FAITH AMID FEAR
Lord, you call me to trust you. Indeed, you are trustworthy and there is nothing I need to fear. Thank you for your watch care.
Read PSALM 56
For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam.[b] When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.
1 Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
2 My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
5 All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not[c] let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
8 Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll[d]—
are they not in your record?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise—
11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?
12 I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’1
Today’s psalm is about trusting God amid intense fear. It begins with an urgent appeal to God for mercy and protection (vs 1,2) and ends with a word of confident assurance in God’s deliverance (vs 12,13). It is divided into two halves, each composed of 2 lines plus 2 lines plus 3 lines, with a repeated central refrain in the middle of both halves. The danger David is facing is real, and he openly admits his fear (v 3).
The central refrains are the emotional and theological heart of this psalm (vs 4,10,11). In his fear, David begins with praise. This reminds us that praise is not only reserved for good times. In fact, it’s absolutely essential to practice praise during hard times, keeping our focus on God rather than our circumstances. He goes on to say that he is choosing faith over fear. This does not mean he will never feel the emotion of fear, but that, as he chooses to trust God, real peace will result. This same God lists our tears on his scroll (or puts our tears in his bottle) – this powerful image reminds us of God’s nearness to us in pain and fear.
My family has had the opportunity to practice this psalm many times over the past 18 months. We all got COVID-19 in the first wave in the UK, and my wife was severely ill, because of a lack of oxygen and various heart complications. At times I was terrified that she might die. Both she and my son have acute long COVID and are still not recovered as I write. Multiple times I have found myself repeating the words of this psalm, choosing to praise God and trust him. Life is scary at times; danger and fear are very real.
David encourages us to be honest with God and focus on him in trials. He stores our tears, counts the hairs on our head2 and cares deeply for us.
Gracious God, sometimes it seems that I take my fears and anxieties everywhere but to you. Forgive me and help me to remember that I am not alone, that your strength and protection are mine—always.
1 Heb 4:16 2 Matt 10:30
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