We all face seemingly insurmountable struggles in this life - loss of a loved one, disease, mental illness, events that leave you hurt, confused, unable to trust… As a Christian, there’s comfort to be found in the strength of our mighty God — but how? In the face of extremely difficult struggles, how do we rely on God’s strength?
Famous King David, the greatest non-divine king Israel ever had, experienced his fair share of struggle. Although considered the man after God’s own heart, David’s great sins threw him in spirals of depression and guilt. His son Amnon assaulted his sister Tamar (David’s daughter). His other son Absalom killed Amnon to avenge his sister. Later Absalom was killed by David’s own army. There’s some intense, mountainous struggle that David lived through. In the midst of pain, David wrote Psalm 31, which gives us insight on how we can work through our own difficulties. Psalm 31:1-5 says,
In You, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in Your righteousness. Turn Your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since You are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of Your name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for You are my refuge. Into Your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
David very literally viewed God as his fortress, his refuge - his place that he could go to receive safety and peace. A place of protection from danger. In these five short verses, David claims God as his shelter/fortress/refuge repeatedly, and I think this is where it starts for us in struggle too…
How do we rely on God as our strength in times of struggle? Recognize God as your fortress. It’s natural that when we go through struggle to look for help. It may be found in friends or family, maybe music or media (or potentially something even more destructive) to escape pain. Do you view God as a source of help, strength, and comfort? Do you legitimately see Him as a place of safety from danger and calm from storm?
If recognizing God as your fortress is where it starts, where to next? If you look at these five verses, you see David communicating. This is an honest prayer of David, reaching out to the God that he believed is the only source of strength. If we view God as our stronghold, we must then approach the fortress. You could marvel at a strong castle from afar, but if an army was chasing you down, you’d want to be safely inside that castle - not caught gazing from a distance! David didn’t only recognize God as his refuge, but approached God for help - he said, “hear me, deliver me, come to my rescue, save me!” God wants you to take your burdens to Him, and He promises to strengthen and help (Isaiah 41:10, to name one of many references), will we be faithful in approaching Him, even when it seems hardest?
Lastly, in verse five, we read David’s words of total surrender and trust — “Into Your hands I commit my spirit.” A phrase that was echoed multiple times from faithful people who committed their lives to the Lord: prophet Jeremiah, Stephen the first martyr as he was dying, and Jesus Himself on the cross. We have to view God as our fortress, approach Him in prayer, and we have to trust in the fortress strength. Not pray for the sake of praying, but praying with expectation. Trusting that God not only hears your cries for help, but will provide strength you need to continue on.
Let me just finish by saying: this is easier said than done, and I think those reading this that have been through some real tough stuff can attest. It’s easy when things are good, to believe we would quickly go to God when things get tough - but when the rubber meets the road, what will you do? Make God your strong fortress now, so that when things do go south, you will naturally run to God as your number one source of strength. David had a long-time relationship with the Lord, so when things were tough for him, it was straight to God he went. If you are struggling, know that you are loved and cared for. My prayers are for you.