Anthem Against Anxiety | Psalm 56
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Psalm 56:1–56:13
Christopher Rich – July 22, 2018
PSALMS | Soundtrack for our Souls | Wk 4
Anthem Against Anxiety | Psalm 56
Introduction | Review Psalms
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work,Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we continue our series Psalms: Soundtrack for our Souls.
In this series, we are going to look at the songs God has given us to remind us who He is, what He’s done/doing, and how we’re to think, feel, act, and relate to God. This collection of divinely inspired songs was brought together into a rich anthology to help us have a realistic and artistic voice for understanding the complex relationship between God and His People. The collection is brought together for a purpose. For a people, both individual and corporately, to be able to navigate and make sense of the God, the world, their lives and hearts in a language that speaks deeply to the soul. While the Psalms are not a systematic theology they do teach doctrine and the give poetic voice to what is true about God and His people. Psalms are about Jesus - Jesus is clear in Luke 24 that all of the Law, prophets, psalms point to Him and are about HIM. So we read Psalms as prayers to Jesus as God. One of the big themes throughout the psalm is processing the depths of emotions we experience in our lives in this broken imperfect world while walking with and in relationship with a God who is perfect. We will face fear, distress, and countless situations and seasons that can and will necessarily (and at times unnecessarily) cause us anxiousness and anxiety. All of us live in a broken world with seemingly endless events and influences that should lead us not only to worry but anxiousness. Take a moment to consider the condition of the world in it’s entirety and it is a miracle that we are not all in a constant state of anxiety. We are so connected to so much of what is happening that we try to process a world worth of worry. More information hasn’t led to more peace only more pressure.
The writer of this Psalm is David and this song is about His experience of being under the pressure of being chased by Saul and goes to a Philistine city of Gath in 1 Sam 21:10-15 He flees Israel to the pagan philistines in Gath to seek political asylum from enemies (Saul) who is pursuing him in his homeland. When he crosses the boarder, he’s detained. Feeling fear, running from an enemy he seeks refuge in a place that is unnatural, it’s not home. He’s seeking refuge in the world and it doesn’t work as well as he thinks it will. Like the side effects list on a pharmaceutical commercial, one symptom is remedied but new challenges arise. The King hears “this is the great warrior” we should be afraid of him. David, seeking peace and rest has found new worry that his captors will want to imprison or execute him because he’s the solider who’s been leading the successful charge against them. So what does he do? He ACTS insane, not a little crazy but full on rubber room, clawing walls and foaming at the mouth into his beard, madman. And it works, again short term… The king says “this guy is not a warrior to be feared but a crazy person to be sent away.” David is past the pressure of this episode, but the pursuit and fear of a real physical enemy has not ended. He still needs peace and life in the midst of a trial that has not been resolved. Psalms written from specific incidences can/do easily have more general applications to universal experiences. Likely none of us will find ourselves in a foreign country fleeing a king who seeks our death to maintain his throne. However, nearly all of us will, or do, experience an equally distressing enemy of fear and anxiety which seeks to torment us and rob us of flourishing life. We can see Psalm 56 as an Anthem Against Anxiety.
PART I | Anxiety Attacks | v1-2
Psalm 56:1-2 | Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; 2 my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly.
Anxiety attacks are intense and unrelenting- We find ourselves under assault. We are facing something intense. Looks at the words used, ‘oppression, attack, trampling’. Anxiety can make us feel like you’re being crushed. It is more than we can handle on our own, we need help. The song cries out to God for His personal intervention into our individual circumstances. Anxiety can be unrelenting. It says All day long there is an oppression of pressure. We feel like we’re knocked down an under a boot of oppression that we cannot get out from under. We feel trampled on, another translation says “hotly pursued” we don’t know where to run to, but man do we want to run. When an episode of anxiety turns into a season, we start to lose sleep. You go through the day on edge more paralyzed that peaceful. When there is finally sleep you awake to those few blissful moments before you open your eyes and remember yesterday is gone but the anxiety is still there. Anxiety is not a worldly label, it is something the Bible address with great concern.
Jesus talks about anxiety in Matt 6 saying “Do not be anxious.” Why? Because He knows we’re anxious. He knows there are forces that will cause us anxiety. Philippians 4 says “don’t be anxious about anything”. So we can know anxiety should be avoided but we may need to be given more than simply “don’t do it” I’m anxious, I’m experiencing anxiety, now I am told simply “don’t be anxious” but don’t know how… Jesus told me not to, so am I in trouble for being anxious? Should I be ashamed for experiencing anxiety? No!
Anxiety is not an action but a reaction. We don’t commit or pursue anxiety, so what causes us anxiety?
