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Trusting God in Hard Times

Psalms  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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How a believer responds to trials

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Introduction

We are back in the book of Psalms this morning as we continue our journey surveying this wonderful book of timeless truths and experiences of God’s people. So, please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
READ Psalm 13
Prayer of Invocation
The cries of the human heart do not change from one generation to the next. And it’s our conviction that the Bible really does speak to the condition of the human heart as much today as it did when it was originally breathed out by God and recorded by the human authors. The expressions of the Psalmist, then, remain strikingly relevant and understandable to us today. Through petition, praise, lament and song, the Psalmist articulates both the difficulties of living in a fallen world but also the eternal truths about the character of God. Those who are burdened by life’s trials will discover that the Psalms are, as one commentator called them, “the soul’s medicine chest.” This book is a source of encouragement and hope, and it also provides an encouragement and motivation for worship and prayer. Psalm 13 is a wonderful example of real life in the real world for the Christian.
A Psalm of individual lament, more introspective as compared to Psalm 12 which is more outward focused.
Attributed to David as author
The specific historical context is not clear but most commentators think either a persistent external enemy or a personal illness are what troubled David. We can’t assume that personal sin is involved because it isn’t mentioned here.
The Psalm follows the familiar triangle of God-Man-World, expressing the personal faith struggle of a believer who experiences difficult circumstances of real life in a sin-cursed world. An open window into the soul of the psalmist.
The Psalm is best divided into three distinct parts.
David comes despairingly (vv. 1-2)
David cries honestly (vv. 3-4)
David concludes joyfully (vv. 5-6)

He Comes Despairingly (vv. 1-2)

If David could have had an iTunes playlist when writing this Psalm, it would have probably had one song on it with these lyrics:
The sun is out, the sky is blue There's not a cloud to spoil the view But it's raining, raining in my heart
The weatherman says clear today He doesn't know you've gone away And it's raining, raining in my heart
Oh, misery, misery What's gonna become of me?
1. The intensity of emotion, honesty, and transparency
4 times David asks the Lord, “How long?”
These are rhetorical questions. David doesn’t want to know the number of days that God would wait before answering, he’s asking because he feels abandoned by God and his soul is in despair. The reason? Because God seemed distant, silent, and unwilling to rescue him from his circumstances. Have you ever felt this way? It’s not supposed to be like this God! I’m supposed to be your child! Don’t You see the situation I’m in…where are you? have you forgotten me?…this trouble continues on and on and it occupies my thoughts all the time…and my heart is heavy with sadness constantly and my enemy knows all of this and he gloats…don’t you care?...”
Have you ever felt this way? That God seems distant, you feel abandoned by God? Now this is not something we would necessarily like to admit because we tend to want to package Christianity in the prettiest box we can find.
“Oh things are well under control, we don’t have no troubles, no problems, everything’s running smooth around here…hey, why don’t you come on over and join the group!”...and we’re lying through our smiles some of the time because in reality we all have problems and sin to deal with now and again. But we sure do like to dress up our mess!
And here we have David in Psalm 13 and in other Psalms confirming that the walk of faith isn’t a bed of roses…it’s not easy. And he shows us what the cry of faith looks like in the middle of the struggle.
2. Reasons David feels abandoned
Verses 1-2 : A prolonged struggle
By the repeated use of “How long...”
this is perhaps the most frequent cause of feeling abandoned because we don’t tend to think this way in the short term. Oh, we may be unaware at times of God’s presence or even puzzled about what seems to be silence; but in the short term, we typically trust that God has his purposes and we try to be patient believing that God is still there (Rom. 8:28). But let the short term become a long term pattern and we begin to wonder if He will be silent forever and we begin to ask the questions “Why this? Why now? Why me?”.
When I think of prolonged struggle, I think of Job. If it wasn’t enough that he experienced the loss of family, fortune, and health, he had to suffer through the accusations of people who were supposed to be his friends!

Andrew Fuller, another of the earlier commentators, said, “It is not under the sharpest, but the longest trials, that we are most in danger of fainting. … When Job was accosted with evil tidings, in quick succession, he bore it with becoming fortitude; but when he could see no end to his troubles, he sunk under them.”4

Another reason David feels abandoned:
b. Verse 1b: A lack of apparent blessing
This is really an extension of the prolonged struggle where there has been a prolonged period of time in which the blessings of God given in an earlier time seem to have been removed. I think this is what David alludes to in the second part of verse 1 “How long will you hide your face from me?”

