A crisis can help awaken Christians
David is in a crisis. He established earlier in the psalm that God delivered him from the pit of destruction and set his feet on solid ground. The Lord put a new song in his mouth, a song of praise for the salvation of his body and soul. It is this deliverance that teaches David how to respond to a crisis or tribulation.
First David proclaims God’s righteousness in the crisis (verses 9-10). He is determined that no crisis will cause him to shrink from proclaiming to God’s people the love and faithfulness of God. This is not easy. Any crisis David was in would also affect the people of Israel since he was the King. The human heart is naturally cold toward God; in a crisis it often turns to murmuring, rebuke, and anger. When Moses sought to persuade the Israelites in the desert to remember God’s faithfulness, they threatened to stone him. This was because they were not happy with God’s providence. Nevertheless, this is exactly what people need to hear. God has shown his favor in delivering you from the pit of destruction. He is faithful. “Whoever is wise, let him hear and consider the steadfast love of the Lord (psalm 107).”
Second, David knew what he needed to endure this trial. He affirms that God’s mercy, love, and faithfulness will preserve him (verse 11). David is saying that since you are with me in this Lord, I can endure it and remain faithful. Augustine used to pray, “Lord command what you will, but give what you command.” In other words, whatever providence you bring, Lord, I am willing to undergo, so long as your Spirit enables me to endure it and remain faithful through it. A sense of dependence needs to be united with confidence that the Lord provide.
Third, David was poor in spirit. He confesses, “My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me” (verse 12). This is often the case for a Christian in a crisis. He feels convicted of sin. It is not unhealthy. Rather, it shows an honest, healthy relationship with the Lord. It prepares you for true comfort, which the Lord alone can give.
Living in impenitence and sin is a comfortless state. Being self-confident and insensitive to the holiness of God is a wretched condition. David, however, knows he is unworthy. David is in the right frame of mind to be comforted. Do not then be distressed because you are feeling unworthy. It is what God wants you to feel. You are now in God’s way. Confess your sins before the Lord and seek comfort in him. Draw near to the Lord. He delights in mercy.
If we get a right view of one sin we are usually given to see that our offenses are countless. David said, “My sins are more than the hairs on my head.” The Lord Jesus showed the Samaritan woman (John 4) a particular sin and she went away and said, “Come, see a man that has told me all things that I ever did.” She wasn’t hurt by this conviction of sin, she was saved by it. Charles Hodge wrote, “The greatest conviction a man can have is conviction of sin.”
A crisis can help awaken Christians or a church to fresh conviction of how sinful and dependent on God’s grace they are. The exalted Christ told the prosperous church in Laodicea, “You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” He instructs them to seek grace to see their sin and find their comfort in reconciliation and fellowship with God, not in easy circumstances. He is not a God to leave his people in the misery of indulging sin.
This brings us to the last point, which is for the Christian in a crisis to always return to comfort in the Lord’s promise of salvation and to praise the Lord for it. David says, “May those who love your salvation always say, ‘The Lord be exalted’” (verse 16). Assured of his salvation, and yet knowing his frailty, David cries out to the Lord to come quickly with help (verse 17). In our trials, effectual help must come from God only. Should you hesitate to call on the one who made the heavens and the earth and has delivered you from the pit?
The Rev. Chris Shelton is the pastor of The First Presbyterian Church of Union.