February 24, 2017 • Life for Leaders
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Have you ever found yourself in a difficult, even hopeless situation, and desperate for God’s help? If so, then you can relate to Psalm 61. (If not, then Psalm 61 will help you when you face overwhelming challenges in the future.)
Psalm 61 expresses the desperate prayer of one who senses a great need for God. David prays “from the ends of the earth” (61:2). Although this could mean that he was far away from home, the sense of this phrase is more than literal. It speaks of neediness, when we are far away from what is comfortable, familiar, and safe. It may also point to times when we feel far away from God, when it seems as if he isn’t near to hear our prayers.
In such times, our hearts can grow “faint.” The Hebrew term ‘ataf, translated here as “faint,” can also mean “feeble” or “weak.” There are times when circumstances batter us, when our inner reserves have dried up. We can feel as if life is just too much for us, and that we’re not going to survive. Our hearts are faint, feeble, and weak.
In such times, like David, we cry out to God for help. Even though God might seem far away, and even though we are emotionally spent, we nevertheless call out to God to lead us to a place of safety and security. The “rock that is higher than I” is a place where the floods cannot engulf us or our enemies crush us. That rock signifies God’s protection and presence.
Perhaps you’re in a place like David today, feeling far away from God and overwhelmed by the challenges before you. If so, cry out to the God who will lead you to his rock of safety. If you’re not in such a place today — thanks be to God! — I’m sure you know people who are. Their hearts might even be too faint to pray, but you can do it for them.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When have you felt like David, far from God and completely overwhelmed? How did you pray? How did you experience God’s deliverance?
What, for you, is the “rock that is higher” than you are? What signifies God’s safety and protection for you?
Do you know any people in your life who are in a place of desperation before God? Are you willing to pray for them?
Gracious God, there are times when you feel so very far away, when it seems as if you aren’t even there to hear my prayers. And there are times when I am so haggard in soul that I can barely pray. Thank you for the example of David, whose desperation reminds me that I am not alone. Not only does David understand what I’m going through, but also you are there for me even if I can’t perceive you.
Thank you for David’s quiet confidence in you. Help me to know that you will lead me to the “rock that is higher than I” when I am feeling lost and exhausted.
Lord, today I want to pray for [people in your life who are going through particularly hard times]. Be with them in their desperation and neediness. Reassure them. Encourage them. Lead them to the rock of your protection. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: What to Do When You Are Completely Overwhelmed at Work
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Hi, Mark. At the beginning of the third paragraph you mention the word ‘ataf, and write “translated here as ‘overwhelmed.'” I don’t see the word “overwhelmed” in the verse. Are you referring to “faint”?
Ah, yes. I got my translations crossed. “Faint” is what I should have said. “Overwhelmed” is in the New Living Translation. Thanks for the help with this!