To say that the face of God is shining upon us is a way of saying that God is being favorable to us or blessing us. So, if God is hiding his face, what this must mean is that the times of blessing or favor seem to have ceased.

When life has been turned on its head, and God seems distant, and the blessings we once experienced have waned, it occupies our minds and we can be tempted to despair. And that’s what happens to David.
Have you ever had to swallow a pill before? One of those without the coating on the outside? You know our parents would try to tell us, okay Johnny, okay Susie, now I’m trying to help you. Just put the pill in your mouth and swallow it quickly; don’t hold it in your mouth. But what did we do? We would hide it under our tongue or behind a molar or something and it would start to dissolve…and our parent would say okay look I’m trying to help you here…just swallow it already!! But we’d refuse. That’s what David is doing in verse 2. Life circumstances can be a hard, bitter pill to swallow. But they are easier swallowed than chewed.
3. Verse 2a: Dark Thoughts and Uncontrollable Emotions
Dark thoughts and uncontrollable emotions are being expressed by David the third time he asks, “How long?” The NIV translation of verse 2a says,
 “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”
I like this translation better because it exposes the true sense of what David is happening to David and we see his initial response to his difficulty. His circumstances have overwhelmed him to the point that it becomes his constant thought pattern, trying to figure out what’s happened, did he do something wrong, what can he do to get out of this. The fog is so heavy that he has the same circular thought pattern everyday without relief and while his mind is occupied with his troubles, his heart is saddened to the point of despair.
James Montgomery Boice writes,
Psalms, Volume 1: (Psalms 1–41): An Expositional Commentary Dark Thoughts and Uncontrollable Emotions

When we no longer sense that God is blessing us, we tend to ruminate on our failures and get into an emotional funk. And when our emotions take over it is always hard to get back onto a level course. This is because the best means of doing this—calm reflection and a review of past blessings—are being swept away. We discover that we cannot settle ourselves long enough to complete the exercise.

This is true of David in this passage, and it was experienced by others in the Bible including Jonah, Job, Elijah, Jeremiah, and even the Apostle Paul (to name a few). Turn to Job 30:26-27 to see Job’s expression of despair. READ Job 30:26-27
Job 30:26–27 ESV
But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came. My inward parts are in turmoil and never still; days of affliction come to meet me.
The skeptic or the unbeliever who may be here today may be thinking, “I experience this all the time, what’s the big deal? This is life…suck it up!” Well, you’re right! For the person who doesn’t know God through Jesus Christ, this is your ordinary experience because you’re under God’s wrath and condemnation and not the object of His blessings. John 3:18 says
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
But for the believer, Jesus took God’s wrath against us on the cross and we are now reconciled to Him through faith as God’s adopted children, joint heirs with Christ, and the recipients of His grace. Paul reiterates this to the believers in the churches of Galatia in Galatians 4:4-7.
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Now David also mentions a struggle with an enemy in verse 2. He was a warrior king and it is possible that an external threat from another nation was part of his circumstances. Do you remember Elijah? He had external enemies…King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. But after the huge display of God’s power on Mount Carmel and the killing of the 400 prophets of Baal, you’d think Elijah would be having that ‘mountaintop experience’. But what happened? He became fearfully distressed about Jezebel's threat and ran for his life a day’s journey into the wilderness. Next thing we know we find him physically and emotionally drained sitting under a broom tree (a desert shrub with a broad canopy); and 1 Kings 19:4 tells us he asked God that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

In the same way, David knew what it was to be pursued by his relentless enemy King Saul and perhaps by others too. It is why he says, “How long will my enemy triumph over me?”

Most of us probably do not have literal human enemies, at least not serious enemies. But if you are a Christian, you do have one great spiritual enemy who is worse than any human enemy imaginable. This is the devil, whom the apostle Peter compared to “a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Lloyd-Jones says of this foe, “The devil [is] the adversary of our souls. He can use our temperaments and our physical condition. He so deals with us that we allow our temperament to control and govern us, instead of keeping temperament where it should be kept. There is no end to the ways the devil produces spiritual depression. We must always bear him in mind.”6

And so we’ve seen that David comes despairingly and now we see that he cries honestly. Look at verses 3-4.

