For as often as I have gone to the book of Psalms in times of fear or stress, I’m always amazed when I read a psalm which I’ve read many times but its truths meet my need as if I had never read it before. That was the case when I came to Psalm 62.
Terrie and I had just completed a ministry trip to the Middle East in which God’s blessing had exceeded our expectations. The night before our final flight home we were required to take a PCR Covid test before re-entry to the United States. We had already taken several required tests throughout the trip. We took what we expected to be our last test, retired to our room, and finished packing for our homeward flight.
A few hours later, we received a paper under our hotel door with results from our tests. Both of us were positive and were immediately mandated to isolation in our room for ten days of quarantine.
It was the most disappointing news we could have gotten. Not to be dissuaded, however, I moved quickly into “fix it” mode. For the next two days, I researched guidelines, made phone calls, sent emails, and reached out to anyone and everyone I could think of who might be able to help us out of our confinement and back home where I just knew we needed to be.
I prayed, too. That’s what pastors do. But I leaned pretty heavily on my frantic efforts as well. Learning to trust is hard for planners.
Eventually, I turned my attention to reading through Psalms. As I read chapter after chapter, my soul began to calm. As my focus returned to the Lord, my efforts were redirected. Instead of incessantly calling the front desk to ask about the finer points of quarantine guidelines and retesting, I found myself with a burden to talk to our Muslim hosts at the hotel about Jesus. (As a result of these conversations, at least one man trusted Christ in the weeks following. He even sent me a picture of himself at church a few weeks later.)
As I reached Psalm 62, God did something remarkable in my heart. As I sat in that dark hotel room with the Muslim qibla arrow pointing toward Mecca on the ceiling above me, I read about God being the rock of my salvation. I read from a king who trusted God as his salvation even when beset by ruthlessly competitive enemies. And then I came to verse 8: “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.”
It was as if every word of that verse seeped into my frustrated, restless soul. I read it again. And again. I pulled out a pad of paper and began writing.
Truth be told, most Christians assume they trust God because they believe they should. If you had asked me early in our foreign quarantine if I was trusting God, I would have said, “Yes, of course.” And then I would have turned my attention to the next phone call I could make to get out.
But the reality is that times of challenge or crisis often reveal undeveloped trust in our lives. It is at these moments that God desires to strengthen our faith. But it all begins with a choice to trust in God instead of trusting in self.
And Psalm 62:8 reveals three important characteristics of true trust in God that the Lord showed me that memorable day in a Middle Eastern hotel room.
A Constant Trust
There in the hotel room where I didn’t want to be and had spent the past few days unsuccessfully trying to escape from, I was struck first by the word all. “Trust in him at all times.” There are some times when it seems easy to trust the Lord: when He answers your prayers, when you see fruit for your labors, when hope surges and you can envision how God will bless in the future.
But there are other times when it is harder to trust the Lord: when you’ve prayed for a long time and there is no answer, when anxiety is wrapping its grip around your mind, when you’ve labored and served but see no fruit, when obstructions rise in your path and it seems impossible to move forward, when you are stuck in a foreign hotel room unable to get home to preach on Sunday.
God wants us to trust Him when the way is clear and when the night is dark. Faith in God is an abiding duty and a perpetual privilege. He is always worthy of our confidence.
I’ve sung the hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” since I was a child. But those everlasting arms aren’t just a hymnwriter’s well-worded phrasing. They are a spiritual reality, always available to God’s people: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). When your faith is weak, you can lean into God’s everlasting arms. They do not, indeed they cannot, fail.
Sometimes we think of trusting God as more of a passive decision—something we just sort of do in the background while at the same time exhausting all other options until something works out. Oh yes, of course I’m trusting the Lord. But I just need to also . . . .
That’s not, however, how the Bible pictures trust. Throughout God’s Word, especially in Psalms, we see trust as an active decision of faith. Notice the choice to trust that is voiced in these verses:
“O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me” (Psalm 7:1).
“And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee” (Psalm 9:10).
“In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?” (Psalm 11:1).
“Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust” (Psalm 16:1).
When you are besieged by trouble, when you can say with the apostle Paul, “without were fightings, within were fears” (2 Corinthians 7:5), when darkness surrounds you and anxiety grips you, that is when trust is an active choice of faith.
David’s choice to trust God at the Psalm 62 moment in his life—likely during Absolam’s rebellion and attempt to take the kingdom—shows us a man experiencing stillness under stress. He chose to wait silently on the Lord, not even trusting himself to answer his tormentors.
Those who trust in the Lord at all times develop a patience that is a testimony to the grace of God at work in their lives. They are willing to take decisive action, but only under the direction of the Lord and in dependence on Him through their action.
Earlier in this chapter, David expressed this patient expectancy: “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him” (Psalm 62:5).
An expectant trust in God is never disappointed. We can trust His faithfulness. We can trust His unfailing love. We can trust His promises. And we can trust His plans for us. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).
A Complete Trust
Not only does Psalm 62:8 instruct us to trust in God, but it invites, “pour out your heart before him.”
The language of pouring out your heart conveys holding back nothing. A true trust in God is complete. It is the emptying of one’s soul to God.
Have you ever had a friend with whom you felt you could fully and freely share your heart without fear of being misunderstood or judged? These kinds of friendships are rare. For me, my wife Terrie is this confidant. I know I can tell her the most personal thoughts and struggles of my heart and be met with love and encouragement. The Lord has blessed me also with a few other friends with whom I can speak freely without needing to first contextualize or defend my perspective. I’m thankful for them.
