even plotting. But we can govern our reaction to these outside pressures. Davidís very life was in danger, but he would not waver from his solid trust in the Almighty. When you feel overwhelmed by stress, do not waver from your trust in God.
On no account let them escape; in your anger, O God, bring down the nations. Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll-- are they not in your record?
Whenever we are facing a difficulty, what often happens is we spend a lot of time trying to repair a bad situation. But some troubles just wonít go away. When David felt overwhelmed, he cried out to God, "record my lament; list my tears on your scroll." When you find nowhere else to turn, you too can cry to the Lord. We can find that unburdening our heart to God will produce a healing in our spirit. If you feel overwhelmed, donít hesitate to cry out to God.
Ker remarks, "However skilful the guide might be, he would not meet our case unless he had a heart. There are rough defiles and thorny brakes through which the road leads - there is no help for it: these things make it the road; but what concerns us most is the manner of the Guide - that He should take our frailty into account and provide resting-places and refreshment for us as they are needed."
Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me.
David was confident that God was for him. He knew that all he had to do was call for help. This kind of confidence only comes through experience. As we learn how God helps us through difficulties, we gain confidence that he will be there for us the next time. We learn by practicing our faith.
When my two sons were in the High School Marching Band, they would spend hours during the week preparing for competition. The musicians would practice their marching and their music. The drum major, majorette team, and color guard would spend hours rehearsing their routines. Then when the Saturday Band Review arrived and the band approached the reviewing stand, the focus of each student was on doing the best performance they were capable of. As a result they won many overall sweepstakes awards and many major band reviews. But it was all the result of commitment, preparation, and execution.
We may not realize it, but God is preparing us for opportunities to minister throughout the week. Are we willing to be ready? We need to make the commitment, spend time in preparation, and then go out and perform the task that God has called us to do. Our times of practicing our faith gives us confidence that God will be with us every time.
In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise.
Not only does David determine to trust God, but he also will depend on the promises contained in Godís word. This is why it is so essential to read the Bible and study it. As we learn Godís word, we learn about God and his faithfulness toward us. We realize that Godís promises are for us today and we are able to claim them as our own.
Cox comments, "It may possibly be alleged by many persons, especially of the more busy classes of society, that they have no time for the attention to the Bible which is recommended. ... The truth contained in the sacred volume exerts an influence analogous, both in its force and its secrecy, to that of some of the most wonder-working agencies of nature. It resembles the unseen presence of magnetism or electricity, which move as by a touch the elements and masses around us - disposing them to order or clothing them with beauty.... In the secret recesses of the soul, and in the dark and hidden depths of a heart, no human eye can penetrate and no human philosophy unravel - it subdues and sanctifies, works repentance and humiliation, and the settled purposes of a renewed mind, till on the surface appears the penitential tear, the bended knee, the contrite sigh, the believing and imploring reception of Christ, the moral and spiritual renewal of character...."
If you are under a lot of stress, resolve in your heart to spend time in Godís word. Read it, study it, meditate upon it, and believe it. God has graciously caused his word to be preserved and passed down through all the centuries and millennia so that we would have it to read and learn and understand. Letís not neglect this wonderful gift he has given us.
In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
David determines in his heart that he will not be afraid. Faith is the opposite of fear. If we truly trust God, we will realize that nothing can happen to us that God does not allow. If all things really do work together for good, then why are we ever upset about what God has allowed in our life? Deciding to not be afraid requires that we resolve to trust in God. When we take our eyes off of God and his care for us, then fear will come rushing back in.
In the past 10 years hurricanes have devastated portions of the Atlantic coast in the Southeastern part of the United States. The amazing thing is that even though some people have had their property severely damaged or destroyed twice in this period, many of these folks are rebuilding in the same location once again. There is every reason to expect that disaster might strike again, but they rebuild anyway.
What stress or devastation of the soul are you facing? When we learn to trust in God, we will not fear. God is the one who protects us and keeps us from harm. And God is the one who will get us through the storms.
I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you.
David made a pledge to God. We donít know the nature of this vow, but it was one which would be confirmed by thank offerings. When you are facing times of stress, you can make a vow to God. Make a commitment to keep when God delivers you from your present difficulty. Then when God does deliver you, be sure to confirm your pledge by giving an offering of praise, thanking God for the victory. Some people are afraid to make vows to God. They fear that they wonít keep them. But by making commitments to God, we can really grow in faith. Some of the best vows are commitments to do something about which God has been dealing with you for some time. God honors vows to do one thing for him - you could say for example, "God, if you will help me get over my shyness, I pledge to share my faith with one of my neighbors within the year." You will be surprised how effective these kinds of vows can be in dealing with situations. If someone at work is causing you stress, you can make a pledge like, "God, if you cause this person to cease their attacks on me, I vow to take them out to lunch." Vows are not bargains we make with God. God does not need our pledges to run the universe. Rather, vows are ways we can commit to grow in faith as our way of giving a thank offering.
For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
David commits to walk before God. He understood that God had delivered him for a purpose. God will deliver you for a purpose also. That purpose is so that we may walk before God and that we may walk in the light of life. As we walk before God, listening to his voice, obeying his word, and growing in faith, we will discover that a light shines in our life. Godís love, mercy, and compassion shines down into our heart, and we experience peace, joy, and blessings.
Charnock points out, "If God treasures up our tears, much more should we treasure up His mercies.... God hath a file for our prayers, we should have the like for His answers. He hath a book of remembrance to record our afflictions, and believing discourses of Him; why should not we, then, have a register for His gracious communications to us? Remembrance is the chief work of a Christian; remembrance of sin to cause a self-abhorency. The remembrance of God for a deep humility. Remembrance of His name for keeping His law. Remembrance of His judgments of old for comfort in afflictions. And remembrance of mercy for the establishment of faith."
If we will be faithful to God, we will find that stress will be replaced by the light of Godís love shining in our heart. Let us follow Davidís example that he gives us in Psalm 56:
verse 1 - go to God
This study on Psalm 56:1-13 © 1999 by David Humpal, all
Troubles quoted in the Complete Speakers Sourcebook pg. 364 © 1996, Zondervan Publishing House
Ker: The Biblical Illustrator, vol. 6, pg. 106, Baker Book House
Cox: The Biblical Illustrator, vol. 6, pg. 104, Baker Book House
Charnock: The Biblical Illustrator, vol. 6, pg. 109, Baker Book House