“Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:5-6
Fear is debilitating and lies at the root of a great many spiritual, emotional, and even physical ills. It solves none of tomorrow's problems and steals all today's joys. God did not create us to be fearful creatures, so not surprisingly the Bible actually has a great deal to say about fear and how God wants to relieve us of it.
Psalms 113-118 are called the Hallel (meaning praise) psalms, and were sung during the celebration of Passover. Psalms 113-114 were sung before the meal, Psalms 115-118 after the meal. Jesus sang the above verses after the Passover meal, just prior to His arrest (Mt. 26:30).
Think about this scene carefully. Jesus knew what was about to happen. He was already feeling distress, and the pressure would become even greater as He prayed in the Garden. At that time, He may well have prayed these very words. He called upon the Father out of His own distress. He knew the Father would hear and answer. He trusted the Father would set Him free.
In what way did God set Him free? For Jesus, freedom meant the removal of a cross (“take this cup from Me”). For the Father, freedom meant the courage to rise from that prayer and face the most difficult test anyone has ever faced. Jesus accepted that freedom, and went to the cross.
As you face a measure of “the day’s own trouble,” this psalm of praise can help you.
First, reclaim the powerful truth that because Jesus was tested, He is able to help you in your test (Heb. 2:18). He knows from very personal experience what is like for a human being to experience distress. Through the incarnation, God’s sympathy became empathy. He knows and understands the trouble you are facing.
Second, call on the Lord. Prayer is your lifeline. It connects you to spiritual resources God makes available to you. You were not created to meet your present distress through knowledge or experience. Chances are the problem you face is beyond the reach of will or determination. You need help from a power greater than yourself, and prayer connects you vitally to that power. Even Jesus did not try to live without prayer! Do not neglect prayer. Share your distress with God. Tell Him about it. Simply ask God to take your fear from you.
Finally, trust that God hears and will set you free. Also, trust the form of freedom God provides. Many times God has provided for me a solution I could not have anticipated. I thank Him for that freedom. Other times God has allowed the distress to remain, but has provided me a courage to face that challenge. In that experience I have grown. I have learned to thank Him for any expression of freedom He provides.
Jesus sang, and perhaps prayed, these words during His greatest test. You certainly should pray them during your present distress! Literally repeat them as you pray (praying the psalms is actually a great spiritual discipline). Through this prayer you will rediscover, “with the Lord on my side I shall not fear.”
Dr. Terry Ellis
June 28, 2015