Choose to Trust
In Psalm 13:5 David turns to a series of trust-laden statements that are rooted in the character of God. The shift starts with the word but.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. (ESV)
In lament psalms the word but marks a critical and consistent turn toward trust. Michael Jinkins suggests that words such as but and however are found in every lament because lamenting trust is not merely a belief or conviction; it is trusting despite what circumstances might lead one to believe. Words like but, however, and yet mark the intentional shift from the cause of the lament to trusting in who God is, what he has done, and the promises of Scripture. Here are a few examples outside of Psalm 13:
I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel. . . .
But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
(Psalm 31:12, 14 ESV)
For my enemies speak concerning me;
those who watch for my life consult together
and say, “God has forsaken him;
pursue and seize him,
for there is none to deliver him.”
. . . But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
(Psalm 71:10–11, 14 ESV)
O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
(Psalm 86:14–15 ESV)
Trust is believing what you know to be true even though the facts of suffering might call that belief into question. Lament keeps us turning toward trust by giving us language to step into the wilderness between our painful reality and our hopeful longings.
Three Affirmations of Trust
Psalm 13 makes this decisive turn with three affirmations in verses 5–6:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. (ESV)
I hope these will become more than just words in your Bible. My desire is that you will pray them as well, helping your own heart to turn toward trust. These three affirmations are instructive. They help us know how to bring our laments to their completion.
A. “I have trusted in your steadfast love.”
God has a history with his people. He is trustworthy. His people choose to trust him. That’s the nature of the relationship, and the psalmist is taking a historical look. As Jinkins notes, “The psalmist clings to trust in God’s steadfast love on the basis of what God has done in the past, a confidence that made it possible to pray in the first place.” In the same way that it takes faith to turn to God in prayer while in pain, it takes faith to trust in God’s steadfast love when circumstances are hard. This statement of trust anticipates a praise that has not yet arrived. David connects his painful experience to what he knows to be true regarding God’s covenantal love.
Every Christian has a record of God’s steadfast love. Therefore, we should remind ourselves about God’s worthiness to be trusted. To be a Christian means trusting in what God says and who he is. We came to faith that way. We trusted that the Bible is true. We believed forgiveness is possible for those who receive Christ. Trusting in God’s grace welcomed us into God’s family. But that was only the beginning.
Trust is believing what you know to be true even though the facts of suffering might call that belief into question.
Christians don’t leave behind trusting God after coming to faith. On the contrary, being a follower of Jesus requires that we walk through life in continual trust. Seasons of suffering are no different. They are just harder and more intense. The stakes are higher and the emotions more raw. But trusting is still how we live.
If you picked up this book because you are searching for answers, you probably knew trust was the goal. Maybe you wondered, How do I make it through this and trust God? While there are no easy answers, I’ve found it helpful to echo the words of verse 5. As I personalize “I have trusted in your steadfast love,” it reminds me of God’s track record of faithfulness in my life. Sometimes I’ve prayed the same phrase over and over—almost like a chant. At other times I’ve prayed through a list of all the ways God has been faithful. Or I rehearse the gospel, thanking God for life-changing truths like Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (ESV).
Choosing to trust requires reinforcing what we know to be true. Prayers of lament are designed to remind us that God is worthy to be trusted—even in this!
B. “My heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”
The second confident statement in Psalm 13:5 connects trust to rejoicing in God’s plan of redemption. Time and time again God rescues his people. Suffering does not mean that God has forgotten or rejected his people. Rather, the long arc of God’s plan for salvation is always at work—even though we cannot fully see the trajectory. A verse in Cowper’s hymn gets to the heart of this issue:
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain.
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain!
Choosing to trust through lament requires that we rejoice without knowing how all the dots connect. We decide to let God be his own interpreter, trusting that somehow his gracious plan is being worked out—even if we can’t see it.
On this side of the cross we have a real advantage we need to embrace. We know that the ultimate lament cry—“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)—led to the greatest moment of redemption. The darkness of the sixth hour led to the dawn of the empty tomb. Jesus’s life of lament led to salvation and eternal life. We know the full story of salvation.
Choosing to trust through lament requires that we rejoice without knowing how all the dots connect.
In Romans 8 the apostle Paul applies this to hardship by wrapping suffering in the promises of God’s redemptive plan. He lists the trials that Christians face: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35 ESV). And then he quotes the complaint of a lament psalm:
Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
(Psalm 44:22 ESV)
On either side of the trials and lament stand sweeping promises connected to God’s eternal plan. In other words, promises don’t end the pain, but they do give it purpose.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31 ESV)
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37–39 ESV)
Paul rejoices in salvation. He takes the reality of suffering and the pain of lament, and combines them to highlight the glory and promise of God’s love. This is what choosing to trust can do for you if you’ll enter into it.