The Psalms act as the perfect counselor. In Psalm 31 we get a picture of the real life of faith as opposed to a version that says faith will make your way in this life smooth and care free. David honestly expresses a wide range of human emotion and points us to the Rock of our salvation.
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame (v.1)
Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! (v. 2)
For you are my rock and my fortress… (v. 3)
Sometimes David pleads for God to be for him what he already is. He makes God his refuge in verse 1, pleads for God to be his refuge in verse 2 and then declares confidently in verse 3 that God is his refuge. Do you find that strange? I find it comforting because in the midst of the the trials of this life, I can be tossed to and fro by various waves. What I thought was true one minute becomes obscured the next. The truth about God that was once bright before my face has become clouded. I need the Lord to be for me in my specific circumstances what he has promised to be. Yes, Lord, drive the dark of doubt away.
You take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit…(v.4-5)
Notice the change of location in these next two verses. David felt trapped in a net his enemies had laid. Most likely this was not a literal net, but for David, the feeling of confinement was real. From that net, God rescues him and in response, David commits his spirit into God’s hand. From the dangerous net into the faithful hand of God. Though God doesn’t have physical hands, the imagery is one of intimate care and security.
Throughout the rest of the psalm, David swings back and forth between pleading and praising, lamenting his situation and yet breaking out in praise.
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! (v. 14-15)
Notice again the contrast of place, this time between God’s hand and the hands of his enemies. Sometimes we just need to take ourselves in hand and declare our allegiance to the God who has designed each of our days. I love how bold he is in his requests:
Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love! (v. 16)
David echoes the blessing from Numbers 6 here in asking for God’s favor, and then implores him to bring his righteous judgment on the wicked. And then suddenly, in verse 19, confident praise explodes out of his mouth:
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! (v. 19)
Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. (v. 21)
Looking more closely at v. 19, do you see a foreshadowing of Romans 8:28? God stores up abundant goodness and works it for his people! Let your mind dwell on that for a while and I’m sure it will put wind in the sails of your faith. There are many times when our tossing to and fro in agonizing prayer results in this outburst of confidence as God mercifully shines his gracious light into our hearts. But there are other times when we continue to struggle and look for deliverance. That’s why I love how the psalm ends.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! (v. 24)
The realism of this psalm is comforting. Sometimes light pours through but sometimes we wait until the clouds and the storms roll by. This is what we need in the times when we’re confused, wandering around questioning whether God hears us, whether God cares. In those times, we need to remember the testimony of the psalmists who have experienced the same distress. And of our Lord Jesus, who undoubtedly prayed this Psalm and who the author of Hebrews says mercifully sympathizes with our weaknesses. He is with us in our distress and confusion. He himself experienced the same. And so we can take courage and wait even when the light hasn’t come yet.