Does it sometimes feel like God is severely punishing you? How do you respond when you are under duress?
Psalm 118 shows us that the way forward begins with thanksgiving. As we gratefully remember God’s past deliverance, we can pray for God to save us today and look forward to our final day of salvation.
But let’s be honest, singing songs of thanksgiving when you’re under duress or when it feels like you’re being disciplined doesn’t come naturally. It requires intentional discipline to remember what is true and it’s usually difficult.
5 Ways to be Thankful When Under Duress
Here are five ways Psalm 118 shows us to be thankful and how that leads to trust which increases our confidence and hope:
#1: Thank God for his faithful love.
Psalm 118 is bookended by a call to “give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love that endures forever.” If God doesn’t love us, we would have little reason to be thankful when we’re going through hard times. But because God does love us, we can know nothing happening to us will separate us from his love (Rom. 8:38-39).
#2: Thank God for his past deliverance.
In Psalm 118 we see several subtle references to the Exodus story. The most obvious is the quoting from the Song of Moses (Ex. 15). Verse 14 is a direct quote and verse 16 recounts how the Lord’s mighty right hand delivered them. The psalmist clearly has his own stories of deliverance where he moved from distress (literally, a narrow place) to freedom (literally, an open place).
CHALLENGE: What is your personal song of deliverance? Consider writing it down and/or turning it into a song.
#3: Thank God for being trustworthy.
In verse 6 the psalmist declares “The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear.” Like the psalmist, we can know that God is wiser than men who will only lead us astray. God is morally superior to men who will seek to corrupt us. He is safer than men who only bring harm. God is better than men who can only create short-term benefits. God alone can make us truly happy, whereas the happiness created by man is fleeting.
#4: Thank God for his active involvement with your life.
If you’re going through a season of duress or a time of plentiful harvest, you can thank God for loving you enough to discipline you or bless you, When you cry out, “Save us, Lord” you can know he hears and will answer just as he has done before.
#5: Thank God for the coming of our righteous king.
Verses 19-26 speak not only about the triumphant entrance of the kings of Israel returning from battle, but it also foretold the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, The crowds cried out, Hosanna (Hebrew for “come save us”), which is taken straight from verse 25. Just as Psalm 24 invites the king of glory to enter through the gates of righteousness, Jesus is the only truly righteous king who entered Jerusalem to set his people free. They cried out with verse 26, “Bless the one who comes in the name of the LORD.” We can surely agree with verse 25, “This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.”
The psalmist boldly declares that since God is for him, “What can mere people do to me?” He’s not saying we will escape pain or even death. Let’s face it, man can temporarily bring great affliction, pain, and even death. But he cannot ultimately defeat us. Jesus promised he will not lose any that belong to him (John 6:39).
Rejoicing under duress
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Huguenots experienced severel persecution in France. Many Protestant churches were burned down, including the one belonging to my ancestors. Pastors were imprisoned and frequently martyred if they would not recant their faith and declare allegiance to the Catholic church. In his book, “The Psalms in Human Life,” Rowland E. Prothero tells about three Huguenot pastors who each sang Psalm 118:24 as they marched to their deaths,
Want to know what it said? Here’s a translation of the French versification:
Here now is the happy dayPsalm 118:24 translation
For which we have been waiting.
Sing praise to God who gives us joy
And pleasures unabating.
That puts the children’s song in a different light, doesn’t it?
Whether in sickness, duress, or under severe punishment, we can say,
“This is the day the Lord has made,
We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
If you find yourself under duress, take a few moments today to write down a few things you’re thankful for. If you can’t remember any, look back through your gratitude journal and make notes of a few things you identified in the past. In faith, thank God for these things. If you know someone going through a difficult time, send them a note thanking them for why you appreciate them.
Father, thank you for hearing all of my prayers. I praise you for delivering me from sin, death, and the powers of evil. I thank you for loving me enough to discipline me. And I thank you for being trustworthy. Let my confidence grow as I live for your glory. I thank you for coming to save me and I look forward to the day when you return. I will join the chorus in singing, “Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” In your name, I pray. Amen.