For the Christian, life can be deeply discouraging. Someone once said that discouragement is inevitable, but despair is a choice. I don’t recall who said that, but the writer of Psalm 119 certainly understood it. He spoke of his soul clinging to the dust (v. 25) and melting away for sorrow (v. 28). He asked not to be put to shame (v. 32). This is clearly a major thought in this eight-verse section of Psalm 119
This writer was at the end of his rope. What would he do? Hang on for dear life!
Life is dear, but sometimes it can be dreadful. A woman from the community recently came to see me, professing Christ, but expressing a sense of desperation and desolation.
Life can seem pretty hopeless at times—even for a Christian. Christians sometimes foolishly claim that “a true Christian” could never be so low that they would attempt suicide. Neither Scripture nor church history support that claim. Elijah perhaps never attempted suicide, but he thought it. Paul wrote of times when he despaired of life (2 Corinthians 1:8). A pastor in Brooklyn, New York, recently left a suicide note in his car before tying a dumbbell around his neck and plunging to his death in the Hudson River. He reached a point of hopelessness.
Every day is not a Friday, and if your best life is now, that may not be the best news.
Sometimes life can hit us so hard that the force of its punch can put us face down on the mat of circumstances. And it appears that our only hope for recovery is a miracle—something like a Rocky movie. But what is recorded here is much more truthful, and therefore more hopeful, than Hollywood make-believe.
So, how do we respond when we feel as though we cannot get up from off the floor? Let me suggest three faith-filled, gospel-driven, Christ-centred responses from the text before us.
Be Humble and Honest
First, be humble and honest. This writer is very transparent. Christians are to be poor in spirt and meek of heart. This means that they will be honest about their struggles.
Christians are not exempt from the hardships of life. In fact, they often encounter more of them (see Philippians 1:29). I think of Nabeel Quereshi, who bears witness in his autobiographical testimony of salvation that his conversion experience was incredibly difficult for him because of the loss of relationship with his loved ones. Before coming to Christ, things were, in some ways, easier for him.
When we are faced with the struggles of life, we need to be honest to God. The psalms are filled with such honesty.
In your honesty, speak to God—of course! But also speak to others, or at the least, to another. Confess your sins and failings to one another and experience healing. Read 2 Corinthians and be encouraged by Paul’s very autobiographical honesty.
As despairing as the psalmist was, he was at the same time hopeful. He hopefully asked God to give him life according to his word (v. 25). He prayed for God to strengthen him by his word (v. 28). He knew that God could and would enlarge his heart (v. 32).
The psalmist suffered from some kind of heart problem. He was honest about his broken heart. But he trusted the Lord that he would do something about it. The question is, what was the source of this hope? And the answer is, God’s Word.
There is always a danger of false hopes. I recently read Reclaiming Hope, an autobiographical of Michael Wear’s time in the Obama administration. Wear served as an evangelical religious advisor to President Obama during his presidency. He talks about what he learned in his time in the White House. He concludes that Christians should not place their hope in politics, but encourages Christians to bring their hope to politics. Our hope is in God, rooted in his word. If you regard vain idols, you forsake your hope of steadfast love (Jonah 2:8). But if your hope is properly rooted, you will be enabled to persevere.
Dr. Raphael Warnock said, “It takes a tough mind and a tender heart to hold on to hope.” But how do we get such a mind and heart? By placing our trust in the God of all hope. The Word gets us to this point. We daren’t neglect the two pillars of prayer and the Word.
Finally, we must hold on. We’ve all word the homespun wisdom, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” That is not bad counsel. But it is not always the best counsel. Rather, the best counsel is that, when you come to the end of your rope, let go and grab something else—in this case, God’s promises.
Let go and let God is a cheap euphemism. Yet it is true that we need to trust God when we are in difficulties. We need to let go of that which will, in the end, only prove to be a thread that will not hold us.
But what specifically must we hold onto? The gospel. This is the word to which we must cling. The word from God which assures us that he is for us. We need to cast all our care upon Christ who cares for us. We need to hand off our burden to him by obeying him. We need to let go of our own schemes and lay hold of the gospel.
The good news of the gospel includes the reality that we are not alone but that God is with us (Matthew 1:23). And because he is with us (in a personal, salvific way) we know that he is also for us (Romans 8:31).
Sometimes we have to wait for the good news. The biblical record is such that we had news report after news report concerning what God would do. God’s people often clung to the dust as they experienced hardship and opposition. At times their circumstances were so awful that I am sure they wondered whether there was any real future for them.
But then, after the last chapter of the old covenant—and after a long history of bad news—the good news finally arrives on the first page of the new covenant. The word and promise to which God’s faithful few clung so tightly had now come to pass. And, with it, the Israel of God was revived (Galatians 6:16).
So, Christian, to what will you cling? Will you preach the gospel to yourself? Will you listen as others preach it to you? Will you preach it to one another? As you do, you will find yourself joyfully hanging on for dear life. After all, you will be reminded of that which is so dear: the life of Christ.
To those who are not Christian, what’s keeping you from becoming one? You have no hope of truly getting up apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. So repent and trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. He rose from the dead. He who revived is the only one who can revive you and me. Ask him to do so—today.