What do we do when we are up against a wall? We are so programmed to be self-reliant, strong, assertive, empowered—we know all the buzz words that today’s self-help culture throws at us. Yet every one of us will see times when we are helpless—totally powerless to make a difference in a situation or circumstance.
That’s real life.
Psalm 34 is real life too.
I will praise the LORD at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the LORD;
let all who are helpless take heart.
I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the LORD is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Fear the LORD, you his godly people,
for those who fear him will have all they need.
Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.
The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.
The righteous person faces many troubles,
but the LORD comes to the rescue each time.
Psalm 34:1-10,17, 19 NLT
Psalm 34 is real life. There’s a lot of talk of helplessness, trouble, and fear—things we face every day. We find ourselves helpless in the face of a diagnosis or the conflicts in a relationship. Economic uncertainty creates anxiety. We walk in a world filled with evil, and we are not immune to all that brings pain and tears.
David wrote this psalm, and he suffered through more trouble than many of us will ever see. A rebellious son who wanted to kill him. Family turmoil. Wars against his kingdom. Conflict and opposition from powerful people. A heavy burden of guilt. And even a feeling of alienation from the God he loved so much.
But in Psalm 34 we also find joy and praise and gladness, side by side with helplessness. David knew what it meant to be kept safe in the care of the Shepherd.
That’s the real life I want!
When we are helpless, we can take heart because we are not without help. The Lord rescues all who come to Him for help. In the midst of pain and tears, our hope knows that the Lord’s eyes and ears are open to His people and He is good. He will answer!
I wonder if we miss the joy because we are trying to be so self-sufficient. We look only at the difficulty of our situation and do not even think of the goodness and greatness of our Shepherd. Look again at the verses that mention joy. Those who look to Him for help and those who take refuge in Him are the ones who find radiant joy. Are we looking to the wrong places for our help? Is that why we do not find joy in the midst of our troubles? Is that how the words hopeless and helpless creep into the thinking and the vocabulary of the children of God?
David sets the example: constantly praise the Lord. Tell of everything He has done. Even boasting in the Lord is in order. When we are helpless, when there is absolutely nothing we can do, this psalm reminds us over and over again: We are not helpless. Remember who the Lord is and what He has done. Remember that He comes to rescue us and will also bring us good things even in the midst of trouble.
Tell of the Lord’s goodness. Thinking about and speaking the greatness of our Father will be the antidote for the feeling of helplessness.
“Let the helpless take heart” reminds me of Christ’s words: “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world. I’m not going to leave you alone. My power will work in you, and my power is greater than any power in the world.”
What better place to go for help than to the One who defeats and disables every power of this world? With the Spirit of Christ living within, the helpless are never without help. Jesus says this is a fact of our lives as children of God. We are kept safe in His care. Will we believe-live it?
Yes, this psalm is real life. Ripples of small troubles upset our days. Monster tidal waves sweep over our lives and we fear we are drowning. But in every thing, the Lord is good and will rescue His children. The Shepherd surrounds and defends those who belong to Him. We can take heart. Joy comes even when we are helpless.
It’s putting all our eggs in one basket — and it is never a risk! Going to our God for help is never fruitless, and it’s the only way to joy that survives even the most frightening storms.