The occasion of this psalm is a believer in distress. David’s prayer is that the Lord will give him relief from his distress (verse 1).  The word for distressed is to feel squeezed or compressed, like struggling to catch your breath. It is a significant trouble that has caused such distress. Some think the circumstance was Absalom’s rebellion against David. Whatever it was, as believers, we are given direction for the relief of distress, regardless of the circumstance.

The first thing is to cherish grace. David asks God to be gracious to him. He calls God the “God of my righteousness. “ This psalm, as all psalms, looks ahead to the spiritual truths in the Lord Jesus Christ and his people. The great remedy to distress is to know you have an unshakeable bottom under your feet. If you have Christ, you have grace. If you have grace, you have God’s love.

You must not say, “Well, I know I’m going to heaven, but I need help with this problem right now.” That is like saying I will not eat, but I want help with this hunger pain. You must focus on what grace means. Your sins, though great, are not held against you. It is helpful to consider if they were. We take God’s grace for granted far too easily, and yet many do not have it. There is no problem that compares to having God against you. To have grace is of inestimable value.

The second thing is to grasp God’s covenant. In verse 2 David contrasts those who love delusions and seek false gods with people God has set apart for himself (verse 3). The language of God setting apart a people for himself is the language of God’s covenant. A covenant means God has bound himself to a promise. He will leave some to their delusions but call others to himself and make them godly.

The covenant in Christ’s blood is his binding himself to his people. They are given his merits, what he accomplished. In God’s eyes those who belong to Christ died with him on the cross in the sense they no longer belong to this world which is under his wrath. Those who love delusions are those who have hope outside of Christ. False gods are delusions that may be religious. They are many and varied. They have in common boasting (or hoping) in anything but the crucified Christ. Those who love Christ have an incorruptible hope. It isn’t the strength of their faith that saves them; it is Christ. Therefore even in the worst of circumstances, they can find relief from distress by remembering the promise of Christ.

The third thing for relief of distress is to die to yourself. David picks up the subject of anger in verse 4 in the context of his suffering. He may not can get to the bottom of why he is suffering, but he knows that he is not his own. He is a recipient of grace. He belongs to God.  He says in verse 5 to himself as well as others, “Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.” The right sacrifice begins with offering himself to God’s will, whatever that may be.

To be angry with God implies your own omniscience; a believer should not be deluded so. Anger, however, can be a byproduct of mistreatment at the hands of enemies or ongoing suffering. There is an anger that is right, and even necessary. The apostles were always angry over flattering false teaching. Christians should be angry as well over injustice or evil. Nevertheless, all anger in a sinner is to be balanced by knowledge of God’s grace.

Paul warns Christians of anger giving place to the devil’s influence. He warns of even a hint of malice. Self-righteous anger will destroy the soul. It feeds on vanity. A lot of our anger proceeds from plain self-centeredness. We want our way. In the silence of our beds, we need to remember who we are in Christ, and not give anger room to mistreat our souls. There is relief in submission to the Lord.

Finally, David says his joy in the Lord surpasses that of people when they have a bumper crop come in. His distress has dissipated because he has considered the value of his salvation. He also would find joy in a bumper crop (or good circumstances).  However, he speaks of a “greater joy.” This greater joy is the secret of contentment with God when everything else is seemingly falling apart. It also enables the believer to “Lie down and sleep in peace (verse 8),” even in the midst of storms, because “You alone O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”