The world can be a dark place, and life can sometimes seem almost unbearable. When personal trials and tragedies take place within a larger context of political and economic turmoil, hope can seem distant and almost unattainable. And yet, no matter how difficult or even excruciating life may seem, there is a refuge available. There is an unmovable source of solace and strength.
Psalm 118 was written by someone who was facing intense darkness. Although we don’t know for sure who wrote the words, it’s clear that this individual had experienced some of the deepest and darkest turmoil that one can know. This psalm, this song to the Lord, seems to have been written just after the author experienced relief. This can be seen in verses 5-7 (ESV):
Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
Looking back on his deliverance, the author is filled with thanks and gratitude to God. He realizes at this point that even in the darkest moment God never left him. He says over and over that the Lord’s “steadfast love endures forever.” In other words, there was never an instant, even in the worst times, when God’s love was not there. There was never a moment when God looked away or was not present.
This reality, this truth that few comprehend, is profound. God is close beside those who love and trust him at all times. He is there in our times of rejoicing, in the midst of our most difficult circumstances, and at all times between. His steadfast love endures forever. There is never a moment when it ceases.
This profound truth can be seen in the life of Jesus. He was the only one who ever walked this earth and yet was without sin. He was the one that was betrayed, rejected, and who endured a horrible death. Moreover, he was raised from the dead just as he said he would be. Matthew 21:42 says:
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
These words of Jesus as recorded by Matthew are a direct quote from Psalm 118:22-23. Yes, Jesus knew Psalm 118. He knew it, quoted it, and believed it. The religious leaders of the day thought that killing Jesus, or metaphorically rejecting the stone, would put an end to him. And yet, through his death and resurrection Jesus became the cornerstone, or the foundation for all who would trust, love, and follow him. He has become our salvation (Psalm 118:14).
Few believed then, and even now relatively few believe this profound truth. They do not accept that God’s steadfast love endures forever and that Jesus is the fulfillment of that love. For those who reject God’s steadfast love and the death of Jesus on their behalf, they are indeed without hope. And yet for the Christ follower, the promises of God stand firm. He is there for us at all times. In fact, it’s in the darkest moments of life when we learn to trust him the most.
The author of Psalm 118 could barely contain his joy after he was freed from one of the dark moments of his life. No matter how difficult the trial you may be facing now, or that you may face in the future, know in your heart the truth that God’s steadfast love endures forever. You will see freedom and deliverance.
For some, the cycle of darkness and deliverance play out many times over a long life. For others, trials such as a terminal illness end in death. And yet, in both cases God’s love endures forever. The Christ follower need not fear no matter what takes place (Psalm 118:6). Throughout Scripture we are told to remain faithful, to persevere, and to endure hardship as we trust in God’s steadfast love.
One of the most profound and powerful lessons we can learn from life is to give God thanks even in the darkest moments. Anyone can praise God and thank him with great joy after being delivered from intense pain and turmoil. Yet think of how much more meaningful it must be to God to receive thanks from one who loves and trusts Him even as he or she is going through intensely difficult circumstances.
It’s not that we are thanking God for the pain and anxiety we face, but that we are grateful for the fact that his steadfast love endures forever, and that we know he is with us in the midst of the trial we are experiencing.
There will come a day when Christ returns for his followers. We are assured of this over and again in both the Old Testament and New Testament. At that moment we will know the fullness of joy. We will, like the author of Psalm 118, hardly be able to contain our joy.
In the meantime, let’s thank God in the good times and through the challenges of life, and let’s share the hope we have with those who have little or no hope of their own.
If you’d like to read the twenty nine verses of Psalm 118. You can do so by clicking HERE.