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The God of the Overwhelmed: An Exposition of Psalm 61

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah. For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name. Thou wilt prolong the king's life: and his years as many generations. He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him. So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows. (Psalms 61:1-8)

We are weak and needy creatures. Anyone who would observe mankind for a few moments would see how fragile and weak we are. I think that sometimes we are blind, or at least forget, how needy and how weak we really are. In a world filled with sin and the results of sin, we reap the sorrows of our rebellion against God, but all too often forsake the only real comfort we have. Some teach a prosperity gospel that equates possessions with God’s love and trials with sin (they need to read the book of Job). Trusting in Christ for the salvation of your soul does not remove all problems from your life. We are saved, but we are still in this world, and in this world we will have tribulation. The question is how do we live in this present life, facing sore trials? In the 61st Psalm, we find a psalm of David when he was facing such a time in his life. David was a man after God’s own heart, but was no stranger to problems in his life. Many of his problems were the results of his sin, but many of them were not. The pain was real, the sorrow was heavy and the cry was from the depth of his soul. Where did David turn? Where do the children of God go in such times? In this passage we see the overwhelmed go to the God of the overwhelmed and the benefits that are received there. There are two sections of this psalm, and we will see a change from the first part to the second. What was the change, and how did the change occur?

First, David said hear my cry, O God. The saints of God do not escape the sorrows of this life. I may say that not only do we not escape life’s sorrows, but I believe that we also experience deeper sorrow. We experience true joy, but having faced true joy in salvation, we experience deeply the grief of sin. The gospel of the world teaches that Godliness is gain, that true believers do not experience grief. The prosperity gospel teaches that God will give us all that we desire, money, health, possessions to fulfill our lives completely on this earth. No one has the promise of a life of ease, but in fact the Christian will have problems. It says in 2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Not only will we not be permitted to pass through life on flowery petals of repose, but we are to expect persecution in this life. Jesus encouraged his disciples, not by telling them they will never experience pain or trial in this life, but to expect it. The comfort came not from taking away all trials, but having peace in Him, that in Christ we will overcome this world. John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. Paul, who was no stranger to the blessings of God as the great servant of God, also was no stranger to problems. Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. There is no question that the saints of God will cry, but notice what the cry was. David’s cry was not “woe is me” but his cry was to His God. He was not a stoic, nor should we be, but his cry was unto God. Hear David as he is in deep sorrow, Hear my cry O God! Hear me Mighty Father, attend unto my prayer. When we cry, let us cry unto our Father. When we are in such despair that we can’t pray, but only cry out unto God, He will hear us. When we don’t know what to say, our heart is heavy with grief and all that can proceed from our weary mouth is a desperate cry unto God, does not our loving Father attend unto our prayers? If our earthly fathers can attend unto a child’s weeping, how much more so will our perfect Heavenly Father hear our prayer? We come to a loving Father hurt, knowing He knows what is best, and that he will attend for our good and His glory.

Where do we cry? From the end of the earth. So many Christians, when they cry, do so unto the world. There is no true comfort here, not for one who has been enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Once we have tasted of that sweet fellowship with the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Spirit, one could travel every inch of this world, and not find the peace and comfort of soul that is found in Christ. Oh, the vanity of life when we are downcast! We don't need to despair, for where ever we are found, from the ends of the earth, we are never too far from the Masters ear. We are never too far from the love of God. Whether under the depths of the sea, to the farthest reaches of the plains, God will hear our cry. We may be far from friends and family, we may be alone and afraid, but we are never truly alone if we have Christ. He who bore our sins will never leave nor forsake us. David said "when my heart is overwhelmed". Browns Driver Briggs defines the Hebrew word here ataph translated overwhelmed as 'to cover, to envelop ones self, or to be feeble, faint, growing weak.' The heart is weak, feeble, overcome by sorrows. As if shipwrecked at sea, with the waves of grief shrouding the soul. How many times have the children of God been overwhelmed? Our hearts are feeble. Even the most hardened soul, at some point has been overwhelmed. How much more so for the children of the most high? We see our families away from God, our neighbors leaving this world with out Christ, we suffer persecutions and are attacked by our enemy, the Devil, looking about this world which waxes worse and worse each day. Sometimes the saints of God, we once had sweet fellowship with, now forsaking the assembly of our great God. The grief, the pain, the sorrow is overwhelming. That doesn't even take into consideration the sorrow of our hearts over our own souls for our own sin. How we fail our Lord! Oh how oft we sin against our Saviour! Are not our hearts grieved and overwhelmed at our failures, the sin in our lives? Are we not overwhelmed at times from the great work we have been commissioned to do, and yet it seems we spin our wheels, and toil and labor, with seemingly no results? I cry unto God when my heart is feeble. When I am filled with doubts and fears. When I don't understand, and strive to serve my God. I cry unto my God when I am alone, when my faith is weak and I'm sorely tried. The children of God have and truly know what it is like to where the cloak of despair, and to languish in the depths of grief, and to have the heart overwhelmed, beyond the ability to express the emotion of our fainting fits of despondency. We will have a heart that is overwhelmed.

