Sooner or later, all of us will walk the path of sorrow and loss. J. I. Packer describes grief as “the inward desolation that follows the losing of something or someone we loved – a child, a relative, an actual or anticipated life partner, a pet, a job, one’s home,...
When we face situations of difficulty and danger we always have a choice: Should I stay or should I go? If someone is pointing a javelin at you, like Saul was at David, there’s a pretty good case for running to the hills!
But we all know that there are times when change is appropriate. We face times when we know that God is calling us to persevere. What we need is the strength to do so. This psalm is for these times. It’s about how to pray when you feel like giving up.
Here are four ways to pray when you feel that nothing is coming of your effort, everyone is against you, and you need to find the strength to persevere.
1. Challenge the voice of fear and frustration.
How can you say to my soul “Flee like a bird to your mountain”? (Psalm 11:1)
David received some well-meaning advice from his friends , which came out of fear and frustration. But notice how David challenges these voices: “How can you say [these things] to my soul…?”
In the Psalms, David not only challenges others’ voices but his own thoughts: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1).
David is speaking to himself. He is challenging himself. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:5). He is challenging the disturbance within his own soul.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones often said, “One of our main problems in the Christian life is that we spend too much time listening to ourselves and not enough talking to ourselves.”
We spend too much time listening to the voices of fear and frustration and complaining. We need to speak to ourselves–we sometimes call this “preaching the gospel to ourselves.” There is no better place to do that than when you come into the presence of God in prayer.
Come into the presence of the Father with Jesus Christ beside you. Tell him what you are feeling and what you are hearing. Bring your worst thoughts into the open, then take yourself in hand, and challenge the voice of fear and frustration right there in the presence of God.
2. Recognize the hand of God in the testing.
The LORD tests the righteous… (Psalm 11:5)
His eyelids test the children of man… (Psalm 11:4)
Remember, when the foundations are shaken, the hand of God is in the shaking. God says, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Hebrews 12:26).
What is God doing when he shakes the things that are familiar in our lives? God gives us the reason: He shakes the foundations so that “the things that cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:27).
This is what happened to Job. Job was a righteous man, and God had blessed him in many ways. But then in one day, the whole infrastructure of his life was hit by multiple disasters.
Job’s wealth, represented in flocks and herds, was plundered by raiders. His home was destroyed by a mighty wind. And worst of all, his children, who were inside the house, died in the rubble.
The foundations were shaken for Job. Suddenly all the good gifts on which we naturally depend were taken from him: Home, family, and business. It’s all gone.
Job’s wife, the one right next to him, was giving voice to her fears and frustrations: “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). It must have gone right into his soul. Job heard the voice of fear, frustration, and despair, but he took refuge in God:
“God knows the way that I take. When he has tested me I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NIV).
The testimony of this man’s faith reverberated in heaven and in hell, and even today it brings strength to believers across the world.
3. Affirm the sovereignty of God at the hardest times.
For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; (Psalm 11:7)
David overcomes fear, frustration, and the temptation to despair by fixing his mind and his heart on God. You can do the same! Fix your eyes on the Lord using Scripture:
For the Lord is righteous
God is still on the throne! I may be experiencing fear or frustration, but God is not in a panic. I can’t put things right when the foundations are destroyed, but God can. And, I can’t deal with the wicked, but God can, and he will.
He loves righteous deeds
The foundations of righteousness do not lie in our culture. They never have. The foundations of righteousness lie in who God is and in what God loves. God is still on the throne!
4. Anticipate the joy of the final outcome.
The upright shall behold his face. (Psalm 11:7)
It’s hard to imagine a greater incentive for pressing on in the pursuit of a righteous life than this: “The upright shall behold his face.” I’m going to see the face of God!
“How can you say to me, ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain’?” Why do you think that when the foundations are destroyed there is nothing the righteous can do? I’m not giving up! In God I take refuge. God is on his throne. Whatever happens in this world, I’m going to behold his face.
There’s a true story of a man by the name of William Montague Dyke. When William was ten years old, he was blinded in an accident. While he was in university, William fell in love with the daughter of a high ranking British naval officer, and they became engaged.
Shortly before the wedding, William had eye surgery in the hope that the operation would restore his sight. It was a one-time deal. If it failed, William would remain blind for the rest of his life.
Because it was only a short time away, William insisted on keeping the bandages that were on his face until the day of the wedding. If the surgery was successful, he wanted the first person he saw to be his new bride.
The wedding day arrived, and the guests assembled to witness the couple taking their vows. William’s father, Sir William Hart Dyke, and the doctor who performed the surgery stood next to the groom, whose eyes were still covered with bandages.
The organ trumpeted the wedding march, and the bride walked down the aisle to the front of the church. As soon as she arrived at the altar, the surgeon whipped out a big pair of scissors and cut the bandages from William’s eyes.
Imagine the tension in the room! The congregation held their breath, waiting to find out if William could see the woman who stood before him. As he stood face to face with his bride to be, William’s words echoed throughout the cathedral, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined.”
Friend, one day you are going to behold the Lord’s face. Having walked by faith, one day the bandages that cover our eyes will be removed. The upright shall behold his face! When you see his glory, it will be greater than you ever imagined. And you will be so, so glad you persevered.
This article was adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “How to Pray When You Feel Like Giving Up,” from his series With Christ in the School of Prayer.
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