“Persistent Anxious Moments?” Really? Consider this limited list:
- COVID pandemic
- 2020 election
- Rampant violence
- Southern border crisis
- Rising inflation and taxes
- Increasing geopolitical dangers
- Destructive weather phenomena
As Christians we shouldn’t become overly anxious about such things, but it sneaks up on me and maybe on you too. How can we alleviate those persistent anxious moments? Psalm 57 provides one example from the life of King David. It reveals his emotional ambivalence, bouncing back and forth from fear to faith and back again as he struggles through life-threatening circumstances. And in the process it points us to a way to minimize the incapacitating effects of our own anxieties.
The superscription of Psalm 57 by numerous scholars takes us back to a time when David was fleeing for his life from King Saul and hiding in a cave. Without discussing the details of the historical background I simply point out the level of emotional distress imbedded in the Hebrew words Al-tashheth (אל-תשׁחת) meaning “Do not destroy!” David’s anxiety was justifiable.
The Psalm easily identifies where David’s emotional ambivalence in verses 1-6 changes to emotional stability in verses 7-11. The change is dramatic. Verse 1 makes a plea to God, “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me.” Verse 7 makes a similar but positive dramatic declaration, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” Consider verses 1-6 from the NASB (leaving off the poetic line breaks):
1 Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by.
2 I will cry to God Most High, To God who accomplishes all things for me.
3 He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. Selah. God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.
4 My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth fire, Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows And their tongue a sharp sword.
5 Be exalted above the heavens, O God; Let Your glory be above all the earth.
6 They have prepared a net for my steps; My soul is bowed down; They dug a pit before me; They themselves have fallen into the midst of it. Selah.
Note these anxiety-creating particulars:
- Verse 1–The need for refuge from destruction
- Verse 2–Crying out to God
- Verse 3–Deliverance from being trampled on
- Verse 4–Fearful sleep
- Verse 5–Trying to look above the circumstances
- Verse 6–Constant worrying about traps
Also consider David’s attempts to achieve some spiritual comfort:
- Verses 1-2–God is gracious who can provide refuge and deliverance.
- Verse 3–God can send help from heaven.
- Verse 5–God is sovereign in heaven and earth.
- Verse 6–God will judge my enemies.
We are like David when trouble visits us. Our theology tells us that God is available and able to deliver us from our troubling circumstances, but will he? This we do not know, so we cannot seem to climb out of our mental and emotional pit. But David did as we see in verses 7-11. So how did he bounce out of his depression? It appears that the change came by making a conscience determination to change his primary focus away from his troubles to God and relegate his negative circumstances to a secondary role. Consider verses 1-7:
7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
8 Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.
9 I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations.
10 For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens And Your truth to the clouds.
11 Be exalted above the heavens, O God; Let Your glory be above all the earth.
Note these peace-developing particulars:
- Verse 7–singing praises to God
- Verse 8–starting the day with a song in our heart and praises on our lip
- Verse 9–giving thank to God and praising him to others
- Verse 10–declaring God’s lovingkindness and truth broadly
- Verse 11–acknowledging God’s sovereignty in heaven and earth
Each of us can identify with Psalm 57 and “Those Persistent Anxious Moments.” What we really need is the determination and faith to look beyond our earthly circumstances to our sovereign God who rules over all the anxiety-creating things in our lives whether we understand it or not.
Psalm 57 recognizes without apology our humanness, anxieties and fears. But it also shows us how we can ameliorate these natural and possibly incapacitating human emotions by turning to genuine worship of God in whatever manner consistent with our personalities. It is possible to say with David, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” For David, worship and music were synonymous; for me, worship, reading, studying and meditating on the Word of God are one and the same. Whatever form refocusing our minds and hearts on our sovereign God takes, it has the ability to elevate our emotions from the darkness of despair to the full light of God’s abiding presence and promises!