Trading anxiety for joy
Psalm 40 is Biblical balm to a soul besieged by anxiety.
David, the shepherd boy turned king, the warrior and worrier, the great sinner and even greater repentant, frequently laid out his heart to the Lord in the Psalms.
Through lyrical laments sung from his earthly throne, David authentically approached the King of kings in times of stress and suffering.
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
David knew the Source of his power. He knew the origin of Peace. He knew Who had knit him together and ordained all his days (Psalm 139:13,16). David could be a confident leader because he was first a humble servant to the Lord, often praying prostrate, awestruck and humbled by his Creator.
More than half of the 150 Psalms are ascribed to David. These poems show his progression from shepherding a flock of sheep to leading the nation of Israel, from cheating and murdering to confessing and praising God for rescue and redemption.
David's persistence in confession, not his perfection, is what made him a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22).
Through the Psalms, God in His graciousness lets us peer into these intimate conversations. We find a man, anointed but iniquitous, with whom we can very much relate. David was often beset by guilt, fear and trouble. Some of this anxiety was brought on by his own rebellion. Other aspects of David's angst came with his calling: opponents of his kingdom, wars, jealous and spiteful pursuers dead set on killing him, his own flesh and blood turned against him.
These guttural cries of paradox - joy in the midst of burden - reveal how painfully familiar David was with an anxious spirit. This anxiety didn't disqualify him from the Lord's work or reveal a weakened faith. It pushed him into deeper relationship with the Lord as he continually poured out his heart, honest and raw, to the Healer.
The Psalms are air to breathe when our spirits are suffocating.
David cried out to the Lord when anxiety built up like a tidal wave and threatened to overwhelm him. God clearly met him in his lonely pit, so that David could conclude, no matter the circumstance, "I trust in you, O Lord" (Psalm 31:14).
In David we find a brother and a witness to the wonder of walking with God through valleys of despair. We also find an incredible source of joy and relief when we see David proclaim the relentless compassion, protection and faithfulness of the Lord.
The prayers of the Psalms expand our view of what it means to worship. We can sing hallelujah all while heaping ashes on our heads (Job 2:8-10).
In Psalm 40, David’s song of thanksgiving and tearful testimony shows us how to exchange being overwhelmed by life to being overjoyed in Jesus. As we journey with David in this passage, our own conflicting emotions of stress and relief, strife and joy, are recognized, articulated and validated.
This refreshing heart cry can transfer an aching spirit plagued by anxiety, depression or worry to a place of authentic, God-centered joy. In this particular psalm, we see David proclaiming the Lord’s faithful and redemptive deliverance. We see him pledging to use his platform for declaring God’s wonderous works. We see him running to the Lord tirelessly and expectant of the joy that will come in the morning.
The following are six steps revealed in Psalm 40 for the anxious and overwhelmed heart to enter into a joy-filled life in Jesus:
“I waited patiently for the Lord, and he turned to me and heard my cry for help.
1. Run to Jesus
The Psalmist, desperately aware of his dependence and need, is waiting on the Lord - not running ahead of Him or away from Him. We, too, must run to Jesus when we feel our spirits start to stumble on the troubles of this world. Trust that when you call on Jesus, He will answer you (Psalm 91:15).
He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure.
2. Release it to Jesus
The Psalmist unashamedly admits he’s in a bleak and barren pit. He knows he cannot climb out by himself. He needs a strong and righteous hand to pull him up. Our primary pit is before salvation, when we are spiritually dead in our sins. Only God can pull us out.
But once in Christ, we never outgrow the Gospel or the need to be led through life’s many refining pits. This kind of humility before God ushers holiness into our lives, hushes fear and brings us one step closer to complete joy in Christ.
Don’t be ashamed of your pit or deny when you are in one. Release it to Jesus, and He will lift you up and place you on secure and solid ground.
Verses 3 – 10:
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and they will trust in the Lord.
How happy is anyone who has put his trust in the Lord and has not turned to the proud or to those who run after lies!
Lord my God, you have done many things— your wondrous works and your plans for us; none can compare with you. If I were to report and speak of them, they are more than can be told… I delight to do your will, my God, and your instruction is deep within me.
I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; see, I do not keep my mouth closed— as you know, Lord. I did not hide your righteousness in my heart; I spoke about your faithfulness and salvation; I did not conceal your constant love and truth from the great assembly.
3. Report the rescue
When God pulls you out of a pit and puts a new song in your mouth – or even while He is still revealing the story of your redemption – report the rescue. Tell of His goodness and faithfulness. Identify your “great assembly,” your sphere of influence with whom you can testify about this living and active God. Be like the grateful leper who came back to Jesus to thank Him after being healed, and not like the other nine who didn’t (Luke 17:17-18). Offer a sacrifice of praise with your mouth, making much of Him.
Lord, you do not withhold your compassion from me. Your constant love and truth will always guard me. For troubles without number have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me; I am unable to see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my courage leaves me. Lord, be pleased to rescue me; hurry to help me, Lord.
4. Take Refuge in Jesus
The perfect love and truth of Jesus guards our hearts and renews our minds. His Word is a refuge that offers a place of protection – both offensively and defensively. "Refuge" is used more than 100 times in the Bible, half in the Psalms, because it so accurately describes the power of God’s Word. Scripture is a stronghold and shelter from those that would try to overcome us. It is a weapon to be wielded, a shield of favor, a towering rock of safety.
Verses 14 – 15:
Let those who intend to take my life be disgraced and confounded. Let those who wish me harm be turned back and humiliated. Let those who say to me, “Aha, aha!” be appalled because of their shame.
5. Remind the enemy
We have an enemy, and he is a liar, an accuser and a thief who comes to kill, steal and destroy our joy and abundant life in Christ (John 10:10). This enemy preys upon our weaknesses and tells us we aren’t enough, that things will never change, and that the pit we are currently in will always be our struggle.
When the enemy threatens to overwhelm you, remind the enemy that you overwhelmingly conquer through the power of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). The enemy may strike your heel, and even be the louder voice in your head some days, but remind the enemy that Jesus crushed his head at the cross (Genesis 3:15).
When the enemy tries to discourage you and dim your witness, remind the enemy that you are fighting from God’s authority and demand he cease and desist harassing you.
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation continually say, “The Lord is great!” I am oppressed and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my helper and my deliverer; my God, do not delay.
6. Run to Jesus again
As God in His grace refines us to look more like Him and to make our joy complete in Him, we will become even more aware of how “oppressed and needy” we truly are. We will never be perfect this side of heaven, but the Author and Perfecter of our faith will never stop refining us until we get there. God will complete the good work He began in us (Philippians 1:6).
The only thing that should truly overwhelm us is in this life is what God has already done for us: He has rescued us from the pit of death into new life in Jesus, transferred us from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of his Son (Colossians 1:13). He has given us the victory in Christ (I Corinthians 15:57)!
Every day as we abide in Jesus, He rescues us again and again and again.
How do you go from being overwhelmed by life to overjoyed in Jesus?
Run to Jesus. Release it to Jesus. Report the rescue. Take Refuge in Jesus. Remind the Enemy. Run to Jesus again.