Anxiety Attacks from With-in - 4b (What can flesh do to me?) – Internal Dialogue. This voice inside your head that you have not accomplished enough. You’re not active enough. Thoughts of fear, worry, concern that don’t align with the severity of reality. The feelings and emotions are so intense and they don’t measures up to the actual circumstances you’re experiencing. We being to think we’re weaker than everyone else, that we’re the only ones with feelings of inadequacy. We try to carry to much weight for the condition of our lives or the lives of those around us. We are easily prayer-less so we are paralyzed by pressure. We have to ask ourselves. Is what I am think true? Is what I believe true? What internal forces and feelings have caused you the greatest amount of anxiety? Maybe we are seeing the situation rightly and we still are led to great anxiety.
Anxiety Attacks from Outside - 11b What can man do to me? – External Pressure. There are economic challenges. The bank account balance is in the single digits and the days till the next pay check is in the double digits. Relational challenges. Many have been sinned against we’ve faced or experienced deep trauma, so we don’t want to engage with other people. Fear of others. We watch the news and the pressure of the chaos in this world can be paralyzing. Never expect a media based on advertising revenue driven keep eyes glued, clicks coming, or subscriptions maintained to give you information that’s going to lead you to greater peace and calm. Sometimes it’s caused by big things and sometimes smaller things. Plans changing at the last minute. What external forces cause you the greatest amount of anxiety?
Causes of Anxiety can be complex. You may ask “Why am I experiencing this?” To be clear what we’re talking today is anxiety as an enemy attack, not a result of sin. If you are walking in sin, unrepentant, or enslaved to addiction, then you should not have an expectation of deep lasting peace. If underneath your unsettledness is active or enslaving sin what you’re experiencing may not be the enemy of anxiety attacking you, but conviction from the Holy Spirit calling you to freedom. This feeling or experience will not relent unless you repent. You cannot wait it away, peace comes not from combating this feeling but responding to it. One thing is clear true anxiety is not something that brings us more flourishing life.
PART II | Anxiety is Against Us | v5-7
5 All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. 6 They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life. 7 For their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
Anxiety is not your identity, Anxiety is your enemy. These verses flush out more on the nature and effects of this enemy. If your cause is peace with God and people, anxiety is there to injure your cause. It is also a
“twisting of words.” We know what we feel but it get’s twisted and tangled and we doubt what is true. We easily become untethered and unanchored from the truth we find ourselves floating, out of control, and under pressure. It sometimes feels like a coordinated attack where we are struggling to deal with external forces and all of the sudden internal insecurities start to well up. External challenge creates internal strife. Internal strife creates physical manifestations. Anxiety at its core is an unsettling of our firm foundations.
Anxiety is always lurking. Is there a more unsettling word? It means even when everything is pretty calm or normal you have the feeling in the back of your mind it’s around the corner. It’s waiting. It’s plotting. It’s hoping I slip or and stumble into another episode. Anxiety “against us” means that all its desire, all it’s thoughts, all it’s energy arrayed “against me for evil.” Anxiety is arrayed against you it is robing you of peace and life. Greater anxiety will never lead to greater life. So we have to be clear that anxiety is not just part of us to deal with, but an enemy to be defeated. This enemy can be great so we need to cry out to something greater than our enemy. What are you crying out to? Cry out to God! God do something!! End this! Give me victory! Defeat this force I am experiencing. When we are experiencing anxiety we cannot overcome, at its deepest root is some form of unbelief about the nature and character about our God. Unbelief does not always need to be combated with rebuke but being reminded what is true.
PART III | God Knows Us and Our Anxiety | v8-9
8 You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? 9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.
Empathy before victory. What meets our anxiety first is not a God ready to rebuke us for our unbelief but one who is acquainted with grief. He knows grief in general and He’s acquainted with our grief specifically. He knows every moment, tremble, racing heartbeat, sleepless night, elevated breath, every groaning. Every time we feel like we’re wandering in the wilderness, God knows this. We bottle up our fear and anxiety we press down and the pressure mounts and builds. God takes every tear. Every tear shed He’d gathered up bottled up and said let me take that. Let me put it over here and you do not need to be burdened by it any longer. When we’ve suffered in anxiety for a season or a lifetime we can too easily forget that God is real, God is present, God is able to be a comfort. We have to be reminded of these truths because bitterness or frustration with our anxiety can easily shift to God. God why haven’t you solved this yet? We can wonder if God hears our cries. We can doubt His ability to address our anxiety, we want God to bring instant relief. We’re not promised instant victory, but we are given immediate empathy. Know God is not overwhelmed by our waves of anxiety. The enemy can be turned back. We have the assurance that our God is great enough to overcome the enemy of anxiety. My enemies will turn back, not in the so far distant future but in a time we can wrap our heads around “in the day when I call”.
We call to that God. A God who is FOR US. He says “for me” this is very personal. Theologically we need to always remember God is for God, but we are His creation who He loves, God is for us, He made us!
Romans 8:31b | If God is for us, who can be against us? God has acted and promises to act. We are called to turn, and turn again in reaction to anxiety. We battle, this isn’t formulaic, but this is intentional. You cannot give 4 simple steps to overcoming anxiety and say “done” never an issue again. We need to remember we have a God who is near, who cares, who understands, who is powerful, and is for us.
