Study 10 TRIUMPHING IN TROUBLE
(Scripture Portion: Psalm 142: 1-7)
It was Joseph Parker, the London preacher of the 19th century, who said, “No preacher would ever lack a congregation if he preached to troubled hearts.” Of course he was right, for when we address our words to troubled hearts we are sure that we are speaking to everyone in the congregation or who reads our words, for everyone, everywhere, sooner or later experiences trouble and trial - look up Psalm 34:19 (first part). In this 142nd psalm we find the writer, David, in great trouble; he speaks in verse 2 of “my trouble”, and the whole psalm teaches us how to be triumphant in trouble - not how to escape trouble, but how to glorify God in the midst of trouble.
1. WHAT ARE WE TOLD ABOUT DAVID’S TROUBLE?
It is important to see how David reacted to his trouble, but before we can do this, notice what he tells us about the nature of his trouble. David at this time was a fugitive and his fortunes were at their lowest ebb. His reputation had gone and he was an outcast. We do not know exactly what the trouble was to which he referred, and this is helpful because it enables us to fit our own trouble into this picture. We are, however, told three things:-
- David tells us that his trouble was very severe. In verse 3 (KJV) he tells us that he was “overwhelmed” with it. The word “overwhelmed” really means “wrapped about”, just as the smoke from a bonfire billows up and wraps you about - it engulfs you. Notice also that in verse 6 he tells us that when his trouble came upon him he was “brought very low” (KJV). This indicates a process. He went lower and lower until he felt he had touched bottom. Perhaps you are in the midst of an overwhelming experience at this time?
- David tells us that other people had contributed to the severity of his trouble. In verse 3 he says that his enemies had set a “snare” for him; they had set a trap for him. And in verse 6, he refers to those who pursued him, who were too strong for him. It is bad enough to be overwhelmed with trouble, but it is doubly bad to have trouble brought upon us through the disloyalty and malice of so-called friends. Is that happening with you?
- David tells us that no one seemed to understand or care. This must have been the hardest part of all, for it is a tremendous help if when we are in the midst of trouble we feel and know that our loved ones and friends understand the difficulties of our situation. David felt that no one understood, but he was wrong, of course, because the Lord did - look up 2 Timothy 4:17.
It is important now for us to notice what David did when he was in his great trouble, and how he reacted, because, when trouble comes upon us the important thing is how we react.
2. HOW DID DAVID REACT TO HIS TROUBLE?
The plain fact is that he triumphed over his trouble, but notice some things that he did not do when he was overwhelmed with trouble:-
- He did not brood over his trouble and do nothing at all about it. This is important. Sometimes when we are in the midst of trouble we flop, become inactive and do nothing at all about it - and this is fatal.
- He did not indulge in self-pity. He did not feel sorry for himself and wallow in a “poor me” attitude to his situation.
- He did not become bitter and rebellious. He did not question God’s love, wisdom and providence; he did not become hard, critical and ill because of his trouble.
- He did not overburden others with his trouble. As a matter of fact, he tells us that there did not seem to be any others who could help him.
What did David do when his trouble overwhelmed him? He did three very important things:-
- He brought his trouble before the Lord in prayer. Verses 1 and 2 make this very clear. As we study these verses we are impressed with the intensity and the urgency of David’s prayer (in verse 1); the definiteness of his prayer (in verse 2); and the fact that his prayer was so practical (also in verse 2) - for he says, “before him I tell my trouble.” We instinctively think of Hezekiah when he received a threatening letter from an enemy - look up Isaiah 37:14, and see what he did. We think of the Christians in the early Church who were so troubled because Peter was in prison - look up Acts 12:5, and see what they did. This is how to react in a time of trouble - bring the whole matter and bring ourselves before the Lord and ask for His gracious help. What happened when David did this?
- His faith and trust in God was deepened. In verse 3 he tells us that he was confident that God knew his “way”. This reminds us of Job 23:10. It seems that David looked up into the face of the Lord and said, “It’s all right, because the Lord knows all about me!” See also what he said in verse 5 - this surely is faith triumphing in the midst of trouble, and it reminds us of Psalm 23:4.
- David was filled with hope. He was filled with confidence concerning the future, that everything would plan out satisfactorily. It is one thing to trust God for the present moment, but what about the unknown future? What about tomorrow, and next week, and next month and next year? Shall I come out of my trouble? If we lose hope we become filled with despair - look up Acts 27:20 and see what happens when hope goes. When hope goes we are desolate, but David had hope - see what he says in verse 7, “Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.”
Here, then, is the way to be triumphant in trouble: (1) Engage in prayer; (2) Prayer will strengthen faith; (3) Faith will give hope and confidence concerning the future and God’s loving undertaking and ultimate deliverance. C.H. Spurgeon says, “The gloom of the cave is over the psalm, and yet, as if standing at the mouth of the cave itself, the prophet-poet David sees a bright light a little beyond.” If you are in trouble, in the cave, in the darkness of trial, remember this - there is a bright light “a little beyond”. Do not lose hope; put your trust in God Himself, and all will be well.