Reading Time: 8 Minutes
The old spiritual song begins with the words, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” That song has resonated with people for more than 150 years, because there is one constant in life – trouble. The trouble of slavery that birthed this song in the mid-1800s was not new then, and is not new now.
We are most certainly living in troubled times. Our country is divided in comparable times to the Vietnam War demonstrations and race riots of the 60s. A pandemic is killing Americans equal to or exceeding the 1918 Spanish Influenza Epidemic. Racial inequities and tensions continue and lawlessness abounds. Yes, we know trouble.
Trouble is not a new issue. Nearly 1,000 years before Jesus walked in Jerusalem, King David brought his troubles to God by praying the Psalms. We can use the Psalms today to inform and assist our praying during times of trouble.
Imagine the inner dialogue of the speaker. On one hand there is an impulse to turn to God in the time of trouble. On the other hand, there is the desire to run away and to hide from what is taking place. The Psalm begins with these words,
In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to me,
“Flee like a bird to the mountains . . .” (Psalm 11.1)
As Americans run away and hide from the troubles we face, the headlines reveal where we are running. Here is a sample of three headlines:
— Pornography is having a good pandemic. (There is a very significant increase in the use of pornography during the pandemic.)
— Alcohol sales are up 243%. (The pandemic has seen a greater use of alcohol than at other times in history.)
— (From UPI Press) Studies suggests ‘horrifying’ rise in domestic violence during pandemic.
Charles Spurgeon wrote these words, “Sinning times have always been the saints praying times.”
An Honest Look
The Psalms do not minimize the level of trouble. In a few lines of poetic verse, this Psalm describes what is at stake when trouble comes.
“For look, the wicked bend the bow,
they have fitted their arrow to the string,
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart.
If the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11.2-3)
People are not just “having a bad day” in 2020. Our troubles are as real as life and death. The foundations of civil and moral life are crumbling and the future well-being of people is at stake.
There is an internal battle that goes on within people during difficult times. We can fight, as is taking place across our country in many varied forms. We can run away from the problem, as has already been mentioned. A third option, and the best choice, is to connect with God in prayer and get his directions.
God Sees and Knows
God is never far from us. He is the Lord of the universe and he sees and knows what we need.
The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes behold, his gaze examines humankind. (Psalm 11.4).
When Simon Peter was about to face the most difficult time of his life, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22.31-32).
As we are being “sifted” by the troubles of this world, we can ask Jesus to pray for us. Rather than the typical “fight or flight” reaction, we can call on Jesus who “always lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7.25).
God – A Just Judge
Abraham asked God, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18.25). God is the Judge of all the earth and he does what is just. God’s just and righteous justice demands that those who oppress others receive appropriate punishment for the way they have treated the people less powerful.
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
and his soul hates the lover of violence.
On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and sulfur;
a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. (Psalm 11.5-6)
How does God respond when people use their power to oppress others. He says, “If your neighbor cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate” (Exodus 22.27). God hears the cries of the oppressed and will respond with justice.
James reminds us of God’s justice, when he writes, “Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (James 5.4).
As you face trouble that causes you to lose sleep or cry at night, know that God sees, hears, and responds to your anguish.
Dallas Willard describes what should be the goal of every follower of Jesus with the description the “Jesus-kind-of-life.” Our great opportunity and goal is to behave in the way that Jesus both lived and taught. People who are living a Jesus-kind-of-life are righteous. This Psalm ends with a promise to the righteous.
For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face. (Psalm 11.7)
Contrast the end of the righteous and the wicked in this Psalm. One will taste the coals of fire and sulfur (verse 6) and the other will taste the goodness of the Lord. Truly, the Judge of all the earth does right by all.
The result of living the Jesus-kind-of-life is to behold the face of God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5.8).
May our troubles cause us to run to the very face of God, rather to the diversions and distractions of the world.
How to Pray Psalm 11
I believe that our study of the Psalms is ordained by God for the times in which we live. Just as Psalm 11 contains an internal dialogue between the heart of the speaker and God, we can do the same thing. Here are some suggestions for how you can pray this Psalm.
(1) As always, ask the Holy Spirit to guide and empower your prayer.
(2) Describe to God what is troubling you. Your concerns don’t have to be stated perfectly or even well thought out. God is perfectly able to sort out what is troubling you. He searches your heart (verse 4) and knows your concerns.
(3) If we have difficulty putting into words what we want to say to God, remember that he hears us when we cry.
(4) Charles Spurgeon reminds us: “What advantage is it to have God’s mighty power, if we don’t make use of it in times of trouble?” As our world is being “sifted,” let’s make use of Jesus’ intercession. We can simply pray, “Dear Jesus, please pray for me (or for some other person or issue).”
(5) Continue to strive to live the Jesus-kind-of-life. In the midst of trouble, that is the most powerful and secure position.
May We Pray for You?
Maywood Baptist Church has a prayer team that will be honored to join you in prayer. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will be happy to pray for you and share your request with the prayer team.