What do you do when the circumstances of life are beyond your control? More specifically, what do we do when the circumstances of life are beyond our control, and the circumstances are causing us great pain? I mean, there are a number of things that are beyond our control that don’t necessarily cause us great pain. The constant swings of the stock market are beyond our control, but they probably don’t keep most of us tossing and turning at night because our hearts are filled with great anxiety. But there are other things that we are powerless to change, and they cause us great pain. The single person that wants to be married but can’t just create a great spouse in her own power, or the couple that is infertile, or the person who is sick and doctors just don’t know what to do, or the person who’s spouse left them and they’re all alone, or the mom who is watching her rebellious adult child killing himself, or the man watching someone he loves dying of cancer (or some other incurable disease) or succumbing to Alzheimer’s, or a number of other examples all involve people facing circumstances that bring them great pain and over which they are powerless. And in those circumstances, it’s easy to acknowledge the situation is beyond your control, but it can seem (if it is not) impossible to keep it from affecting you – often on a daily basis.
What do we do in those circumstances? One of the nice things about the psalms is that they often provide us with answers to those questions because they are written by men who are struggling through the same kinds of issues we face. David is one of those men, and he is the author of the psalm we’re looking at this morning – Psalm 62.
David doesn’t tell us what’s going on specifically in his life in the psalm. Nor does the superscription provide us with details. It is simply composed, it seems, according to a certain tune named or written by “Jeduthun.” But we do learn from the psalm that David is facing circumstances that are beyond his control. Specifically, he is being attacked (in some form) by men who see him as a leaning wall or tottering fence that they are eager to push over. They are men who speak false things about him and curse him.
And, in seeking to apply such a psalm, we could say that this psalm helps us when enemies attack us, and that would be true. But I think it is instructive in a larger way by instructing us in how to handle circumstances that are beyond our control and causing us pain. After all, that is a fair description of what David seems to be facing, and the solution David provides in this psalm seems to be directed to that end. I say that because David encourages the people to trust the Lord in verse 8, and he doesn’t seem to insist that this is an exhortation simply when they are attacked by enemies. Rather, he tells them to trust the Lord “at all times” (v. 8). Therefore, I think it is fair to apply this psalm to ourselves simply when we are struggling with circumstances beyond our control.
Therefore, this morning I want to note for us what I think is the main exhortation of this psalm and then note a few others details that I think we learn throughout. So, let’s start with the main exhortation. What do we do when we face painful circumstances in life that are beyond our control?
We must trust in God alone and rest in him
I say that because this is what David tells us that he is doing in verses 1-2. Notice that verses 1-2 are not David talking to God and crying out for help, which is so often found in the psalms – specifically in the psalms where the author is suffering. This psalm is not a petition to the Lord to do something. It is rather a statement of David’s trust in the Lord. He says in verses 1-2, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”
Now, the reason I say that we must trust in God alone is because of the language of these verses. Did you hear it in each verse? In verse 1, David says that his soul waits “for God alone,” and in verse 2, he says, “He only is my rock.” David is not looking to man to save him and provide what he needs. He knows that his salvation is only in the Lord, and that God alone is his rock and fortress, providing his refuge and rest.
I think this means that David is not scheming with men to try to solve his dilemma. He is not sending messages to the Egyptians asking them if they’ll partner with him and help thwart the efforts of those who are coming against him. He’s simply trusting in the Lord.
But this is hard, isn’t it? What does it even look like? What does it mean to trust in God alone? After all, what does it mean to trust in God alone when you’re dying of cancer? Does it mean you consult physicians? Well, it would seem silly not to do so. But what then does it mean to trust in God alone when you may indeed involve others in helping solve your problem?
The only answer to that question that makes sense to me is that it must mean that we recognize that God alone can provide what we need, and we are trusting in him and resting in that reality. So, I don’t think it means that we don’t consult doctors and go through chemotherapy, but it means that we’re not placing our trust in doctor’s abilities but in God carrying out his will.
