We’ve been spending some time in Psalm 4, learning from David as he responds to deep and personal suffering. Last week we discussed the idea of Conditional Worship, which is the temptation to only praise God when we experience pleasurable circumstances. Today I want to talk about one of the last things we think about in the midst of suffering—ministering to those around us. Let’s be honest. Because of sin, we’re self-centered people. We expect others to serve us and treat us as the most important item on the agenda. When suffering enters our door, why would that change? In fact, our selfishness may become more exposed under trial. In suffering, we expect others to serve us, this time with pity and compassion. And, we probably feel as if we’re even more important, considering the current circumstances. “Don’t you know what I’m going through? You should pay extra attention to me!” David does something different. He ministers. Psalm 4:6 – “There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!’”
Let’s be honest. Because of sin, we’re self-centered people. We expect others to serve us and treat us as the most important item on the agenda. When suffering enters our door, why would that change? In fact, our selfishness may become more exposed under trial.
David is writing poetically, so let me try to summarize what’s happening. David has a loyal band of companions who have been with him through the entire ordeal, and they approach David and say, “Who will show us some good?” That’s another way of saying, “What’s going to happen to us now? How can this situation get better for us?” In that moment, I would struggle not to make it all about me. I would struggle not to compare my suffering with their suffering, naming their trial as “less severe” than my own. I would struggle not to pass off their question entirely and sulk in the corner, meditating on how hard my life has been. I would guess that David struggled with similar thoughts; after all, he’s no biblical hero. But empowered by grace, David prays for his companions. He puts aside his own suffering and asks God to reveal himself to those around him. “Lord, what my people need is to experience your presence. Would you be so tender and loving and kind to shine your face on us? We need to see you!” David is shepherding his people and interceding on their behalf. He sees the needs of their soul and prioritizes their spiritual care over his own. Rather than making the trial all about himself, David speaks gospel truth to others. What a beautiful picture of selfless ministry that we should pursue! It won’t be easy; it’s so tempting to justify selfishness in the midst of personal suffering. But like David, we can reach out to God and ask for his presence. He is always near, and his grace enables you to think of others even in the most trying of times. God bless Paul David Tripp
On a comfortable day, how do you reveal your selfish heart through word and deed? In the midst of suffering, why might your selfish heart be exposed more? Why might it be easier to justify selfishness in the midst of suffering? In what ways may you be a more effective ambassador of the gospel in the midst of suffering? How does the presence of God enable you to minister to others and put their needs above your own?
Published February 19, 2015