There once was a man who–from the world’s point of view–had lost it all. Horatio Spafford lost his young son at the age of 2. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 then destroyed a number of his investments, which left him financially unstable. Then, in 1873, when the economy crashed again, he was unable to afford to go on vacation to Europe with his wife and four daughters. While they travelled to Europe, the ship sank and his wife alone was saved. As soon as he was able, Spafford took the trip across the Atlantic to reunite with his wife. As his ship passed the place where his daughters had drowned, he penned these words,
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”
And then, as if that was not enough, Spafford and his wife had three more children over the next seven years, and their only son caught scarlet fever and died at the age of four in 1880. People in their church chided them that this must all be a judgment from God, much like Job’s “comforters” claimed in the book of Job, chapters 4-25.
Bad things don’t happen to believers because God is angry at us. Christ is at God’s right hand interceding for us. We are accepted and loved because of Christ, not because of anything we have done. We go through trials because God is drawing us closer to Himself.
We go through trials because God is drawing us closer to Himself.
And it was the same for David, the author of the 141st psalm. He was running from King Saul. Saul wanted to kill him. David had had Saul at his mercy and spared him. David worried that sparing Saul may have been the wrong decision, because it meant his problems would not yet be resolved. He cried out in verse 7 that he felt like he was dead. He recognized and confessed in verse 8 that he had placed his trust in God, in effect saying, “It is well with my soul.” And then we come to verse 9, where he takes up his plea for protection again.
“Protect me from the trap they have set for me, and from the snares of evildoers.”
David cannot protect himself. He knows that to protect himself would be to harm Saul–the Lord’s anointed. He knows that if given the opportunity again, he might go farther than cutting off the corner of Saul’s robe. So he asks God for protection.
There is a double meaning here. The first protection David needs–the one most obvious in the context–is physical. He needs God to keep him safe from Saul and his men. He is being hunted, and he desperately needs God to act or he will be swallowed up by Saul’s vengeance.
Secondly, David needs protection from Satan’s snares. Satan would like nothing more than to have David lean on his own strength to escape Saul, thus laying hands on the Lord’s anointed. David knows this is what Satan wants him to do, so he prays strongly against it. He doesn’t want to fall into the snare of the devil. He has to lean on God in order to escape the tempting situation he finds himself in. This is the cause of his suffering in this psalm. He’s being pulled in two different directions, and he must keep his focus on God and walk a third–godly–path.
Just like Mr. Spafford, even after he had fixed his eyes on God and trusted Him and His plan, was still hit with trouble and mocking, so also just because faith is real does not mean our struggles will end. Mr. Spafford’s trials continued; David’s trials continued; my trials continue; yours will continue too. It’s not enough to have faith one time. Our eyes being fixed on God is what allows us to pray for rescue from temptation and tribulation.
But what kind of faith are we called to exercise?
Faith in a vague higher power?
Faith that everything happens for a reason?
Faith that says, “I believe,” but turns around and blasphemes God?
Our faith must be in Jesus. He is our only hope. He’s the one who came to earth to live the perfect life amidst temptation and tribulation that we could never live. Not even David reacted to temptation and tribulation as well as Jesus. And then, after 33 years of living perfectly, He died the death we deserved so we could be forgiven. In the words of Horatio Spafford:
My sin–oh, the bliss of this glorious thought:
My sin–not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul
Believe that! Trust in Christ! He is the only one able to help you through your trials and tribulations, and even in those times when you fail to walk how He calls you to walk, He’s the one who took your punishment for those missteps. Trust Him!
Soli Deo Gloria
The final entry can be found here (add link when written).