To be brought to a place where God is our only real hope is a merciful experience. But I don’t say that lightly. Because almost always it’s also a desperate experience.
Some external circumstance, or internal crisis, forces us into a place where our other comforts and hopes are removed or fail us. In these moments, we keenly feel our weakness and vulnerability, and we usually long and plead with God for escape.
But it is in these seasons that enduring faith is forged. And, usually in retrospect, such experiences — ones where we find that God really is our only rock, that our only real hope is from him — prove to be among the sweetest of our lives. It’s then we call them mercies.
David was experiencing a season of desperation when he composed Psalm 62.
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:1–2)
David had many desperate experiences during his lifetime. He lived in a brutal age and endured tremendous pressures. He lived much of his adult life with the threat of death looming like a shadow over him.
He lived for years as a fugitive, fleeing King Saul’s paranoia. He lived for years leading armies against aggressive enemy nations and guarding against espionage.
And worst of all, he lived for years with the anguish of watching trusted friends (Psalm 55:13–14), and even a son (2 Samuel 15:10), turn into treacherous enemies who delighted in his tribulations and conspired against his life.
He sought the Lord’s guidance when it came to waging war (2 Samuel 5:19). And when conspired against or defamed, he would not personally take revenge (2 Samuel 16:5–14). Everyone knew that he claimed to trust God.
Therefore, God’s name was at stake in how he conducted himself. If vengeance belonged to God (Deuteronomy 32:35), then he must trust God to preserve and vindicate him, and not pursue it himself.
And what did God do for David? He allowed many situations that forced David to make the Lord his one trust, his one rock, his one source of salvation. He forced David to wait for him alone.
But what was David feeling in the midst of those desperate experiences? Here’s how he described it in this psalm:
How long will all of you attack a man to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse. (Psalm 62:3–4)
David didn’t seem to be feeling like his faith was growing stronger. He was feeling weak and vulnerable and fragile.
He felt like an old stone wall, bowing out and ready to crumble. He felt like a rickety old fence that could easily topple over.
This is how we often feel when we are learning to make God our only trust. Tests of our faith often feel in the moment like threats to our faith. Whatever form of adversity we’re experiencing, it feels overwhelming.
We too feel weak, vulnerable, and fragile, like we’re going to topple over and crumble. We might feel tempted to panic.
So, what do we do?
David shows us by putting on a clinic in Psalm 62. He preaches to his troubled, weak, vulnerable, fragile soul (and ours):
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God. (Psalm 62:5–7)
This is David’s way of saying what the sons of Korah said in Psalms 42 and 43:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11)
David is telling his soul to remember the source of his hope: God. More precisely, what God had promised him.
It’s true that David’s experience was unique in that God had made specific promises to him, such as becoming Israel’s king (1 Samuel 16:13) and receiving a throne that would “be established forever” through his progeny (2 Samuel 7:12–17).
But for all the saints, hope in God is grounded on the promises of God. The promises of God, his word to us, is the fortress we flee to when we are afraid. That’s why David says it this way elsewhere: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).
David took refuge not only in the promises God made specifically to him. He took refuge in the entire revealed word of God that had been provided up to that point. That’s why in Psalm 19, David spoke of every word of God’s special revelation as having power to revive the soul, rejoice the heart, enlighten the eyes, and reward those who keep them (Psalm 19:7–11).
New-covenant believers find the same to be true. Yes, sometimes the Spirit will illumine a particular promise for us during a difficult season to help us endure. But the greater truth is that “all the promises of God find their Yes in” Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). All God’s promises are places of refuge, fortresses where we may flee when we feel weak, vulnerable, and fragile, such as:
- I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)
- Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
- If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
- My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
- Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? . . . But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:25, 33)
- We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
- After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)
- Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
And hundreds more. In the desperate season, when something or someone is threatening our hope, and we feel on the verge of collapse, we must turn from looking at the threat and instead look to the source of our hope, and say with David, “On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God” (Psalm 62:7).
The truth is that these seasons of desperation really teach us what trust means, and they train us to actually trust in God. They force David’s words to be more than just words to us:
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:8)
Desperation is not only one of the most effective instructors in trusting God; it is also one of the most effective instructors in the school of prayer. Few things move you to pour out your heart to God in earnest prayer than when everything seems on the line, and you wonder if you’re going to make it. Most people don’t run into a fortress unless they’re faced with real danger coming their way.
This is why I said that to be brought to a place where God is our only real hope is a merciful experience. But I also said that I don’t say it lightly, because I know such experiences. They have been the hardest of my life. Part of me doesn’t wish them on anyone. But the wiser part of me wishes them for everyone.
Why? Because there is nothing in the world that compares with the sweet comfort our soul experiences when we really know that our greatest hope comes from God and that he only is our mighty rock and our refuge, and that he can be trusted at all times. Whatever teaches us this turns out to be a great mercy.