In these days characterized by repeated lockdown, constant inconvenience, forced isolation, and a seemingly never-ending stream of bad news, do you find yourself increasingly tired, frustrated, and burdened? Or, if you don’t, do you know anyone who does? What, as Christians, are we supposed to do in response?
This morning, from Psalm 61, we’re going to find some divine guidance on what to do when we we feel weary and inadequate, helpless and fearful. As we study this passage, we’re going to find that it’s comprised of three prayers that you and I can and should be praying during times of struggle.
If you’ve been with us the last couple of weeks you’ll know that we’ve been engaged in a brief series of sermons exploring how to be family from afar. How are we, as a local church, to function, grow, and pursue our God-given purposes while forced apart for a season due to circumstances beyond our control?
Two weeks ago, the example of the early church in Acts 8 encouraged us to scatter with purpose, using this time to be witnesses for Christ in ways that, perhaps, weren’t as available a year ago.
Last week we saw, from Romans, that if we want to be a church that grows in our service of one another, love for one another, and acceptance of one another, we must first be a people so captivated with the mercies of God that we each lay ourselves down before him unreservedly as an act of worship.
This morning I want to talk about weariness. If you’re like me, you may find it difficult to be a witnesses for Christ and a living sacrifice unto God when you’re feeling beat-down, overwhelmed, and frustrated.
What do we do when we feel weary and inadequate? Turn to Psalm 61. In this short psalm we’re going to find some insights on how to deal with weariness.
(And, if you’re thinking, “I actually don’t feel that weary,” first, praise God; Second, I have no doubt you know someone who is. So, my prayer is that Psalm 61 will help you help them.)
As we study this passage, we’re going to find that it’s comprised of three prayers that we can and should be praying during times of struggle. So, I’m going to tell you right now that our application for this week is to pray the prayers the psalmist prays in Psalm 61. Let’s see what they are.
Prayer #1: “God, Strengthen Me Again!”
Prayer #1 is found in the opening three verses and, simply stated, it’s this: “God, strengthen me again!”
The title of the psalm reveals it is “of David.” David, the man who once killed a lion and a bear as a young shepherd. David, the man who once defied a career warrior in Goliath and dropped him with a single stone. David, a gifted and talented musician. David, a man of whom the nation wrote songs to commemorate his bravery. David, the anointed and reigning king of Israel and the vice-regent of God himself.
If there was ever anyone who had the wherewithal and ability to deal with problems that arose in his life, it was this David.
And yet, as the psalm begins, we find even this king coming to the end of himself, facing troubles that pushed him beyond his ability to handle, and calling out for divine aid.
Hear my cry, O God;Psalm 61:1–2a
Give heed to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
While we don’t know the exact circumstances David was facing, that last phrase gives us a clue. He’s feeling separated. Perhaps he’s literally apart from God’s house—the tabernacle—in Jerusalem. We know that multiple times during David’s life, because of war or rebellion, he was running for his life. And, for an OT saint to be forced away from God’s place of worship, was devastating. Today, because of the coming of the Holy Spirit and his indwelling ministry, our bodies are God’s temples (1 Cor 6:19). But then, it was all about a physical place. So, perhaps it was a forced physical separation David here grieves.
Or, maybe it’s a figurative separation. Whatever David’s facing, he’s feeling like an outcast, distant from what’s important, alone, vulnerable, and scared. “My heart is faint,” he admits. The worries of life have overwhelmed him to the point of exhaustion, like carrying a heavy weight up a long incline, it gets heavier and increasingly unbearable.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever faced circumstances that grind you down causing fatigue, loneliness, and frustration? I’m sure some of us would say, um, “Right now.”
That’s what David’s facing. And, in spite of all his resources and ability, he’s come to the end of himself and, in desperation, calls upon God knowing that, should he not “heed to [his] prayer,” he’s done for.
In this dire situation, what does David ask of God?
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.Psalm 61:2b
During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it wasn’t uncommon to see images on the news of people in New Orleans on top of their cars or houses, desperately trying to stay above the rising waters.
David’s asking here, “God, keep me above the rising turmoil. Take me to higher ground!” He can’t get there on his own; he must be led and he’s confident that God will do it. And why’s he so confident?
For you have been a refuge for me,Psalm 61:3
A tower of strength against the enemy.
David’s asking for help from a God who has helped him in the past. Maybe he was remembering the sound of Goliath hitting the dirt or the rush of adrenaline as he dodged Saul’s spears. Maybe it was all coming back to him in a moment. Whatever the case, David’s desperate prayer was rooted in memories of past deliverance.
Has God ever come through for you? Answered prayer? Shown his power and kindness? And, if so, do you use those instances to fuel present confidence? Not assuming upon the Almighty (“He did this in the past so he must do it again!”) but recognizing his ability, compassion, power, and care.
David is crying out: God, I need you and know you can help because you’ve done it before. And for us, though we face weariness, can find strength in a God who has helped his people before. That’s prayer #1: “God, strengthen me again!”
Prayer #2: “God, Remind Me to Whom I Belong!”
Prayer #2 is found in verses 4 and 5 and it’s this: “God remind me to whom I belong!” David now turns his attention to the future.
Let me dwell in your tent forever;Psalm 61:4
Let me take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
Remember, in the time of David, God’s presence was most palpably experienced and most dramatically understood to reside in the temple, tabernacle, sanctuary, tent. Where would David feel the most safe? In God’s presence because there is perfect refuge; shelter from the weariness of this world and the stressors that steal hours of sleep.
