(This devotion is day thirteen of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
Read Psalm 28
As you read through this Psalm, you might have wondered if you had the right verses. If thanksgiving is supposed to be joyful, why are we reading such a downer of a psalm?
Psalm 28 is a lament psalm. David seeks God’s mercy in distressed circumstances. It’s not until verse six that his tone shifts, and even then, it’s not because he has an epiphany or his enemies flee.
So why didn’t I choose a more positive, even peppy, psalm? It’s because this is real-life. While some Christian literature and music oversell us on a mountaintop faith without valleys, that’s not the biblical portrait of life in a fallen world. As Jesus told us, in this world we will have troubles (John 16:33). David teaches us we can be both sorrowful and rejoicing. Grief and gratitude can go together. We can lament and give thanks to the same God at the same time, even in the same circumstances.
I hope that’s an encouragement to you. Life with Christ gives rest. His commands aren’t burdensome (1 John 5:3). Grace upon grace abound toward us and cover us (John 1:16; Romans 5:20). But unfortunately, we add burdens, expectations, and crushing guilt on our shoulders that Jesus never intended us to carry. Sometimes we put them there. Sometimes others pile them on us. And sometimes our enemy drops them on us like a ton of bricks. In a moment of stillness, you feel the weight upon you.
One way this plays itself out is many Christians assume they’ve done something wrong when life is hard. We wrongly assume trials are a sign of God’s displeasure. We might think we’re called to put on a happy face no matter what, never experiencing emotion through storms, never grieving brokenness, and never lamenting injustices. This might seem like a small thing, but God never calls us to a fake happiness where we’re fading on the inside while forcing a smile on the outside. The Christian life isn’t one of gloom-and-doom, but it’s also not one of eternal sunshine where clouds never cross our path.
David’s Trust in Trials
David offers us encouragement by how he endures hardship honestly. He feels turmoil through trials and he laments struggles, whether they be attacks from enemies or God’s seeming silence. And yet, he trusts in God and gives thanks to God who hears our cries for mercy (28:6), is our strength and shield (28:7), our helper (28:7), a refuge (28:8), and a shepherd who carries us (28:9). In trials, we trust. Trust allows us to bring both our complaints to Him in lament and our praise to Him in thanksgiving.
As David gives thanks to God rather than grumbles to himself, fears give way to faith. The more he considers what he’s facing, while also considering the God who has his back, the more his confidence grows that God will deliver him again. By praying, his frustration with God’s silence begins turns to trust that God hears and will act. All of this leads him to recall who God is—a shield, strength, and shepherd—so he can bless His name.
David gives thanks to God in advance of receiving the answer to his prayer (28:7). That’s faith. He knows God hears and will take care of this situation in faithfulness and love. His giving thanks is a down-payment of gratitude, not just for God listening, but in belief God will answer His cry.
Paul talks about this kind of praying with thanksgiving in Colossians 4:2. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” To be watchful in thanksgiving as we pray suggests we’re looking for God to answer. Our heart possesses both trust and thankfulness, so much so that even before we see our prayer answered, we’re giving thanks and watching in hope.
This psalm teaches us to pray when our faith is weak and our trust is leaking. Don’t wait to have an unshakeable faith to turn to God. In stresses and sorrows, and in weakness or wavering, talk to God and consider His faithfulness. As we do so, our low-levels of trust begin to be refueled. As trust grows, our perspective changes.
May we be like David in our weariness and discouragement by still proclaiming, “In Him my heart trusts” (28:7). One way we do this is by giving thanks, even when there’s just as much to lament as there is to be thankful for. God is still our helper. He’s our shield, savior, strength, and shepherd. God will deliver us and carry us. God isn’t distant but is present. Our prayers are not going unheard since He always hears our cries.
Talk to Him. Lament to Him. And also give thanks to Him. Mercy is on its way, if it hasn’t already landed on your doorstep.