Hear my cry O God. Attend to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I will cry unto you,
when my heart is overwhelmed within me,
lead me to the rock that is higher than I
For you have been a shelter for me,
a strong tower from the enemy
I will abide in your tower forever,
I will trust in the covert of your wings.
Where do you go when fear strikes? What do you do when anxiety rears its ugly head?
I love the beautiful image David casts of his journey through anxiety and uncertainty. His thought process, prayer, and pilgrimage through times like we are experiencing today has been a great source of comfort to me, helping me to center my focus and quiet my heart.
“Hear my cry O God. Attend to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I will cry unto you“
When overwhelming circumstances come our way, who or where do we turn to 1st? It is very easy for me to search for statistics, stories, and sources that produce information which confirm “things are OK”. The only problem is that for every stat or source I find there are often as many contradictory stats or stories that surface. If you add in the disheartening scenario like we have today where no amount of facts seem to be able to break through the walls of misinformation, deception, and outright lies- what began as manageable anxiety over the unknown morphs to downright frustration and even anger.
David’s first step in Psalm 61 is a movement to quiet his heart, center his focus, and remind himself that While man is the creator of chaos and pain, the only true source of Hope and Peace is the One True God and Creator of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Like a child that has just been pushed down by the neighborhood bully, David runs to his “Abba” daddy father to make things right. “Hear my cry” or listen to the troubles that burden my heart he utters to his Father. “Attend to my prayer” Daddy, give full attention and all your effort to helping me with my conflict he demands. David is pleading with God to take notice and to take action! Stats will never bring peace or hope. Sinful, fallen, imperfect people are incapable of bringing security or salvation. This world is broken and corrupt. Chaos will continue to grow and spread. BUT we serve a True and Faithful God who never changes, and in whom there is “No shadow of turning.” In him we find constancy and solid ground. David realized that anxiety of heart, caused by the brokenness of the world, finds rest only in the power and person of a Faithful God who never changes. So David’s focus turns from trying to figure out how he can change the people and circumstances causing his distress, focusing instead upon the Faithfulness and Power of the God of Salvation.
“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I”
The heart- (our mind & our collection of thoughts, beliefs, and understanding) is the epicenter where the battles of anxiety and fear take place. Our amazing body takes in the world around us and within milliseconds processes what is seen, heard, felt and sensed. Drawing from years of collected experiences, knowledge, and beliefs, our bodies then take action based upon what we believe to be true.
Quite often, an overwhelmed heart is one in which “Truth” has been drowned out by the fears of “what could be” and/or the experiences of “what has already been.” David’s cry of “Lead me to a rock, higher that I“ is such a profound statement. David, battling anxiety, fear, and probably even anger, recognizes that in that moment he is dwelling in a place where fear, anxiety, and anger thrives because his mind and heart isn’t where it needs to me. Man’s mind, body, thoughts, and, intellect are limited and imperfect and David realized residing physically and spiritually in a place limited by his physical body and intellect, he would find no rest. David understood that a change in the Spiritual location and the focus of his heart, spiritual eyes, and quite possibly even the physical location of his eyes and body were needed in order to vanquish the overwhelming feelings of despair and hopelessness. And so his prayer continues, confessing to the Lord that he understood he was not where he should be while also asking God to “lead him to the place “Higher” than himself, where he needed to be. A place that extended beyond his kingdom and provided a power, wisdom, and protection far beyond what even he, anointed king and ruler could provide. And don’t miss the important fact that there was a spiritual climb (and possibly a physical one too- perhaps to the sanctuary to pray some more) to get from point A– anxiety and distress, to point B– peace and hope. David didn’t get to simply ask to be transported to peace and hope. David understood that he had to take an active role to get to that place of peace and security- He had to aggressively engage in a journey from where he was presently to where he needed and wanted to be.
“For you have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy”
I had the opportunity to counsel quite a few women through incapacitating anxieties and fear. The experiences of past abuse, present sorrows, and perceived future dangers were a constant and deafening noise to ears struggling to hear the voice of reason and truth. When tackling debilitating anxieties and fear, I often went to this Psalm as a source of encouragement and direction.
On a white board I would draw the counselee in the midst of a battle field and we would discuss the “enemies they battled. I would ask them to imagine the situations, memories, fears, and even people standing before them, that they mentally and emotionally went to war with on a daily basis. We would discuss how overwhelming and even hopeless the “enemy” looming before them often seemed. From their vantage point, the life they lived appeared to pit one (themselves) against so many others.
After reading this Psalm and discussing the need for movement from point A to point B, I would draw a shelter between the counselee and their enemies and then ask why they should run into this place of refuge? They would mention things like: With a shelter, they experienced safety because they were no longer out in the open, exposed and helpless. The place of refuge allowed them periods of rest when weary because they didn’t always have to fight…. in the shelter they were completely hidden from the gaze of their enemies and within the walls they were always protected. Once surrounded by these walls they were no longer exposed, vulnerable, and alone.
My favorite part of the verse came next. With the dry marker we transformed that shelter into something so much more formidable as we add depth and height making it into a tall “Strong Tower.” This tower was not only fortified and safe, it loomed over the battlefield. I would ask the counselee what had changed about the battle she was now facing, aside from the fact she was no longer out in the open and vulnerable because she was inside and sheltered. She was able to recognize the fact that the presence of a “strong tower” shifted the battle to her favor because her position in the tower provided her with a new vantage point. She was now above her enemies and she could see the entire battlefield and the boundaries within which she fought. She could see the enemy clearly and the tower allowed her to see their numbers, limitations, strengthen, weaknesses, and movements. She could see and understand the weapons they had brought to attack her with and she now knew exactly what weapons she needed in order to engage in battle and defeat them
In the “Strong tower” she now had the advantage not just defensively but offensively! What a liberating truth!!!
What beautiful imagery of the Spiritual battles we fight today. Yes COVID is a real physical disease, the riots and chaos on the news today present real physical threats and financial burdens. Lost jobs and future uncertainties are very real and palpable fears BUT God’s word tells us that the the battles we wage as children of the King are not merely physical but Spiritual in nature. We do not strive and wage war to preserve a physical life and worldly goods. We engage in battle to win and preserve what can never be taken away from us, a Spiritual Heritage, incorruptible, imperishable. We groan and strain under the burden of a broken world and corrupt society with hope because we know we are just strangers and sojourners here, looking for another Kingdom promised to us by our Heavenly father. Our fears, anxiety originate in this broken and fallen physical world but often they are fought predominately on a spiritual battlefield. A spiritual battle already won for us at the cross when Jesus rose from the dead in glorious victory over sin His Father placing all things under his feet including all rulers, powers, and dominions!
Today, if you find your heart “Overwhelmed” and peace and joy fleeting, follow David’s journey to the “Strong Tower” of God’s presence. If you are overwhelmed, you are not where you need to be spiritually, and quite possibly physically (For me often the wrong physical place is often facebook:) Ask God to lead you into His presence and to open your ears and eyes to the truth that liberates and brings peace and freedom. Step into His presence, into that “Strong “Tower” and let His Word, and His Truth” shed light on the battlefield before you. Let His presence and His Power change both your perspective of who or what the enemy is that you are to fight, how you are equipped to fight, and the true cause you are called to fight for.
Blessings and Peace!