David wants God’s loving and powerful presence draped around him like a heavy blanket on a cold night with the flames of the Holy Spirit ablaze in the nearby fireplace. David longs for that comfort.
Why can he make such a bold request?
For you have heard my vows, O God;Psalm 61:5
You have given me the inheritance of those who fear your name.
David can ask God for comfort because he knows God listens to him. And he knows God listens to him because of his inheritance as someone who fears God.
The second half of verse 5 is huge! David knows his status before God and so he can come before him with confidence. God has given him the inheritance that he gives to all who fear him. For an OT saint, to be in awe of God, to revere and worship him, was to receive the blessing of fellowship for all eternity. David knows and leans on the promises that God has made to his people.
And so it is for us. For all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we await our adoption as children of the Most High (Gal 4:5), and, being his children, we’re heirs with Christ to all that is God’s (Gal 4:7; Rom 8:17).
Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 1.
In [Christ], you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.Ephesians 1:13–14
Brothers and sister, if you have heard and believed “the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation,” it’s a done-deal. You have been sealed by God himself, brought from darkness into light with no return ticket; you belong to him.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price …1 Corinthians 6:19–20a
As believers, we belong to God, and he does not lose his own.
David was weary. But he calls out, “God, remind me to whom I belong. I’ve feared your name and like all who do that, you have given me an inheritance. I forever belong to you.”
And that’s a prayer you and I can pray as well. No matter how beat-down we become, no matter how disenfranchised, fearful, frustrated, or confused, none of that changes the fact that as believers in Jesus Christ, we belong to the God of all creation.
Our world has made a commodity of self-love, self-esteem, self-image, and self-confidence. “Know who you are. Be your true self. Find your truth.” Why is messaging like that so attractive and effective? Because it’s selling stability of identity in a world that has zero.
As Christians, we know exactly who we are. We are blood-bought children of the God of the universe, heirs to an inheritance that will never spoil or fade, future inhabitants of a kingdom that will never end and subjects of a perfect King. When we know to whom we belong, where our identity lays, hardships don’t go away in this world, but they become endurable. And so, as weary travellers today, we pray with David: “God, remind us to whom we belong!”
Prayer #3: “God, I Will Praise You Forever!”
Prayer #1: “God, strengthen me again!” Prayer #2: God, remind me to whom I belong!” And that brings us to the final prayer (Prayer #3) that weary people must pray: “God, I will praise you forever!”
You will prolong the king’s life;Psalm 61:6–8
His years will be as many generations.
He will abide before God forever;
Appoint lovingkindness and truth that they may preserve him.
So I will sing praise to your name forever,
That I may pay my vows day by day.
Who’s the king? David is! And notice what he’s saying about himself: His life will be prolonged, lasting “many generations”; he will “abide before God forever,” preserved by lovingkindness and truth.
Again, how can David say those things? Isn’t he being presumptuous? Well, not if that’s what God promised! In fact, because God is full of “lovingkindness,” or hesed (loyal love, faithfulness), the psalmist knows God is good to his word, what he says will happen will happen, and, in times of insecurity (like those he’s experiencing), he breaks out those irrefutable promises for security.
David is planning to spend eternity in God’s presence, as he’s been promised, free from all his current troubles. And what’s he going to do when he’s there? He’s going to “sing praise” and make good on all he said he would do. He’s going to worship.
What has God promised us? There are too many to list right now, but let’s review a sample. He will never leave you nor forsake you. His grace is sufficient for you. You will be conformed to the image of Christ. You will be with God forever. You will be resurrected. You will dwell on a new heavens and new earth for eternity in the presence of the God you love and serve.
These are promises made by a God who can’t lie, has the power to fulfill all of them, and the perfect wisdom to know the right time for each. And, even if we don’t feel like praising God in the present, we can call out of our weariness, “God, I will praise you forever!”
Imagine the most exciting day you can think of—family, friends, celebration, food, excitement, joy. Now suppose that day is scheduled for this coming Saturday. It’s on its way. It’s happening.
Now suppose that between now and then, you have a tough week. Work is hard, school is uninteresting, and you feel sad and beat-down. None of that changes the fact that Saturday’s coming. That beautiful day is on the horizon and, because you know it’s fast approaching, you can endure the doldrums of the days leading up to it.
As God’s people, though we have seasons of weariness, we can find security and joy in God’s eternity-focused, praise-inducing promises.
There we have it. Three prayers weary souls must pray. “God, strengthen me again.” “God, remind me to whom I belong.” “God, I will praise you forever.”
If you’re feeling tired, weary, beat-down, lonely, discouraged, fearful, uncertain, unworthy, useless, or anything else like that, pray these prayers this week. Instead of dwelling on our temporal frustrations and circumstances, use them as a springboard off of which we can jump to declarations of dependance, trust, security, and praise.
If you watch or read the news on a daily or semi-daily basis, you know that the news is the opposite of what we’re talking about this morning. The news, while possibly informative, grounds us in the temporal turmoil of our day. It’s a swamp of fear-inducing helplessness.
I want to encourage you to use the news this week to prompt David’s prayers in your life. Whether you watch the news in the morning, read it at lunch, or scroll through it in bed at night, as you’re reminded of the world’s chaos, as the news describes for you all the reasons you have to feel faint of heart, pause, and pray these three prayers: “God, strengthen me again.” “God, remind me to whom I belong.” “God, I will praise you forever.”