Tonight, I’d like to speak to you on a subject that at one time or another, we all face. A subject that if we allow it to; will consume us, will cause us to run from God, to run from church, and to lose our song. It’s a subject and something that you may even be facing yourself as you sit here tonight. It’s no doubt something that many all across our world maybe facing tonight. And that is the feeling of being overwhelmed. You may be here tonight and you may be feeling overwhelmed with work, with school, with a relationship, with your home life, with circumstances beyond your control, perhaps even with your church and with the duties you have committed to within the church.
You’re here tonight and you say, “I’m overwhelmed!” or “I’m stressed out!”. Some of you may even be saying and thinking I’m scared, discouraged, confused, I’m at the end of my rope; I just don’t know what to do or where to turn! No doubt, there are people just like this all over our world here tonight. They’re overwhelmed with work, with school, with a relationship, with their home life, with circumstances beyond their control, and perhaps even with their church. They’re scared, discouraged, confused, perhaps at the end of their rope; and just don’t know what to do or where to turn!
Folks, we see almost every day. People coming to this church looking for help, nowhere else to turn, looking for hope. Looking for someone to talk to, to have an ear to hear, a kind word to help them as they navigate the storms of life. They’re overwhelmed! And folks, I won’t lie; sometimes, it can be overwhelming for us when we see all of these people that are hurting, that need help but praise God that we have something and someone for them every time they come to those doors! And that something and someone is always the Lord Jesus Christ; the overcomer of those that are overwhelmed!
For you Christian here tonight however, it’s very easy for us to allow the overwhelming to consume us if we’re not careful and no not where to turn. And folks, when we allow the overwhelming to consume us; we can lose our song and we can lose our faith in God because we begin to wonder just where is He when it seems like we’re at our lowest of lows.
The Book of Psalms, which is where we will be for most of tonight’s message, is unique in that it is the largest book in the Bible with 150 chapters. It also contains the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, which is unique in itself. The Psalms are in five books, each concluding with a doxology of praise: I. Psalms 1-41; II Psalms 42-72; III. Psalms 73-89, Psalms 90-106, and Psalms 107-150. We will be in the second book.
The book of Psalms is also unique amongst the books of the Bible because it has a number of authors, chief of which was David. The word translated as psalm simply means ‘melody’ or ‘song.’ The Book of Psalms therefore was essentially the hymnal of Old Testament Israel. Many of the psalms begin when David was in a valley of life and discouraged. Yet, as he began to focus on the mercies of the Lord, the psalm is transformed to one of praise and it ends upon that mountaintop.
This now brings us to our text here tonight and Psalm 61 and a look at a man feeling just the way we’ve described. A man who is feeling overwhelmed and at his absolute lowest. That man is King David as we see that this psalm is directly ascribed to him, written after he had become king. It was written during his enforced exile from the Tabernacle, likely during Absalom’s rebellion.
Absalom had done his best to take his father’s throne and his father’s life. As a result of Absalom’s actions, David had been exiled from his home and his family. David had been hunted by soldiers loyal to his own son. Absalom had done everything in his power to destroy his own father. The only reason David survived Absalom’s revolt was the grace of God.
When this Psalm was written, the rebellion is over, Absalom is dead, and David is headed home. He is going back with sorrow in his heart because the son he loved more than life itself is gone. He is going back to reclaim his rightful place on the throne of Israel. He is going home to help restore a nation torn apart by a brutal civil war. David is going home, but he is going home with a heart filled with sorrow, a heart that is overwhelmed.
Now, while this psalm is a short one, it is one of profound faith in a time of great mourning. David was at the lowest point of his life. Yet, in that dark hour, his eyes turned to the Rock that was higher than he. And for a few moments here tonight, this is the subject I’d like to speak to you on; when my heart is overwhelmed.
Notice how David begins this chapter; with an urgent plea to God! He cries out for God to hear his cry, to attend to his prayer! Why such an urgent prayer? Well, David at this point was banished from the kingdom he loved and would one day inherit by Saul. He was forbidden to see his best friend, Jonathan, one of the only people that cared for him during this time. He was being hunted like a wild animal, in fear for his life, scared for certain, for sure discouraged, confused at his condition (remember he was anointed to be king), and if you would, at the end of his rope! So with no one else to turn to, he turns to God, he cries out to God! Desperate circumstances forged an urgent prayer.
This one verse, I believe, also teaches us a wonderful truth about God’s love and mercy. That truth is this; when we are at our absolute lowest with seemingly nowhere and no one else to turn to, God is always there to hear our cries and attend to our prayers! But it also teaches something else and that is when facing difficult circumstances and situations, turn to God first. So many times, we take our problems, difficulties, circumstances, and situations to our friends or our family and while there is nothing sinful or wrong about that, I believe that we should take them to God first because He is ever ready to help in the storms of life and most times, in a way, better than friends or family could ever be able to. Desperate circumstances forged an urgent prayer.
