Psalm 31 is an accurate description of Jesus’ agony while on the cross. Just like the psalmist, Jesus cried out to God in despair. In this psalm we have a picture of a seriously ill man whose violation of God’s will led to emotional pain and bodily weakness. Although Jesus was perfect and sinless, He took all of our sins on Himself as He was on the cross. Those sins were represented in His bodily weakness.
Perhaps Jesus prayed Psalm 31 in the days leading to His entry into Jerusalem. Perhaps it gave Him strength and comfort as He prepared for what would happen to Him in the next few days. Perhaps the psalm reminded Him that He could be honest with God about His terror and grief. Perhaps the psalm reminds us that we can also be honest with God in whatever situation we are facing. If we trust God and walk in faith, we can know that He is good and His mercy endures forever.
Jesus’ emotional suffering was cause by rejection-both by His enemies and by God. His body broke under the strain. He bore our shame on the cross, and that makes us ashamed. Can we hear some of Jesus’ sorrow in the psalm? Jesus grieved for our sins. He was rejected as His life was demanded of Him. In this crisis, Jesus threw Himself on His Father’s mercy. He asked to be taken into God’s presence, and that happened when He died.
The hands of men can harass us and oppose us, but as children of God, we are never victims of our circumstances. Throughout trials, God is our refuge and our strength. He provides stability in a broken world.
Sometimes it seems that God is removed from our situation or that He does not care about our own despair. Nothing could be further from the truth. He sees our needs differently and plans special strategies to see us through. This does not mean resolving the situation immediately. Sometimes it means giving us the confidence and power we need to endure it.
For example, well known preacher Chuck Swindoll once told the story of Terry Shafer. A few years ago she was strolling the shops in Moline, Illinois. She knew exactly what she wanted to get her husband, David, for Christmas. A little shop on Fifth attracted her attention, so she popped inside. Her eyes darted toward the corner display. “That’s it!” she smiled as she nodded with pleasure. “How much?” she asked the shopkeeper.
Her smile faded into disappointment as she realized David’s salary as a policeman couldn’t stand such a jolt. Yet she hated to give up without a try, so she applied a little womanly persistence. “Uh, what about putting this aside for me? Maybe I could pay a little each week, then pick it up a few days before Christmas?”
“No,” the merchant said, “I won’t do that.” Then he smiled. “I’ll gift-wrap it right now. You can take it with you and pay me later,” he said. Terry was elated.
Then came Saturday, October 1. Patrolman David Shafer, working the night shift, got a call in his squad car. A drugstore robbery was in progress. David reacted instantly, arriving on the scene just in time to see the suspect speed away. With siren screaming and lights flashing, he followed in hot pursuit. Three blocks later the getaway vehicle suddenly pulled over and stopped. The driver didn’t move. David carefully approached the suspect with his weapon drawn. In a split second, the door flew open as the thief produced a .45-calibre pistol and fired at David’s abdomen.
At seven o’clock in the morning a patrolman came to the door of the Shafer home. Calmly and with great care, he told Terry what had happened. Stunned, Terry thought how glad she was that she had not waited until Christmas to give her husband his present. How grateful she was that the shopkeeper had been willing to let her pay for it later. Otherwise, Dave would have surely died. Instead, he was now in the hospital—not with a gunshot wound, but with only a bad bruise. You see, David was wearing the gift of life Terry could not wait to give—his brand-new bulletproof vest.
Within the movement of events is the Designer, who plans and arranges the times and the seasons, including the minutest detail of life. You question that? Many do. But I don’t think David and Terry Shafer did. People who survive a calamity don’t have much struggle with sovereignty.
All of us struggle with loneliness from time to time. Many of us have struggled with loneliness during this pandemic, especially senior citizens. They often go days without meaningful human contact, especially if they live in long term care facilities. Their sense of isolation grows and they begin to believe that life doesn’t have any purpose or meaning. It has been heartening to see the way many people have found ways to reach out to lonely people.
Psalm 31 foreshadows the loneliness of Jesus on the cross. He was scorned and rejected. He was abandoned by the disciples. The religious and civil authorities condemned Him. The soldiers mocked and tortured Him. We must remember that we are there too. Our sin ultimately killed Him, but loneliness and death did not get the final word. God’s steadfast love had the final word. Jesus was raised from the dead. The empty tomb was not a lonely place. It was a scene of triumph.
Psalm 31 is the song of sorrow for everyone who suffers. They are forgotten like the long dead even though they live in plain sight. Christ chose to embody this psalm instead of the phrase, “Be still and know that I am God,” even though eventually every knee will bow down and every tongue will be silenced.
When a season of life is not ideal, we will run our souls ragged as we focus on our longing for the situation to be over. We have to trust that each day has a purpose. We don’t have to know what that purpose is. We can choose to trust God and look forward to our future glory. That is exactly what we need.
We might not know where life is taking us, but we can be sure that God has something prepared for us that we can’t see or imagine. That’s why we have to trust God no matter what situation we find ourselves in. Whenever we suffer, we can take comfort in the knowledge that as Christians God is always there and He will give us comfort and strength to face our situation-just like He was there for Jesus in His suffering and gave Him comfort and strength.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New Kings James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 726)
- Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 13: Psalms 1-72 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1986; pp. 247-250)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New Kings James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 723-724)
- Naji Abi-Hashem, “Daily Courage-Nov. 25,2020.” Retrieved from Oneplace@crosswalkmail.com
- Charles R. Swindoll, “Timing.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chrystal Evans Hurst, “Hopeful Surrender.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Steve Arterburn, “Trust God Each Day.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Talitha Arnold, “Honest to God.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jerry Savelle, “Honour God by Trusting Him.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Mark Tranvik, “Psalm 31:9-16.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org