But if that was the end of our walk with Christ, we would be of all men most miserable. All the sons of Adam experience such woe, but the joy of the Christian is we do not remain. The world will seek comfort in self, pleasures and other futile attempts of merriment, but we have such a blessed treasure, for when we are weak, He is made strong. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Jesus is the Rock that is higher than I. When our hearts are overwhelmed, it is Christ in which we find safety and refuge. When we are overcome we are as is we were lost at sea, shipwrecked with no hope of recovery, no hope of making it to shore, with drowning in despair our only conceivable hope. Jesus Christ is the Rock that is higher than I. He is the safety when our hearts are overwhelmed, He is the mighty Rock of refuge, and of our salvation. He is higher than I, higher than our troubles, higher than we could ever get ourselves. Psalm 18:2 says The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. When we are overcome by grief and sorrow, Christ is where we must flee. Jesus is the solid, secure, and safe refuge. Through the blood of Christ, we have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have as an anchor of the soul. Lead me to the Rock, for I can't go on my own. I am too distraught to find my own way, to weak to see, lead me, Holy Spirit, in my distress, to the Rock. Let me never look for refuge in any other. Lead me, take me, help me! I cry out when I can=t help myself, but not to my own devices, not to my own works, but to the Rock, the solid rock, that is higher, loftier, mightier than I, that has hope and life for all who cling to Him.

O then to the Rock let me fly
To the Rock that is higher than I

For thou hast been a shelter for me. Jesus is our protection from danger. When do you seek shelter? When we need a hiding place from storms or danger. A shelter is a place of refuge, a place of comfort. Though the winds howl and the rains beat down, the thunder roars, we are secure in the shelter we seek. Jesus is our shelter. He is our hiding place. The child of God runs to Christ to find a refuge, to find comfort, to find a hiding place. We are secure in Christ. When all the world forsakes us, He never will. When we are being tormented on every side, we go to God in prayer, and there, in the shelter of Christ, we are reminded of His love, mercy, kindness to us and are strengthened. The storm is never as bad when viewed from a shelter.

Jesus is our strong tower from the enemy. He is our strong defense from certain danger. When in battle, a fortress will make the weak and the outnumbered safe. A strong tower provides protection. If the odds were 1000 to 1, it's not the power of the one that would protect, but the strong tower. Jesus is our confident strong hold. He has won the victory over any enemy we may face. Jesus came in the flesh that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. 1Co 15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. Notice in First Corinthians 15:55-58 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. He is our strong tower, even in death. What greater enemy could there be? Even in our greatest hour of trial, and our weakest moment in the flesh, Jesus is promised not only to be there, but to give us victory.

I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever. The joy we have abiding in Jesus is unspeakable. To be with Him, to have fellowship with Him, what joy there is in Christ. It could seem a contradiction to those who do not know him, how we could joy in tribulation, have fellowship in suffering, be blessed in persecution because they know nothing of the peace of Christ, or the indwelling of the Comforter. God is the God of peace, and when we are overwhelmed, we abide with Him because he will see us through. How often the saints, when they are troubled say they are too troubled to be in God's house? Why forsake such a blessing? The television, the lake, the golf course are sought to find rest for their soul. Do we not believe that God speaks to us through His word, and when we are in need, what better place to hear than in the house of God? To dwell in God's house, to be where God is, to be where God receives glory, to hear praises to His name, and His word expounded, with our brothers and sisters in Christ, there will we find comfort. Coming in from the battle, weary and down, to hear of the grace of God, the goodness of our Lord is what we need to get ready for what ever may come.

I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Fear, sadness, danger, these things send children to their fathers. During the night, when a thunderstorm blows in, a child may become scared of the wind, the lightning and thunder, and run to the safety of fathers arms. The little birds will find comfort under the wings of the hen. How much more will our Heavenly Father give us what we need? The storm is still there, the danger is still present, but how different it seems under His wings. We see in this metaphor the trust of the child in the Father, that under His wings is place to be. Where do you find the disciples of God when faced with doubt and fear? John 13:22-23 Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Could there be a more comforting place for the hurt and broken hearted?