But not only an urgent prayer, but a bold, confident prayer as well. Notice, David says; hear my cry, o God! Folks, this is the cry of a brokenhearted man. Absalom and David had always had a stormy relationship. They had been estranged earlier, but David had forgiven Absalom’s transgressions and their relationship had been restored. That was what David hoped would happen this time. But now Absalom is dead! There will be no restoration. There is only the overwhelming sense of loss, of sorrow, and of defeat.
He feels lonely, separated and cut off from the Lord. He says that his “heart is overwhelmed.” The word “overwhelmed” means, “enveloped; faint, or weak.” The idea here is that “sorrows have enveloped his heart and have sapped all his strength away.” So, he cries out to God for the help to make it through the problems he is facing.
From that crushed soul David reaches up to God. He pleads with God to “hear” his “cry.” The word “cry” speaks of “a piercing cry, a ringing cry, a plaintive plea.” David reaches up to the only hope he has. He lifts his voice to the Lord and seeks an audience with the only One Who can help Him!
Have you ever been there? Have you ever been in the place where you, like David, feel cut-off from God? Have you ever been in the place where you felt that you were very far away from Him? I know that sin can produce that feeling, but so can sorrow and suffering. There are times when the problems, difficulties and trials of life envelope our heart and drain the energy right from us. Have you ever been to that point folks? I know I have! There are times when life overwhelms us. When those times come, we may sometimes think the Lord does not care about us, and that we must beg Him for His attention. But dear friend here tonight, I want you to know that the Lord has already promised to hear you when you call on Him!
Jeremiah 33:3 – Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
The very God of Heaven inclines His ear to hear you! He listens for your voice because He is your Father and you are His child! Child of God here tonight, pray with confidence! The Lord hears you when you cry unto Him! When your heart is overwhelmed, the very first thing this passage teaches us to do is to come to the Lord in confidence knowing the following;
1. That He Knows You.
Job 23:10 – But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
2. That He Cares About You.
I Peter 5:7 – Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
3. That He Invites You to Come to Him.
Matthew 11:28 – Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
4. That He Has Promised to Hear You and Help You When You Do!
Matthew 7:7-8 – Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Philippians 4:6-7 – Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
When my heart is overwhelmed; pray to God urgently and with confidence knowing beyond any shadow of a doubt that He does hear you and He will indeed help you! When those times of overwhelming comes, the right place to go is to the Lord. He is the only One Who can help us. He is the only One Who can deliver us from what threatens to destroy us!
As the Psalmist said in Psalm 46:1-3; God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah, and again in Psalm 145:18; The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
Christian here tonight, when your heart is overwhelmed, if you need help; call on the Lord, and He will help you!
Driven from his beloved land, no longer able to go to the Tabernacle to pray and far from familiar settings, David prayed in despair. David was overwhelmed with trouble like the sea billows roll. In that hour, his only recourse was the Rock that was higher than he. With poetic eloquence, he likened God as his Rock of strength and help. David knew that God was as “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isaiah 32:2). He knew his Rock was the Rock of Ages, cleft for him. Therein was great refuge and strength.
What a comforting thought that is for us here tonight as Christians, to know that God is our rock and that we can take refuge in Him! In fact, Rock is one of God’s names, did you know that? In Old Testament Jewish times, they had different names for God depending on how they felt at that time and who God was to them at that time. In Old Testament times, a name was not only identification, but an identity as well. And one of God’s identities is that of Rock or Tsur (tsoor) which means Rock: faithful and reliable One.
Deuteronomy 32:4 – He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
Seven attributes of God’s character are noted here in this verse but the one we want to focus on is the very first one and that is “He is the Rock.” This is the first reference in the Bible how that God is our Rock – a symbol of strength, stability, and immensity. David knew this, that God in times of great trouble is his strength, stability, his faithful, reliable One, and his rock!
Folks, thank God there is a Rock! There is a place of safety. There is a place of refuge. There is a place where we can flee in the times of trouble, sorrow and suffering. There is a place where the storms cannot come, the winds cannot blow, and the waves cannot reach us. There is a safe haven! There is a Rock and His name is Jesus! The book of Proverbs says, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe,” Proverbs 18:10.
David goes on; For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. Using metaphors of everyday life, David likened God’s help to a shelter from the elements. A strong tower was a masonry stone fortress built in ancient times as a military defensive position. They usually were impregnable against the attacks of the day. Thus, David described the Lord as his shelter from storms and his protection from battle. Both metaphors were apt. In his flight from Absalom, David no longer could count upon a roof over his head. Moreover, he knew a battle against possibly superior forces was inevitable. But, God was his shelter and fortress.
