This Psalm of David was to be played upon a stringed instrument that was an octave lower than normal. It would be comparable to a cello. The song is one of distress, and a lower musical accompaniment adds to the melancholy feeling. We do not know the exact background of the psalm; all we know is that David is having a difficult time. This could be because of his sin, some sickness, the loss of a loved one, some conflict, or a combination of these things. The thing to note from this psalm is that Christians will have difficult times, and we should be open about our feelings and struggles during those times.
Cries for mercy
All believers will find themselves from time to time where they feel like God is out to get them. Elijah, Jeremiah, and Moses all experienced these feelings. Even Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” These feelings can be the result of our sins, but sometimes they are the result of a series of adverse circumstances. Regardless of why we feel this way, David shows us that we must run to God for mercy. All adversity in life should drive us to Christ, not away from Him.
Stress on body and soul
When we are going through difficult times it affects our bodies and our souls. First, sin, shame, and guilt can wreck havoc on our physical health. It can affect our sleep, our mental health, and our physical well-being. The opposite is also true; our physical suffering can begin to affect our spiritual health. We can begin to feel as if the suffering is God afflicting us. Not only do these circumstances affect us physically and spiritually, we can also begin to wonder how long it is going to be before God comes through. Again, these feelings are part of the Christian life.
Glorifying God in suffering
David’s hope is in God’s love and mercy not his own righteousness. He reminds God that he will praise God in his suffering, and that if God allows him to die his voice will be silenced. This presents one of the great questions of this psalm. Are you currently praising God no matter your circumstances? If you were to die in your distress would you go down singing God’s praises? As we saw with Satan’s temptation of Job, Satan’s goal is to get you to stop glorifying God. David here affirms that only death will silence him. This is also a huge part of his prayer for mercy. He wants God to be glorified this side of eternity, and he does not want his voice to be silenced by death.
Although we do not know the actual cause of David’s distress we do know that he was overwhelmed with grief. He is crying himself to sleep each night. He is weeping throughout the day as well. He has wept so much that it is literally affecting his eyesight.
Glorifying God before the answer comes
David continues to glorify God by expressing faith that his prayer has already been heard and answered. He glories in God’s victory over his enemies. He calls on his enemies to repent and be ashamed for their attacks on him and God.
We need to have a church culture that allows for and embraces suffering and grief. We must ensure that Christians who are in pain realize that this is a normal part of the Christian experience and that they are not alone in their doubts, questions, and struggles. We must point others to Jesus in the midst of their suffering, and we must seek to glorify God in the midst of our suffering. We must also have faith that God loves us and has heard our prayers. In light of this we must call others to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.