Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the challenges that faced you? Have you felt that the decisions you had to make were just too great or the responsibilities were too difficult for you to bear? In those moments, did you long for rest and quiet in your soul? How should the believer respond when confronted with intimidating circumstances or with opponents that are much stronger than they are?
In Psalm 131, David teaches the believer to trust the Lord, especially in those areas that are beyond his area of control or responsibility.
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty,
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul.
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord, from this time forth and forever.
It seems to me that this psalm was written when David was in distress. Whether the adversaries are real or imagined, or whether they are objectively overwhelming or just appear to be overwhelming at this time, David’s faith is being tested in this trial. So, like many of David’s psalms, the context here is distress. The Lord has led David into circumstances that are causing him to be anxious and to fear and to worry.
And doesn’t that same thing happen to us? Are there not many times when the Lord places us in circumstances where our stomach tends to get tight and our throat becomes dry and our voice begins to quiver just a little? The Lord has led us to a place of distress to see if we love Him or not. He is always asking, “Do you trust Me now?”
Notice, however, the way David responds to the distress and the testing. David first realizes that his sin of pride is at the root of the problem and is hindering his trust of the Lord. It is always the case, that sin always hinders trust in the Lord. Sin always weakens our walk with Christ and always causes us to depend more on the flesh and less on the spirit. David, therefore, reminds himself that he must smother his pride. He willfully tells himself that he will not involve himself in great matters or in things too difficult for him. It is these great matters that cause the godly man to stumble, either causing him to swell with pride because he handled some great matter or causing him to shrink back in fear and anxiety and unbelief because the matter is too overwhelming.
But what is the result when David chooses to trust the Lord? When David chooses to simply rest upon the Lord as a weaned child rests against his mother, his soul is composed and quieted within him. David has humbled his heart and has trusted the Lord and the rest and the peace come to him from the Lord.
David concludes the psalm with an exhortation based on his own experience of the Lord’s faithfulness. “O Israel, hope in the Lord . . .” If the believer will trust in the Lord, even in those circumstances where the enemies are overwhelming and the responsibilities are much greater than your own resources can address, then your soul will be composed and quieted and your faith will grow and God will be pleased. The Lord is always pleased by our faith and trust in Him (Hebrews 11:6) and will always reward those who trust Him and fear Him.
I want to suggest one quick practical applications for the lessons from this psalm.
First, I personally rely on this psalm and recite this psalm to myself when matters that are “above my pay grade” or are way outside my area of responsibility begin to fill my mind with fear and dread. These fears occur at those times when I do not take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5), but rather allow my mind to muse and to meditate on threatening situations in my world. When my thoughts drift to things like the stock market or like how my financial future will turn out, my fears naturally grow. What will the President do next? Or what will some other world leader do next? Will the world economy collapse? Is my health failing? Is my job threatened, and if that is the case, could I ever get another job again? If I am not careful about this and alert to this type of thinking; if I allow my mind to dwell on these “great matters” or on these “things (much) too difficult for me,” then I will quickly become discouraged and depressed and my soul will be anything but composed and quieted within me.
But if I instead say to myself, “Roy, Stop! Do not get involved with these ‘great matters!’ These are things too difficult for you. These are things that are way outside your area of responsibility. These are all matters that you must cast onto the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) and entrust to Him. These great matters are things you cannot influence and things above your pay-grade. Trust the Lord with them and cease worrying about them and stop thinking about them at all. Entrust these to the Lord and then concentrate all your energies and efforts on those things that you can influence and that you should be influencing. Focus on obedience (doing those things that you are commanded to do) and on trusting the Lord (on those things that only He can do).” When I do this, then my soul will not be anxious or fearful, but will be composed and quieted within me and will be at peace.
SDG rmb 3/16/2016