Years ago, I grappled with the constant fear of my Lyme disease reactivating and the potential injuries that would further debilitate my already weak body. Every day, I wrestled with what the future might hold: Will I ever be healed from Lyme? Will I get my energy back, or will chronic fatigue be my new normal? Will I be able to have children? Will God still take care of me?
When we can’t seem to reconcile a good God with hard circumstances, it takes a toll on our trust in him. Our minds spin with unanswered questions: What if my spouse dies in a sudden accident? What if I lose this baby? What if my test results come back positive? What if I don’t find another job? But we often fail to ask the most important question: How can I learn to trust God, no matter what happens?
Psalm 34, David’s beautiful poem about God’s goodness, helps us answer this question. Its acrostic style displays the expanse of our Lord’s goodness as David takes us through the Hebrew alphabet––an “A to Z” of the benevolent nature of our God.
There is no doubt David wrestled with the goodness of God; many of his psalms provide proof (see Psalms 68–70). But when trials hit, and the shadow of death enveloped him, David relied on what he knew to be absolutely and always true: God is good.
In this psalm, David guides us through three steps to trust God and fight our fears.
1. Fight your fears with praise.
As David pens Psalm 34, he is an exhausted and distressed young man who has been running away from the king of Israel, Saul. Saul has been trying to kill David.
Can you imagine being hunted? Having no place to lay your head because you’re hiding in caves? Never knowing who to trust? Terrifying! Yet, in the middle of his fearful circumstances, David praises God: “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1).
David knows there is power in praise, like there is power in fear. By choosing to praise God for what he knows to be true of God’s character, David is overwhelming his doubts and fears with truth. Rather than following his heart, he leads his heart. He practices praise with his lips, which leads his heart into a posture of praise.
Rather than following his heart, he leads his heart.
We can do the same: to deepen our trust in God’s goodness, we live out the definition of trust. We cultivate a heart that is sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Heb. 11:1). We praise God with our mouths even when our minds and hearts are grappling with his goodness. We walk by faith, not by sight.
2. Fight your fears with remembrance.
Next, David reflects on a time when he feigned insanity in order to escape from an enemy (see 1 Sam. 21). He recounts God’s goodness to rescue him: “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles” (Ps. 34:6).
The conscious act of remembering God’s past faithfulness to us will deepen our trust in his present goodness. In his commentary on Psalm 34, Charles Spurgeon says, “It is well to mark our mercies with well-carved memorials,” which is precisely what David does. Scripture is full of memorials. Frequently, God commands his people to remember his works (e.g., Josh. 4:7; Luke 22:19). Why? Because he knows we are forgetful, and he knows remembrance strengthens our faith and fights fear.
So, when you’re wrestling with fear, recall his faithfulness:
- How did God save you by his grace?
- What prayers has God answered in your past?
- What troubles has he rescued you from?
- What fears has he helped you overcome, even if by degrees?
3. Fight your fears with eternal perspective.
David now brings his poem to a climax with a declaration about God’s goodness and an exhortation to God’s people:
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!Psalm 34:8-10
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
When we wrestle with God’s goodness, it’s often because he’s taken, changed, or withheld something we think we need or deserve. Sometimes our losses are extraordinary, and sometimes they are the daily deprivations, common to many of us. In any suffering, whether small or life-altering, Psalm 34 expresses our certain hope: Those who fear him lack nothing. Those who fear him have every good thing.
With the Lord, even in losing something good, we lack nothing. With the Lord, even in gaining something bad, we have every good thing.
But how can this be?
David’s words point us to the coming Savior and risen King. Our sin means we deserve to taste death. But, astonishingly, what does God offer us instead? We can look back to Psalm 34 for our answer: “The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (Ps. 34:22).
God offers us a Redeemer in his Son. He offers us a refuge from the condemnation our sin deserves. When our worst fears come to pass (or when we fear they might), we can “taste and see” Jesus’s fellowship with us in suffering. His agony produced bloody sweat as he anticipated his greatest fear––drinking the cup of God’s wrath on the cross––and his fear came to pass as he tasted death in our place.
Our trust in God’s goodness will deepen as we “taste and see” the power of Jesus’s resurrection. He overcame death that we might never taste death ourselves, but, instead, dwell in his saving love and eternal life.