It can be difficult to pray when you’re angry, sad, or worried. Sometimes the deepest, strongest emotions are the hardest to express. Thankfully, Psalm 35 shows us how to work through our pain with God.
This psalm is written by David, who dealt with some very difficult things in his life. He went through war, intense personal conflicts, the death of a child, being publically called out for his sin, and many other struggles.
The Bible doesn’t say exactly what was going on in David’s life when he wrote this psalm. Some scholars think it was when Saul was hunting and taunting him. Others believe it was written later in David’s life when he was surrounded by tumult and conflict. Regardless of when it was written, it’s clear that David was in pain.
So, if you’re going through painful circumstances, Psalm 35 will probably resonate deeply with you. I encourage you to read it through once right now. Some of it may seem confusing or weird. That’s okay. Just focus on three main messages: You can call on God for help. God stands in the battle with you. David praises God in difficult times.
In Anguish, We Can Call on God for Help
The psalm begins with David begging for God’s help. He goes into detail about the horrible things happening to him and asks God to fix them. In some places, it’s like he’s even demanding God to come to his aid.
This is how The Message translates the first three verses of this psalm:
“Harass these hecklers, God,
punch these bullies in the nose.
Grab a weapon, anything at hand;
stand up for me!
Get ready to throw the spear, aim the javelin,
at the people who are out to get me.
Reassure me; let me hear you say,
‘I’ll save you.’”
Isn’t it amazing that the God of the universe allows a tiny human to speak to Him this way? We serve a God who listens to the cries of our hearts and loves us through our pain. He doesn’t leave us when our lives get messy. In fact, those are the times that God draws even closer to us.
David is reaching out to God in a very dark moment. But he doesn’t attempt to fix himself up before talking to God, and he doesn’t use fancy words or try to say the right things. If David can ask God to beat up his enemies, you can bring God your desires, requests, frustrations, and imperfect pleas, too.
One of the most painful moments of this psalm is when David says, “They repay me evil for good and leave me like one bereaved” (Psalm 35:12). Bereaved is a strong word. Vocabulary.com describes it as “deep sorrow, deprived of a loved one’s presence.” We associate bereavement with the death of a close friend or family member.
So David was in deep sorrow. He was separated from his loved ones and even felt far from God. He sounds frustrated as he keeps asking God for help, and his prayers seem to go unanswered (Psalm 35:13).
But, he keeps praying. David doesn’t stop talking to God even when it seems like his words are futile. He trusts in God even though he can’t detect His presence.
God Is Standing in the Battle with Us
All throughout this psalm, David asks God to fight for him. For example, Psalm 35:23-24 says,
“Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God.”
David was a mighty warrior. He fought in battles and commanded troops. He must have been pretty confident in his fighting abilities. But he knew that he couldn’t win every battle by himself. He needed help from the Lord.
It takes courage to ask for help because it means admitting that we can’t do everything by ourselves. Our culture praises people who are self-reliant. But it’s so much better to be God-reliant.
David’s prayer reminds us that we are not alone in our battle. God is right there with us, and we can call on Him at any time. He sees what is happening, and He understands how we feel.
We can go to God, even in our anger and disappointment. As Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Praising God During Difficult Times
No matter what David was going through, he knew that God would fight for him. David’s knowledge of God allowed him to rejoice in the Lord, fully believing in God’s power to save him.
All throughout Psalm 35, David throws in words of praise in between descriptions of his deepest pain. He believes in God’s love even when surrounded by hate and trusts in God’s goodness no matter how bad his circumstances get.
The entire psalm ends on this promise, “My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long” (Psalm 35:28).
God was with David in his pain, and He is with you in yours. God is with you always. He will never leave you or forsake you. I hope that you can rest in His love today.