Over the past five weeks, I’ve been writing to you about King David and the way he responds to suffering. Here's a quick summary of what we've learned in Psalm 4:
- In times of trouble, it's helpful to remember with specificity the past acts of God’s relieving mercy and grace.
- When suffering enters your door, you should be furious, but your anger should be motivated by the law of God, not the law of self.
- In moments of pain, it might be better to be silent, because you have an excellent track record of hurting others with our words.
- Worship is rarely sweeter and more heartfelt than in times of trial, because God is often in the process of removing physical treasures that compete with himself for the captivation of your heart.
- One of the last things we think about during our suffering is ministering to others, but we're called by God (and enabled by grace) to do so.
To conclude, David says something that takes me by surprise: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:7-8)
I’ll be honest with you. When I’m experiencing pain and suffering, I don’t have much joy and I don’t have much peace. In my life, my joy is typically dependent on pleasurable experiences, and my peace is typically dependent on a predictable schedule. When those things are stripped away, I convince myself I have plenty of reasons to stay awake at night!
David is facing incredibly uncomfortable and unpredictable circumstances when he pens this Psalm; by human logic, David's bitterness and restlessness 'could be' justified. But here’s why the king has joy and peace: his hope is not rooted in circumstance, but rooted in a Person.
You probably know this by now, but your life is vulnerable to dramatic change. People turn their back on you, the economy crashes, and sickness can strike at any moment. If your joy and peace are dependent on circumstance, you'll live a roller coaster life of emotion.
God's character doesn't change (see Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17). He is loving, wise, patient, strong, and kind at all times. He is a steadfast rock. When your joy and peace are rooted in his character, you have reason to fall asleep, even when life is crashing down. David is a good theologian, and his theology enables him to rest.
Now, when I read stories like this in the Bible, I can easily get discouraged. "David was a great man of faith," I tell myself. "I can never live up to his standard." But remember, this is the same David who committed adultery and murder! He is no hero of the faith; he’s a broken and sinful man, just like me.
This Psalm should challenge your faith and the way you respond to suffering, but it shouldn’t discourage you. If God can do this in the heart of David, with all his dirty laundry, why can’t he do it in your heart?
Psalm 4 isn’t the testament of an unrealistically holy Christian. Psalm 4 is a narrative of what the grace of God can do in the heart of everyone who seeks him. God will meet you in your times of trouble and give you the grace to suffer well.
Paul David Tripp
- What are some things that keep you up at night?
- What do you say to yourself when you're awake?
- What bitterness and restlessness are you experiencing right now?
- Is your joy and peace dependent on circumstance? How so?
- What can you do to get a better night sleep? (Here are 4 suggestions)