Summary: In Psalm Four, David gives us the Lord’s prescription for coping with stress: Supplication, Stillness, and Sacrifice!
Scott R Bayles, preacher
Outside the Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, which is Denmark’s Parliament building, there are three stone figures guarding the entrance. They represent the earache, the headache, and the stomach ache. They were placed there to suggest that if you enter politics, you will have all three.
I think that most of us would agree that entering politics is likely to cause a great deal of stress. We live in a very stress-filled society. And it effects all of us, not just politicians. According to the experts, stress comes in four different flavors:
Acute stress is what most people identify as stress. It makes itself felt through tension headaches, emotional upsets, gastrointestinal disturbances, feelings of agitation and pressure.
Episodic acute stress is more serious and can lead to migraines, hypertension, stroke, heart attack, anxiety, depression, serious gastrointestinal distress.
Chronic stress is the most serious of all. It’s the stress that never ends. It grinds us down until our resistance is gone. Serious systemic illnesses such as diabetes, decreased immunocompetence, and perhaps cancer are its hallmark.
Traumatic stress is the result of massive acute stress, the effects of which can reverberate through our systems for years. It’s commonly known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The type of stress that you experience will differ from person to person, but we all experience some form of stress. Experts have come up with a number of suggestions for dealing with stress: (1) Identify your triggers, (2) get a massage, (3) practice breathing exercises, (4) do some aerobic exercising, (5) develop a support network through friends, family, and co-workers.
While all of those may be useful suggestions, for Christians, we have a much better method of coping with stress. In this inspired prose, David gives us the Lord’s prescription for dealing with the stress in our lives...
Psalm 4:1 ~ Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. (2) O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah. (3) But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself; The Lord hears when I call to Him. (4) Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. (5) Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the Lord. (6) Many are saying, "Who will show us any good?" Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Lord! (7) You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound. (8) In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.
Many scholars believe that David wrote Psalm 4 as he was about to retire for the evening. He couldn’t do much about the war around him, but he could do something about the war within him. Instead of lying in bed fretting, stewing and worrying, he committed himself and his situation to the Lord. Through David, God teaches us some important lessons about peace of mind during times of stress. In coping with stress, our first response should be...
Psalm 4:1 ~ Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.
Prayer is still the best place to start in response to any problem we might face in life. Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matt. 7:7). Our Heavenly Father wants to provide us with the relief that we so desperately need.
But, it falls to us to ask, seek, and knock. There are three parts to David’s prayer in verse one: praise, appreciation, and petition. He starts by saying, "O God of my righteousness!" David is praising God for who He is. It is important sometimes for us to take our eyes off ourselves and realize the goodness and greatness of our God. This life is not about you. It’s about God. I think there would be much less stress in the world if more people had the attitude: "It’s not about me!"
Secondly, David expresses appreciation to God, saying, "You have relieved me in my distress." Notice that David uses the past tense here. He is acknowledging that God has relieved his distress in the past, and David is thankful for that. Many times when we are stressed out over something we have a hard time remembering all the good that we have experienced in life. David reflects on the past with a heart of thankfulness. God has done some wonderful things in our lives, often using stressful circumstances to bring about His purposes. By appreciating what God has done in the past we, again, stop focusing inward and start looking upward!