And because of that, David announces and proclaims; I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: Banished from Jerusalem, David committed himself to God. It may well be that he looked toward the true Tabernacle, made without hands, eternal in the heavens, when he vowed to “abide in thy tabernacle for ever.”
In any event, David swore faithfulness to God, even in the darkest of circumstances. What a picture this is! Here we have a commitment by David to live close to the Lord. He resolves to worship the Lord, to seek the Lord, to love the Lord, and to love for the Lord, among other things. The picture here is of a man who is hurting. Yet, in the midst of his pain he knows that God is working on his behalf. He does not have all the information about what God is going to do, but he is determined to honor the Lord with his love, his worship and with his life. This is the same attitude we witness in the life of Job.
Job 1:20-22 – Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Folks, this should be our resolve as well. There will be times when your heart is breaking, but if you belong to Him, He is working in your life to accomplish His will. He is ever working for your good and His glory. So, our duty is to trust Him regardless of the circumstances, to determine in our hearts that we will commit all we have and all we are to Him. We must resolve to praise Him in spite of how we feel, what we think, or how things look! Paul gives us an example of this.
II Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Wow, what a thought! Folks, resolve in your heart that you will live close to the Lord, to worship the Lord, to seek the Lord, to love the Lord, and to have love for the Lord in spite of how you feel, what you think, or how bleak things may look!/
David goes on in the second half of verse 4; I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah. David expresses his confidence in the Lord. David resolves to cast himself completely upon the grace of God, trusting the Lord to sustain him, help him, and keep him. He resolves that regardless of what comes his way, he will run to God and he will trust the Lord to shelter him and protect him from the sorrows and pains of life.
We see again, that this should be our resolve as well. We cannot protect ourselves. We cannot stave off even the smallest of troubles and trials. Like a chick facing a hawk, we are helpless before our sorrows. But praise God there is a God in Heaven Who loves us! We are “His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” He died for us and He rose again to give us life, and we rest in His grace in the mercy seat. As part of His relationship with us, he has committed Himself to our perpetual care. So, instead of seeking to face the trials of life in your own power, resolve to run to the Lord and look to Him to shelter you from all that comes your way!
As David reflected back over the years, he reminded God how that He had heard his vows. Implicit here is David reminding God of his previous faithfulness to Him. He was building a case as to why God should intervene to help him again. Moreover, David reminded God how that He had given him “the heritage of those that fear thy name.”
Psalm 16:6 – The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
David was privileged and blessed to have been born of a godly lineage. His father Jesse surely was a godly man whose roots were in Obed, Ruth, and Boaz. David was of the generation of the upright. That is a great privilege to be descended from those who earlier were men and women of great faith and godliness. Again, it may be inferred that David was reminding God of that as further reason for God to provide deliverance to him.
Therefore, with faith in hand, David carefully reminded God that He had promised to preserve him. Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: and his years as many generations.
II Samuel 7:12-16 – And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
Before we move on, I want you to notice verse 15; But my mercy shall not depart away from him. Isn’t that a great thought folks? That is also God’s promise to you and I as His children! He will never take His mercy away from us! He will never leave us alone, He will never forsake us!
Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
Hebrews 13:5 – Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
But what is significant here is that David reminded God of His promise. It was the basis of his faith. Furthermore, David used that promise as a ‘lever’ so to speak, to move God to answer his prayer. All throughout the Bible, great prayers frequently remind God of His promise. It is the essence of faith.
He continues in that same vein. He shall abide before God for ever. Remember, God had promised to preserve David in the covenant He had made with him.
II Samuel 7:16 – And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
Therefore, David pled, O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him. David referred to himself in the third person him. He thus besought God to prepare extra mercy and truth for his preservation from Absalom. As a result, David promised, So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows. When God in fact gave David the victory, he promised to sing even more praise to him. Moreover, he would thus be able to continue to fulfill the vows he had made to God on a daily basis.
Know how we can break this down for us today? When you’re heart is overwhelmed, go on singing and serving! When you’re heart is overwhelmed, sing and serve with joy!
So, what do we learn from David and this passage here tonight? What do we do when we feel overwhelmed? Very simply the following; seek God remembering that He is your rock, He is your shelter, and He is your strength. Abide with Him, trust Him, remember His promises, and His previous faithfulness! Folks, God hasn’t ever let you down before! Why would He start now?
And once you have all of that, continue on in His work! Continue to serve Him faithfully so that His work may be accomplished, that souls may be saved, and like David that you’d be able to “sing praise unto thy name forever, that you may perform your vows”. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I!