Pursued and Depressed … but “I trust in the Lord” (Psalm 31)

Not many of us can relate to someone conspiring to take our life away from us. But this was a very real experience for the writer of our Psalm today. David had enemies that pursued him, threw swords at him, shot arrows to kill him, and otherwise conspired to put him into a premature grave.

I can only imagine how stressful and depressing it would be to know you have more than a few people who desire to see you assume room temperature. I doubt that the guards around King David were exactly any sort of equivalent to the modern-day U.S. Secret Service guarding the President and other important officials.

Again, remember that our summer study of God’s Playlist is a look into a songbook. And this song of thanksgiving is a tune about how the composer dealt with the stresses of being pursued and plotted against … he trusted ultimately in the Lord. Verses of this Psalm were familiar to, and quoted by, both Jonah and Jeremiah. And of course, we all are familiar with Jesus Christ uttering the words of verse five, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

In various genres of music, there are those songs that have a mellow verse or stanza that sings of a difficulty or pain, only to have the chorus brighten quickly into an upbeat tune which rejoices in a bigger perspective that makes everything alright. This Psalm 31 is of a similar construction. There are two verses/stanzas that speak of stress and the severity of problems (1-5; 9-13), only to be followed by two joyfully confident choruses (6-8; 14-24) with the key phrase, “But I trust in the Lord.”

No, we can’t relate in any personal way to people seeking our lives. But probably most all of us can relate to those times when during our work careers, conflicts and personalities, or a whole host of other troubling circumstances worked against us … resulting in people who conspired quietly (if not obviously) to put us in a bad light toward the goal of us being removed or replaced. Most of us can relate to times where by either evil intention or ignorant misunderstanding, others said and reported things about us that were not true. And maybe the most hurtful of all is to see people with whom we were very close at one time, when seeing us in the crosshairs and walking the plank, walk away from us with few words … they’re just gone and don’t want to be associated any longer. Ugh, that hurts.

David knew all of this is abundance. And likewise, when these cycles of life come around to us, we need to get to the same place and disposition as David. In difficult times, I have had to calm myself with these perspectives and words such as are in this song: “I will trust in you, my God” … “I know my times are in Your hands” … “I will run into the shelter of Your presence” … “I know You will preserve me if I am true to You.”

It really works.

Psalm 31

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the Lord.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.

9 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side!”  They conspire against me and plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and be silent in the realm of the dead.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

19 How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!”  Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.