Trusting God in Hard Times
He Comes Despairingly (vv. 1-2)
Andrew Fuller, another of the earlier commentators, said, “It is not under the sharpest, but the longest trials, that we are most in danger of fainting. … When Job was accosted with evil tidings, in quick succession, he bore it with becoming fortitude; but when he could see no end to his troubles, he sunk under them.”4
To say that the face of God is shining upon us is a way of saying that God is being favorable to us or blessing us. So, if God is hiding his face, what this must mean is that the times of blessing or favor seem to have ceased.
When we no longer sense that God is blessing us, we tend to ruminate on our failures and get into an emotional funk. And when our emotions take over it is always hard to get back onto a level course. This is because the best means of doing this—calm reflection and a review of past blessings—are being swept away. We discover that we cannot settle ourselves long enough to complete the exercise.
In the same way, David knew what it was to be pursued by his relentless enemy King Saul and perhaps by others too. It is why he says, “How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
Most of us probably do not have literal human enemies, at least not serious enemies. But if you are a Christian, you do have one great spiritual enemy who is worse than any human enemy imaginable. This is the devil, whom the apostle Peter compared to “a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Lloyd-Jones says of this foe, “The devil [is] the adversary of our souls. He can use our temperaments and our physical condition. He so deals with us that we allow our temperament to control and govern us, instead of keeping temperament where it should be kept. There is no end to the ways the devil produces spiritual depression. We must always bear him in mind.”6
He Cries Honestly (vv. 3-4)
The “look” of God is an indication of his gracious attitude (Isa 63:15). Divine abandonment and alienation made the psalmist experience despair, but God’s “look,” expressive of favor, renews life. Second, the psalmist asks for God to “answer” him. The answer is a positive message of God’s favor by which the Lord frees his servant from the causes of the anguish of soul. Third, the psalmist believes that only by God’s favor will he receive “light” for his eyes. This idiom expresses the effect of God’s blessings. A man relieved from troubles and blessed with God’s protection, peace, and favor shows his inner spiritual condition in his outward appearance (cf. 36:8–9; 1 Sam 14:27, 29). His eyes sparkle with God’s grace. On the other hand, the experience of anguish is expressed by the dimness of the eyes (cf. 6:7; 38:10).
The psalmist’s prayer contains an urgent appeal for God’s covenant favor. If he were to be vexed and overcome by “death,” the enemies would have cause to gloat (vv. 3–4; cf. 35:19–21; 38:16–17). Their joy expressed not only pleasure in the fall of the godly but also in God’s failure to be faithful to his covenant promises.