When anxiety strikes, this doesn’t mean that we are faithless. It means our faith is being attacked. – John Piper
PART IV | Path of Peace | v3-4; 10-11
Psalm 56:3-4 | 3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?
Psalm 56:10-11| 10 In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, 11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?
When anxiety strikes what we’re given is this psalm is not a new prescription but a new path. The path is laid out twice. If something is repeated in a song or text it might be important. Fear may, no it will come back. This is part of the Christian life that the Bible assumes we will all deal with. This is not “you’re anxious you don’t have enough faith.” Truth is YOU Don’t have enough faith. It is ALWAYS the object of our faith that will or will not produce results. When fear and anxiety comes what do you put your trust in first and most? Where or who do you turn to or turn from? This issue ends up bring up strong emotions and this can lead us to feeling shame and condemnation when considering anxiety and panic because we’ve tried to address a complex issue with overly simplistic remedies rather than seeking a comprehensive understanding. When we are attacked by anxiety and try to combat it we pick only one front and address it exclusively:
- Physical - You need medication, anti-depressant anti-anxiety new diet etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, but your body so we’ll just fix that. The spiritual is ignored.
- Spiritual - You just need to pray and read your bible. God is a God who brings healing. Maybe you have sinned. Things happing with your body should just be prayed away.
- Intellectual - You have wrong thinking about God and the world you just need to remember the truth.
- Relational - You’re isolated you just need a good counselor or people who will encourage you.
We are whole people, mind, body and soul made for relationship. When we need healing we need to think holistically. We serve a God who created us as whole people for community and who can heal us holistically.
Anxiety is a complex enemy that can and does attack us on many fronts. We hurt our brothers and sisters, or ourselves, when we are overly simplistic in how it should be combated, always assuming it's one front (physical, mental, spiritual, relational) while ignoring or excluding the others.
- A pill is not always the answer, BUT it’s not never the answer.
- Anxiety is not always because of sinful unbelief, BUT it not never because of unbelief.
- Our thought processes and understanding of the truth is not always the issue BUT sometimes it can be.
- Good wise Counsel and genuine encouraging community are always needed, but it’s not all that is needed.
We are always going answer anxiety with something. We’re going try to numb the pain or figtht it some way. A path to peace may include addressing 1 or all of these elements but will never include LESS THAN this:
In any and every circumstance our greatest need is always God. Trusting God’s character and promises, prayer, meditating on scripture, Gospel Community are ALWAYS essential overcoming anxiety with peace. This is ALWAYS where we start, and what we run/turn to first and most. The path is this: When we fear, when we’re anxious, we will put our trust in God. Trust in God leads to praise of His word. We will praise His word (this is his promises, the Gospel, His character) We shall NOT fear.
The path walks from fear to trust in God. Fear/Anxiety is real but so is God. Internal and external forces are BIG and strong they will cause fear. But our God is greater and stronger. This is good news, to hear God is big and strong should not lead to more frustration but to more peace.
This path is necessary, it does not need to exclude addressing other aspects, but it is the essential path that cannot be ignored or neglected. It is the place of our greatest trust. I am afraid, I am anxious, I have anxiety. This is true. I will trust in God. I will turn to God in these moments. I will not turn to every other option under the sun before turning and trusting the one who created the sun and created me. God here is my fear, take it, I am going to trust your character and nature more than the thoughts and circumstances that are driving me to experience anxiety. “What if I experience fear and anxiety every day!” We’re to put our trust in God and receive His good provision for us. I am hunger and I eat. I am tired, and I sleep. You need rest, or medicine, diet, counseling or exercise these should all be received as part of your provision from God. This trajectory leads to no fear. We shall not fear. The internal and external forces are real but they can be overcome by God to the point we can sing not with fear but with confidence “what can Flesh/man do to me?” compared to what God can do FOR me. God brings healing that leads to greater life.
PART V | A Productive Peace | v12-13
12 I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. 13 For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
God leads us from fear and anxiety to peace. Peace for the purpose of productivity. The result of experiencing rest, healing, empathy, and even victory is not for us to be back to neutral and numb but for us to live lives with and for God and His people. The new, renewed, enduring, persevering, life with God compels us to no longer fall and sit paralyzed in fear but walk in confidence and praise. God does deliver. Anxiety is a response, but so is worship, praise, thanksgiving. The Gospel is not don’t be anxious and God will save you. It’s not I have to preform SO God will save me from my anxiety. Then it’s not God saving you, it’s you saving you. The gospel is God in Jesus who was acquainted with grief who experience anxiety, who has been tempted in EVERY way we are and is without sin suffered for us, died for us, and rose for us so we can have new life where anxiety is no longer what defines us but instead our life with Christ united with God is what defines us so we can endure secure in the love of God until final total victory is experienced when there is no more sin and suffering. I can’t break it down better than Romans 8.
Romans 8:32-39 | 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When we are freed from the pursuing oppression of anxiety by God we are freed to pursue obedience abundant life with God, when we Trust Jesus.