How is your soul troubled? Have you a family member plagued by some disease or disability? Has death visited you and your household? Are you grieved by the backslidden condition of yourself, your children, your siblings, your parents, your neighbors, or your nation? Is your marriage horrible? Is your bottom line bottoming out? Do you consistently find yourself struggling with and somewhat consumed by depression, fear, anger, or lust?
How is your mind instructed? What do you believe about God? How present, knowledgable, wise, and powerful is he? What do you deserve? What did Christ promise you? What have you received? What blessings are still coming your way? How does sin and suffering fit into the sovereign plan of God for his elect? Really, just how powerful is Satan and his friends in comparison to the Almighty God?
Finally, which is more powerful? Does your troubled soul trump your instructed mind, or does your instructed mind affect your troubled soul?
My friends, emotions are great indicators of what you truly feel, but they are not a great indicators of that which is truly true. Therefore, those who are wise and interested in worshiping well, they will learn to prioritize thinking over feeling. And one of the ways in which they will do so is through heart-felt, gut-wrenching, respectful-yelling, doctrinally-correct prayer. An example of such prayer is found in Psalm 13:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
My heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
David is being buffeted by his God, his neighbors, and his own soul. God seems too distant; wicked men seem to powerful; sorrow is about to consume him; dishonor and death lie before him. The “man after God’s heart” has a heart that is greatly troubled.
However, David hits his knees and begins to meditate on the character of God. Particularly in this passage, God is the one who has showered him with steadfast love, salvation, and bounty, and more blessings are yet to come.
Consequently, though his external circumstances have not changed, his prayer has. He began with a mournful tone, but he ended with a joyful declaration of praise. His eyes are still crying, but his heart will rejoice and his lips will sing. All this because his instructed mind has impacted his troubled soul.
Therefore my friends, as you find yourselves sorely tried and troubled today, put behind you the lies of Satan and ponder the truths of God:
- God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass.
- God is very present.
- God is all knowing.
- God is all wise.
- God is all powerful to keep you in distress or rescue you if he so desires.
- God is all loving.
- God is all improving; for his children, all that is bad results in something good.
- God is listening, and he loves to answer prayer.
- God is someday going to remove all your burdens.
- God is the Lord, and he must be obeyed; pragmatic compromise is not good worship.
- God states that perseverance is the mark of the true believer.
God promises that through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, you who are troubled can still contentment, peace, and joy. Yes, Moses can sing in the wilderness, David can sing in the cave, and the Apostles can sing in jail. Therefore, you too can simultaneously cry and sing as you walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. So go to the Lord. Issue forth your complaint — in a reverential manner. But then muse with him over the truths found in Scripture and find within your breast a growing peace that passes all understanding.