I really wrestled with this in my own life when we were adopting. I mentioned a few weeks ago that the adoption was outrageous, costing us a total of about $55,000. Well, we embarked on that journey saying, “Lord, we’re trusting you to provide.” And there were times that I felt like I wavered from that trust and trusted in man. I would be in a conversation with someone telling me about how they just came into a lot of money, and I would instantly be tempted to turn our conversation by saying, “Hey, did I mention to you that we were adopting a child from Russia that’s going to cost us more than my annual salary?” And I would walk away from that conversation realizing that my temptation to manipulate circumstances and people showed that my trust was more in man but in God.
On the other hand, I remember sitting at my desk one day, realizing that we were about to owe a few thousand dollars, and after praying, I picked up the phone and called the mortgage company. I thought to myself, “It feels like there’s a fine line between trusting and being stupid, and perhaps not calling the mortgage company to ask about a loan was being stupid.” But I didn’t know. I was really wrestling through the decision. So, I called them, got no answer, and left a message for the person to call me back. But this time, when I hung up the phone, the thought of my heart was simply, “Lord, however you want to do this, I trust in you to provide.”
In the two circumstances, I feel that though both involved me talking to man (or thoughts of talking to men), one of them was done with a heart that was fully trusting in God. And, again, that’s my best thought on what it means to trust in God alone. I don’t think it means never talking to others or asking them to pray for you. Those things are good. But I think it means that we recognize that God is our ultimate hope, and we are resting and trusting in him.
And I think the sign that we are indeed walking in trust is that our souls are silent. Notice that is what David says in verse 1: “For God alone my soul waits in silence.” I don’t think that means that he hasn’t poured his heart out to God because he exhorts the reader to do just that in verse 8. Nor, do I think this involves him refusing to ask others to pray for him, for that is instructed elsewhere in the Bible. Nor is it, I think, refusing to share his burdens, for we are commanded to bear one another’s burdens in the church. I think that by silence he means that he is not grumbling against God for the lot he’s facing in life. That is, we show that we are trusting in God when we are not grumbling against God to his people for the situation and lot he’s given us in life.
That, I think is the clearest sign that shows us we’re trusting. We may pick up the phone and call someone about our problem, but our hearts are not dependent on them but trusting and resting in God and silent before him. So, the great lesson of this psalm is that we are to trust and rest in God alone.
However, David adds some more notes as well that I want to us see. In verses 3-7, he shows us that . . .
Trusting in God requires persistent effort
Notice the flow of these verses. In verses 1-2, he says that he is waiting and trusting in the Lord. His soul will not be greatly shaken. And perhaps we should understand “greatly shaken” just as we are tempted to think of it. That is, he’s shaken a bit at this point, but he’s not “greatly” shaken. Then, in verses 3-4, he turns his focus to those attacking him. He wonders how long it will last and talks about what they’re doing. He writes, “How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.”
This is how we work, isn’t it? We proclaim our trust in God, and then we speak of our struggles, and sometimes speaking of our struggles causes anxiety and fear and other emotions to creep back up in our hearts, don’t they? So, what does David do in verses 5-7? He turns his focus back to God, whom he trusts. But note now that he’s not simply proclaiming his trust in God to the reader; he’s telling his soul to wait and trust in the Lord. He’s exhorting his heart that is perhaps tempted to be anxious again. He writes, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress, I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”
Now, note all the subtle shifts here. I already mentioned that he goes from talking to others about his soul to talking to his own soul, exhorting himself to wait in silence, trusting in God. Second, he adds more this time about who God is. Verse 7 adds to his reasons for trusting in God. God is not only his rock and salvation and fortress but his glory and refuge. And finally, he now does not say, “I shall not be greatly shaken,” but “I shall not be shaken.” That is, it seems like his trust in God is growing even throughout this psalm, and he is finding himself more and more successful in silencing his soul.
So, what do we learn from this? I think one key lesson here is that trusting in God requires persistent effort. That is, it’s not that we sit down, say something to ourselves, and walk away having done the job. We like that thought, don’t we? We’re always searching for the key or the magic bullet that can do everything we need done in one shot. But that’s just not real life. Getting our souls to trust and rest in the Lord sometimes means we have to keep preaching to ourselves, even after we’ve preached to ourselves, and that we need to remind ourselves more and more of who God is.
