The Raw Reality of the Psalms

God is so good to us. He gives us indications in his word that he understands us in ways that we might never imagine. Because God inspired real people, real human men, to write his Scripture, we gain insights into how God cares for us in our weakness.

Those thoughts came to me as I was reading through Psalm 55. In that text, David is talking to God about his own hurts, his own fears, his own discouragement. David expresses things to God that we are not often honest enough to say. Yet David moves to trust in the end.

In the first 2 verses of the psalm, David pleads with the Lord to listen and hear him. He is praying. He is desperate. He wants God’s help.

Then, from verses 3-8, David expresses his deep, human emotions. The wicked are causing him trouble (v3). David’s heart hurts and he is afraid (vv4-5). He wishes he could run away (vv6-8). This is not the false face of the modern Christian pretending to be OK while being eaten up inside by sorrow or fear.

In the next section, David identifies the cause of his pain. IN verses 9-11, he highlights the trouble all around the city. But in verse 12, David lets us know that the worst part of it all is that the one who is attacking him, the one trying to destroy him, that one is a former friend. David has been betrayed by a friend.

Psalm 55:12-14

12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—

then I could bear it;

it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—

then I could hide from him.

13 But it is you, a man, my equal,

my companion, my familiar friend.

14 We used to take sweet counsel together;

within God’s house we walked in the throng.

How sad is that? How familiar is it? I would love to know that we have not experienced such things. But it just is not true. If you have lived long enough, you know what it feels like to have someone you consider a friend suddenly strike against you to do you harm, betraying a confidence, breaking a promise, or simply trying to do you in.

In verses 15-19, David prays, expecting God to bring justice. But then, by verse 20, he again expresses the hurt he feels.

Psalm 55:20-21

20 My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;

he violated his covenant.

21 His speech was smooth as butter,

yet war was in his heart;

his words were softer than oil,

yet they were drawn swords.

Do you feel this? My friend used kind words. Even when betraying me, he spoke softly, sweetly, deceptively. How much this must have hurt. How deep these wounds must have been.

At the end of the Psalm, David seems to summarize and come to a conclusion.

Psalm 55:22-23

22 Cast your burden on the Lord,

and he will sustain you;

he will never permit

the righteous to be moved.

23 But you, O God, will cast them down

into the pit of destruction;

men of blood and treachery

shall not live out half their days.

But I will trust in you.

David knows God can be trusted. He knows that God will protect his own in the end. David knows that God will do justice, being the final judge over the betraying friend.

The final phrase is lovely, “But I will trust in you.” With all the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, David still says that he will, in the end, trust in the Lord.

God is good. He shows us that he understands our experiences. He shows us, through inspiring this song to be written, that he has a better grasp of pain and betrayal than you might ever imagine. Then, of course, Jesus lived this out. Jesus was betrayed by a friend too.

Christians, get this truth: God understands. He understands it when you are afraid—he has seen it before. He understands when you feel betrayed. He understands when you have a supposed friend speak sweet words and then turn against you. And God understands your need of his protection and your desire for justice. And God would call on you to trust him. God would call on you to see that he is just, and ultimately, in the very end, he will handle all this rightly.

That understanding from the Lord, the emotional turmoil that David expresses, that all should help us to see the grace of God. God did not have to show us that he understands our hardships. God did not have to let us know that we are not alone in these feelings. But God did so. And in doing so, God shows us that he is wonderfully kind, wonderfully good, and perfectly able to keep us, even through hard times.