He Cries Honestly (vv. 3-4)

In David’s despair and depression, he finally turns to the One who can help him, the one who was the object of his complaint at the beginning, namely God…and it’s a struggle to do so. The last thing we feel like doing when we are in despair and depressed is to pray. But we have to…we have to be a person who habitually prays and not just when things are not going well.
David, the one who would later write these words in Psalm 145:17-19
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
This same David, prayed habitually and as he begins to pour out his soul, crying out honestly to the Lord his God, he humbles himself and asks God to take three actions (Consider/look; Answer; and Enlighten/give light).

The “look” of God is an indication of his gracious attitude (Isa 63:15). Divine abandonment and alienation made the psalmist experience despair, but God’s “look,” expressive of favor, renews life. Second, the psalmist asks for God to “answer” him. The answer is a positive message of God’s favor by which the Lord frees his servant from the causes of the anguish of soul. Third, the psalmist believes that only by God’s favor will he receive “light” for his eyes. This idiom expresses the effect of God’s blessings. A man relieved from troubles and blessed with God’s protection, peace, and favor shows his inner spiritual condition in his outward appearance (cf. 36:8–9; 1 Sam 14:27, 29). His eyes sparkle with God’s grace. On the other hand, the experience of anguish is expressed by the dimness of the eyes (cf. 6:7; 38:10).

The psalmist’s prayer contains an urgent appeal for God’s covenant favor. If he were to be vexed and overcome by “death,” the enemies would have cause to gloat (vv. 3–4; cf. 35:19–21; 38:16–17). Their joy expressed not only pleasure in the fall of the godly but also in God’s failure to be faithful to his covenant promises.

It’s while David prays, that something happens within his heart and mind which leads him to his joyful conclusion in verses 5-6.

He Concludes Joyfully (vv. 5-6)

Read Psalm 13:5-6
What a miraculous change of perspective! In the span of 6 verses, God has gone from being blamed for his trouble to being praised as his salvation!
What changed? Was it his circumstances? Probably not, there is no indication in the text that they changed.
In verses 5-6, the caboose of “subjective feelings” was no longer in front of the engine of “faith”.
What changed was the way David responded to the circumstances. As he honestly and humbly prayed, he began to “believe and think right” thoughts by remembering the objective truths of who God is and His character. He began to remember God’s faithfulness during other trials he had experienced. Hope and trust was restored because God is always faithful to His children and faithful in fulfilling His promises.
If David could experience this change as a BC (before Christ) believer, how much more should we who live in the shadow of the cross!!! The child of God needs to be mindful of past challenges, because we are prone to feel forgotten by God. Spurgeon wrote:
“We write our benefits in dust and our injuries in marble, and it is equally true that we generally inscribe our afflictions upon brass, while the deliverances of God are written in water.”
In 2 Cor 1:8-10, Paul reminds the Corinthian believers of his trials and God’s deliverance. Paul says:
2 Corinthians 1:8–10 ESV
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
There is a group within evangelicalism today who would say that these things happen to us because we don’t have enough faith. David, Jeremiah, Elijah, Paul, …seriously? No, for the child of God, He uses struggle and trials to refine us…to increase our faith and conform us into the image of Christ. Why do we tend to think we should be immune to this. Didn’t Jesus tell us that we would have trouble in John 16:33? Doesn’t James tell us to:
James 1:2–4 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Closing

In closing, I remember learning how to ride a bicycle as a child. I had training wheels at first, when they came off, my Dad run behind me holding the seat so I wouldn’t fall. Can you imagine if my Dad never let go? Can you imagine me at age 17 and my Dad still holding my seat? Can you image the neighbors...“Oh, there goes Ron and his Dad again! I wonder if his Dad will ever let go?” Well folks, our God is a Father who let’s go! And He let’s go in order to teach us to trust Him when life gets dark.
And He gives us example upon example throughout the pages of Scripture of people who experienced hard times in life in order to help us remember His faithfulness and to remind us that we are not unique...We are in good company.
Please pray with me...
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