Even this morning, you may walk out of this room saying, “Man, the Lord used that to help me focus on him, remember his faithfulness, and I’m doing well,” but you may need to start preaching these truths to yourself again tonight or in the morning or the next day because our hearts are prone to wander from resting in the Lord. Trusting in the Lord requires persistent effort.
We also see in verses 7-10 that . . .
God comforts our hearts to trust in him so that we might comfort others
Now, we know that from 2 Corinthians, where Paul begins the letter telling his readers that the Lord comforts us in our suffering so that we might comfort others with the same comfort with which we’ve been comforted. But we also see it here in Psalm 62. First, having proclaimed that he’s found rest for his heart in verses 5-7, David turns his attention to exhorting others as well. He tells them two things: 1) trust in God, and 2) do not trust in man.
First, he tells us to trust in God. He writes in verse 8, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”
Do you see the development? David says in verse 7, “My refuge is God.” Now, he says in verse 8, “God is a refuge for us.” This is how God works. The Lord does not provide comfort for you in your suffering so that it might end with you. He silences your hearts, gives you rest, and strengthens you to trust in him so that you might aid others in trusting in him.
David had obviously poured out his heart to God, and God had comforted him, so now he encourages others to do the same. And, he also tells them not to trust in man, for man is not an appropriate focus of our ultimate trust. He tells us in verses 9-10, “Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put not trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.”
Do you see, he’s telling them first to trust and God and, second, not to trust in anything else. Why? Because the temptation can be to trust in God and in something else. But trusting in the something else is not a solid foundation for our souls to find rest. Even the best of men will fail us. Even the greatest of riches can disappear.
We need to find ourselves with that same kind of mindset. As we walk through suffering and seek comfort, we need to find ourselves looking around to comfort others as well. There is a place, for example, when we are sharing our prayer requests on Sunday night and a parent is saying, “My two-year-old is just not responding to my consistent discipline,” for a parent who walked that road and has seen the fruit of it to encourage and comfort them to keep at it, pray, and trust in the Lord. It is right for one who has seen the Lord’s provision to comfort and encourage the one who is struggling with great need. One reason the Lord brings suffering and comfort into our lives is so that we might be equipped to minister to others.
Finally, David reminds us that . . .
We comfort others by reminding them of who God is, what he has done, and what he will do
David tells us that he’s not exhorting us to trust in the Lord just because it sounds like a good thing to do. Rather, he’s actually learned something. He’s sharing with us a truth about God in verses 11-12. He says, “Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.”
You see, to the man whose child has cancer, you can’t come to him and say, “You’re child will be healed because my child had cancer and God healed him.” You can’t come to the infertile couple and say, “You’ll eventually get pregnant. We struggled with infertility for five years before we finally conceived.” The reality is, that person’s child may die, and that couple may never conceive. So, the source of our comfort and our hope isn’t in our changing circumstances but in our God.
It may be that our circumstances turn our much different than those of our Christian brother’s or sister’s. But what is the same in each case is that the God who is sovereign over all things is powerful and loving. So, you can walk with the suffering couple, pointing them to the all-powerful and loving God who has shown his power and love by sending Christ to die and be raised for them. You can walk with the parent whose child has cancer, with tears in your eyes, praying with them that God would remind you both that he has all power and loves us more than we can imagine. That’s what David does, isn’t it? It’s as if he says in verses 11-12, “I don’t know much, but I do know these things about God – he is powerful and he loves us.” I know that what he sees in secret, he’ll reward openly. So trust in him.
But David and our brothers and sisters in Christ aren’t the only ones who want us to remember God’s power and faithful love. The Lord himself wants us to remember it as well. That’s why he’s given us the Lord’s Supper. Every time we eat and drink of this meal, we remember that God showed his love and power by sending his Son to die for our sins and be raised from the dead. We are reminded why we can trust in him. When no man could help us and we were helpless ourselves, God redeemed us through Christ.
So, this morning, as we eat this break and drink this cup, let us exhort our souls to trust in the Lord, persistently preach to ourselves why we can trust him, ask the Lord how we might minister to others, and remember who our God is and why we can encourage all brothers and sisters, regardless of their circumstances. It is because our God is great, and he is good. Let us proclaim that now as we come to the table. Amen.