Life doesn’t just become easy when you make a decision to follow Jesus. I think all of us who have walked in our faith journey long enough can attest to that. But even as a believer, God can feel so far away sometimes. When trouble comes, we sit wondering where on earth He is and why He isn’t near. But it is evident in scripture that He is near. And closer than we sometimes think.
When Trouble Comes and God Feels Far Away
I’ve spent over a decade now as a follower of Christ and I can say with certainty that some of the struggles of life during that time have been just as difficult (if not, more difficult) than the nearly three decades of my life before that.
From a young age, I have been called a worry wart. I overanalyze everything and always check out situations and solutions to problems for long-term implications. I prefer to see this as a strength. Maybe even a superpower. I mean, who doesn’t want to be able to predict future disaster for every situation. Well, I can. Or at least I like to think so. If you’re a fan of This is Us, you know about Randall and Beth’s game of Worst Case Scenario, right? I would be the Michael Phelps of that game!
Because I’m so good at predicting disaster, when disaster really shows up, I head into a downward spiral faster than a greasy kid on a slip-n-slide.
What Jesus Said About Trouble (And Hollywood Movie Plots)
I start wondering if God has left me. Why does it always feel like we are struggling because of other’s choices? Don’t I deserve to just get a break? Why? Why? Why!
Sister, I know you feel that way sometimes too. After all, Jesus did promise that we would have trouble in this world. He says so right in John 16:33 (NIV), “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (emphasis mine)
Do you see that? He didn’t say maybe, might, could possibly happen, or might could, like we say sometimes in the South. Jesus said that we will have trouble. And then (I love this part so much), he says “But take heart!”
It’s like that all-is-lost moment in the movies. All hope has gone. We think the hero has fallen off the cliff while saving the baby ducklings from their doom. But wait! A hand suddenly appears and grabs a hold of the top of the cliff. Our hero is not lost. He’s made it! This is where everyone in the movie theater cries out and breaks out into applause. (You do that too, don’t you?)
That’s what this is here. Jesus brings us on an emotional roller coaster. In a matter of 15 words, we go from all-is-lost to but-wait to hero-rises-from-the-dead.
What We Can Learn From David: Psalm 34’s Backstory
I love the Psalms. The way God uses King David’s creative talent to send messages to us during our times of trouble is beautiful to me. King David can go from the all-is-lost moment to praising God within one Psalm and it’s such an amazing picture for us.
Psalm 34 takes place during an all-is-lost season for David.
How David Goes from Hero to Zero
Let’s set up the scene with a little backstory, shall we?
First Samuel 18. Saul is king of Israel. David has already slain Goliath and he has become a champion for Israel. Every task Saul sends David on, he is successful. In fact, he even has an unofficial fan club. It says so in the Bible.
“Women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing” and as they danced, they sang “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:6-7, NIV).
Women were coming out in droves!
And you thought only Justin Timberlake had major fan-girls.
Saul’s Jealousy Over David ‘Bringing Sexy Back’
Try as he might, Saul couldn’t keep from beginning a long-running bout of jealousy and hatred toward David. Saul even tried to kill David (almost spearing him twice) while David was playing music for Saul! (1 Samuel 18:10 – 11)
What the What!
Oh, girl. It gets better!
So Saul hurls his spear at David. TWICE!
After that, I guess they reconcile. Maybe have some sort of bro-handshake and a no-worries-man-we-all-have-bad-days hug with a pat on the back. Scripture isn’t really clear about that part. But then, Saul tries to marry off not just one but TWO of his daughters to David. And David accepts! (1 Samuel 18:12 – 27) He actually chooses to be the son-in-law of the king who has tried to kill him. It says, in verse 26, that David was actually pleased to become his son-in-law.
David Flees to Gath and Psalm 34 is Inspired
By the time we hear from David in Psalm 34, he finds out that Saul, yet again, is set on killing David (shocker!). So finally he wises up and flees. He appears before Achish the king of Gath, who recognizes the mighty soldier David is (the one who has slain tens of thousands) and David is in fear of his life. He pretends to be a madman in order to save his own skin. Who can blame him really?
And this is David’s mindset when we read Psalm 34.
*Now, if you are getting hung up on 1 Samuel 21 mentioning Achish as the king of Gath and Psalm 34 referencing Abimelech, feel free to read this article discussing Abimelech and Achish being the same person. There are many articles out there discussing this, like this article on Defending Inerrancy discussing whether there is a mistake in Psalm 34 since there are two different names.
Go ahead and check it out. I’ll wait.
Good to have you back. Let’s move on, shall we?
Where is God When Trouble Comes?
Read Psalm 34.
All throughout, David is praising God. David isn’t superhuman here. He is in fear of his life and not sure who he can trust. I imagine some of this Psalm isn’t so much him feeling but believing the truth about God.
Check out Psalm 34:17-19.
The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers them from them all.
Oh, how I love that!
Sister, please go read that again. (And again and again, if you have to.)
The Lord hears you. He is close to you. He saves you. In times of trouble, He will deliver you.
Related Post: Eve’s Deception: How Can We Avoid Her Missteps?
One More Word To Think About
When trouble comes, you have no fear. He has not gone far away. He is nigh as the King James Version says in verse 18.
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of broken heart.
And that is beautiful.
Strong’s Concordance defines the word nigh as near. It emphasizes not only our coming into the presence of God but “a nearness of the closest and most intimate kind” (p. 256).
My heart just melts.
When trouble comes, our hearts are broken, and our spirits are feeling crushed, the Lord is near. Not the triple-pat-you-during-a-side-hug kind. It’s the kind that settles on the ground, brings you into His lap, holds your head against His chest, and rocks you while you cry uncontrollably. That is what the Lord does when trouble comes. He’s not the awkward stranger we accidentally bawl in front of in the produce aisle at the grocery store. Instead, He is the loving Father who drops everything to comfort his child.
Oh, how He loves us!
Sister, when trouble comes and you are broken hearted, remember that your heavenly Father is nigh. Because that is how much He loves you.
When was a time when trouble was close but God was closer?
Strong, J.& Kohlenberger, J.R., III. (2001). Nigh. In The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible Red-Letter Edition. p. 256. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.