God is the friend with whom you can fully unburden your soul. You don’t weigh Him down with your confession of sin or burdens. He will never push you away because of something you share with Him. In fact, He knows it before you tell Him and still invites you to share it. He has the ability to lift your spirit and meet the deepest needs of your heart.
So empty your soul before the Lord. Turn the vessel of your soul upside down, and give Him your thoughts, desires, fears, and anxieties. Hide nothing from Him.
Confess your sins, knowing that He stands ready to forgive (1 John 1:9).
Share your needs, assured that He is a present God who helps (Psalm 46:1).
Tell Him your worries, confident that He is able to give you peace (Philippians 4:6–7).
In Psalm 139, David began by exalting the thorough intricacy of God’s knowledge of him: “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.” Over the next sixteen verses, David describes how God knows everything about him, including his whereabouts, activities, and even his thoughts before he thinks them. He describes God’s care in creating him and the greatness of God’s presence to envelop him.
Is it any wonder then, that after David establishes the kind sovereignty and interested attention of God to search and know him that he concludes with a prayer fully exposing the deepest parts of his heart and thoughts to God? “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24).
God is a safe confidant. You can empty your soul before Him and earnestly place your trust in Him.
In fact, the very process of pouring out your heart before God actually builds your trust. It is exactly what an anxious, frazzled soul needs.
A Confident Trust
I love that Psalm 62:8 not only says that God is a refuge, but that it adds “He is a refuge for us.” It’s personal.
It’s amazing to see how many times in just eight verses David refers to God as his rock, salvation, and refuge—not just in a general sense, but in a personal sense:
“Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved. . . . He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:1–2, 6–8).
In every storm of life, God offers us the shelter and security of His presence. We can stew in our anxiety and unrest of spirit, or we can run to Christ, unburden our souls to Him, and find peace in His shelter. Missionary Amy Carmichael wrote of the settledness that comes as we fix our hearts on the Lord and seek Him as our refuge. “Blessed are the single-hearted,” she wrote, “for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you know what His will is.”
What did God as His rock, salvation, and refuge mean for David? It meant God was his place of stability and safety. When difficulties arose, enemies assaulted, or his footing slipped, David could run to the Lord for security, protection, and rescue.
To us who know Jesus, there is an added richness to these words. Jesus is our refuge and redeemer. He bore the full wrath of God for our sin. He saved us from the eternal penalty of sin and rescues us today from the power of sin’s hold in our lives. We have free access to the presence of God, our refuge, through Christ. Psalm 91, which also speaks of God as our refuge, is especially meaningful when we remember that we dwell in the secret place of the most High by abiding in Christ: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1–2).
People who don’t know Christ as their refuge feel the need to hide from God when their soul is troubled. But we who know Him can rejoice in pouring out our hearts to Him and finding in His presence the love, forgiveness, and assurance that we need.
God is our refuge, and His Word is our resource. It is in the written Word of God that we find His promises and sustaining grace to confidently trust Him.
David knew this, and he relied on God’s Word: “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God” (Psalm 62:11). Indeed, God’s written Word is the record of His spoken—inspired by His very breath—Word. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
Do you want a more confident trust in God? Turn to His Word. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
So there I was, held against my plans in a hotel room in the Middle East. I had tried everything I could to reverse the situation. But instead of rescuing me from an unwanted quarantine, God was rescuing me from the frustration and anxiety that had insisted on my plans above His. And He had done it through one short verse in Psalm 62. In these words, He had brought me back to a place of trust.
Trust Constantly: Trust in him at all times;
Trust Completely: ye people, pour out your heart before him:
Trust Confidently: God is a refuge for us. Selah.
But God’s work in my heart wasn’t done. As I finished the verse, I saw that single, final word: Selah.
If you don’t know what selah means, that’s because it isn’t an English word. It’s a Hebrew word that, rather than being translated into English was transliterated—spelled out with English letters so we can pronounce it. Bible scholars assume it’s meaning is one of two possibilities: a musical notation (remember, the psalms were Israel’s songbook) or a word that means, “pause and reflect.” It seems to me that either of these possible definitions are the same. Whether it calls the musicians to pause or the reader to pause, the end result is a rest.
Rest—even the word sounds calming to a chaffed, anxious soul. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him,” Psalm 37:7 admonishes.
Rest takes time. Pouring your heart out to the Lord isn’t done in thirty seconds. Usually when I’m anxious, I also feel rushed. There’s this building sense of hurry in my spirit that doesn’t allow me to really pause, to enjoy a selah.
But the process of pouring out my soul to God settles my spirit. It realigns my perspective so that I take more delight in God’s presence and am less focused on my performance.
One of the best cures for anxiety is worship. After we empty our souls before the Lord, it is good to turn our attention on who He is and simply rejoice in His greatness. When we feel stressed and hurried and pressed up against the clock, it’s good to lift our eyes to the One who transcends time and space and yet cares deeply for our needs. As we fill our minds with the realities of God and lift our hearts in praise to Him, anxiety’s grip weakens its hold on us.
The rest that comes through seeking God as our refuge and laying down our anxieties in His presence brings a soul-rest. It’s deeper than a vacation, deeper than sleep. It’s an abiding rest in God.
Lay down like a lamb in the green pasture, and bask in the care of the Shepherd. He is a good shepherd who “maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul . . .” (Psalm 23:2–3).
This kind of rest is what every anxious heart needs. A rest to pause, reflect, renew, refresh, receive inner resilience.