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! tis the voice of angels, borne in a song to me.

Over the fields of glory, over the jasper sea.

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world’s temptations, sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow, free from my doubts and fears;
Only a few more trials, only a few more tears!

Jesus, my heart’s dear Refuge, Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages, ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience, wait till the night is over;
Wait till I see the morning break on the golden shore.

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast
There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.

This is the consistent feeling and action of the child of God. Psalm 57:1 is the Psalm of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave. Notice in David's despair he cries Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be past. The hope of the worried soul is in Jesus. Even amongst the worst of calamities, we have faith in God that they will pass. We flee to Almighty God, and rest in Him during the midst of the engulfing ruin of life’s ordeals. Even if the catastrophe results in our death, we will leave this earth clinging to Christ, and then spend eternity clinging to Him! What can separate us from the love of God? Nothing. The loving kindness of Christ our Lord, as it were, stretching out His wings of love, to comfort, protect, keep His beloved. It will be He that faces the trials, He that gets us through, He that sees the end, and guides us safely on. While the tempest rages, and the storm blows, it is our loving master that says, Peace, be still. Oh that we will find peace in the covert of thy wings of our Heavenly Father.

As the child goes to God, and seeks refuge, shelter, protection in Him, we find that there is a change in the tenor of the psalm. We find that something drove him to despair, which drove him to Christ. Now see God's benefits to the overwhelmed. For thou, O God, hast heard my vows. God hears our prayers. These were not empty words in the night, but prayers unto the Most High God. The pouring our of our souls to the Lord is not a exercise in futility, but God hears us. He hears our words, He hears our pleas. Even when don't know how to pray, or what to pray for us, the Holy Spirit helpeth our infirmities. When we don't know what to pray for as we ought, the Holy Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings that can not be uttered, He searcheth the hearts.

Thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name. Not only does God hear our prayers, and give us refuge, but we are the children of God. We have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Abba is the Aramaic word for father, a more tender way of address, like daddy. We are the children of God and not only do we have experience this filial love, but consider the benefits of being son’s and if son's and heirs of God through Christ and joint heirs with Christ, if so that we suffer with him, we may be glorified together. Thou wilt prolong the king's life: and his years as many generations. We know that we are eternally secure, and have comfort in that, but we also trust that God answers our prayers. Is there any sick? Pray. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. The benefit of God toward the overwhelmed child is that He answers prayers. No matter what happens, we will be OK, but God may see fit to remove the sore trial that we are in the midst of, whether persecution, sickness, or any other distress. Believe that God is able to deliver us, not only eternally, but here and now.

He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him. God will preserve us. God is going to keep us. There may be thorns of the flesh that remain with us, even unto death, but God may be pleased to show His power by removing the distress in our lives. This trial may be a preparatory work, that you will be a great help to some other pilgrim down the way. Second Corinthians 12:9-10 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. So if we do not have the result that we desired, God will give us grace and help in our time of need. The result God has for us is much better than what we think we want. God will keep us by His mercy. God is merciful, and He will always to what is right, and what is truthful. Praise Him who deals with mankind mercifully and truthfully!

So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows. We find the psalmist different at the end than when we found him at the beginning. He started the psalm in despair, but ends it in song. He started crying in pain, and left singing in Christ. He started declaring vows, and left fulfilling them. Can't you see the difference when we go to Christ? How pitiful the Christian who will stay in sorrow, and wallow in misery and not flee to Christ. Daily we should go to Him. The longer we are away, the longer we stay in our misery. The longer we are away, the longer we remain in darkness. The more we stay from our refuge, the more we forget about the joy of our salvation. We can praise God in our troubles because God will always give us comfort. We are always protected by God. The Father will hear our prayers, the Holy Spirit will lead us to Refuge, and we will always have the help and grace which is sufficient for us. Will go through this life, never bearing more than God knows we are able to, and God helping us to bear what we are given.

When, not if, but when we face these problems, no matter how dreadful they seem, we have peace in Christ Jesus. We will go to our prayer closets overwhelmed, and leave singing. The problem may still be there, but how sweet to cast ALL our care, ALL our anxieties, ALL our problems upon Him, because He cares for His own. We see in this psalm, that God is sovereign, God is in control and we must trust in Him. Prayer doesn't change God, prayer changes us. First Peter 5:10-11 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

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