Psalm 59: Lessons for How to Approach God During Your Trials

Introduction: Psalm 59 recounts how David turned to God when Saul sent assassins to kill him (see 1 Samuel 19:11-12). Through David’s example, God reveals how to approach Him during a trial. When you face a trial, God wants to: (1) petition Him, (2) give Him your burdens, (3) submit to Him, (4) have faith, (5) seek to fulfill His Glory, (6) trust Him, and (7) worship Him.

First, in the face of any trial, David turned to God and petitioned Him for deliverance. During a trial, God also wants you to pray to Him and petition Him for your needs. Second, instead of becoming depressed, David poured out his heart to God and gave Him his burdens. During a trial, God also wants you to pour out your heart and depend upon Him. Third, in the face of his enemy’s arrogance, David turned to God in humility and made Him his refuge. During a trial, God also wants you to submit to Him in humility. Fourth, David professed confidence in God’s faithfulness. During a trial, God also wants you to have faith in Him to deliver you. Fifth, instead of seeking his own glory, David asked for God’s name to be glorified from his ordeal. During a trial, God also wants you to glorify Him. Sixth, David trusted God in the face of evil. During a trial, God also wants you to place your trust in Him for your deliverance. Finally, even while his trial was ongoing, David turned to God with praise and worship. During a trial, God also wants you to take your eyes off your own sorrows and turn to Him with praise and worship.

1. Petition: During a Trial, Pray to God and Petition Him for Your Needs. Ps. 59:1-2.

  • When Saul sent assassins to kill him, David cried out for God to rescue him. In the face of constant attacks against him, David always turned to God in prayer for deliverance: “For the music director; set to Al-tashheth. A Mikhtam of David, when Saul sent men and they watched the house in order to kill him. Rescue me from my enemies, my God; set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me. Rescue me from those who practice injustice, and save me from men of bloodshed.” (Ps. 59:1-2). Whenever you face a trial, an attack, or a hardship, God also wants you to cry out to Him in prayer.

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Turn to God when you need deliverance1

  • Saul tried to kill David out of jealousy. Saul was jealous of David’s anointing. At first, he tried in secret to kill David by ordering David to kill 100 Philistines and desecrate their bodies by removing their foreskins (1 Sam. 18:25). Even if David killed 100 Philistines, Saul assumed that the Philistine nation would retaliate in mass for having their soldiers’ bodies’ desecrated. But Saul’s plan backfired. David became a hero to the Jews. He became a legitimate heir to the throne by marrying Saul’s daughter, and the Philistines respected and feared him (1 Sam. 18:26-30). Now that Saul’s secret plans to defeat David had failed, he conspired openly to kill him. “Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants to put David to death.” (1 Sam. 19:1(a)). Saul’s evil plan to kill David failed because the love of God was in his son Jonathan. Jonathan promptly warned David about Saul’s plot to kill him (1 Sam. 19:1(b)-5). Saul then made a vow to Jonathan that he would not kill David (1 Sam. 19:6-7). But, after David was successful in another battle against the Philistines, Saul became jealous. An evil spirit overcame him, and he tried to kill David with a spear (1 Sam. 19:8-10). “11 Then Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him, in order to put him to death in the morning.” (1 Sam. 19:11). Psalm 59 took place as Saul’s paid assassins encircled David’s residence.

  • Pray and cry out to God when you need His deliverance. As our example, David repeatedly cried out to God for His protection and deliverance from evil: “The ropes of death encompassed me, and the torrents of destruction terrified me.” (Ps. 18:4). “Save me, God, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me.” (Ps. 69:1-2). “Your wrath has rested upon me, and You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah” (Ps. 88:7). “Save me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the wrongdoer and the ruthless,” (Ps. 71:4). “I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah”. (Ps. 77:3). “Out of the depths I have cried to You, LORD.” (Ps. 130:1). “A Psalm of David. Rescue me, LORD, from evil people; protect me from violent men . . . Keep me, LORD, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from violent men who intend to trip up my feet.” (Ps. 140:1, 4). You should also cry out when you are responsible for your trial: “Save me from all my wrongdoings; do not make me an object of reproach for the foolish. I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, because it is You who have done it.” (Ps. 39:8-9). Thus, regardless of whether you caused your own trial, cry out in prayer for God’s deliverance.

2. Lament: During a Trial, Pour Out Your Heart and Depend Upon God. Ps. 59:3-5.

  • David poured out his heart to God in the face of his enemy’s unjust and evil acts. Whenever David felt alone, David was honest and poured out his heart to God for help: “For behold, they have set an ambush for my life; fierce men attack me, not for my wrongdoing nor for my sin, Lord, 4 for no guilt of mine, they run and take their stand against me. Stir Yourself to help me, and see! You, Lord God of armies, the God of Israel, awake to punish all the nations; do not be gracious to any who deal treacherously in wrongdoing. Selah” (Ps. 59:3-5). When David proclaimed “for no guilt of mine” (Ps. 59:4) he was not alleging that he was free from sin. Instead, he lamented to God that he had done nothing to deserve Saul’s attempts to kill him. Frequently, life feels unfair. People will make false accusations against you. Or, others will treat you unfairly. God doesn’t want you to bottle up your emotions. Nor does He want you to retaliate. Instead, He wants you to pour out your heart to Him, and let Him comfort you in your distress. He is less interested in a perfectly polished prayer than in your authentic prayers for help.

  • Jesus offers you comfort when you turn to Him. When you suffer, you can also turn to Jesus for His comfort: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (1 Cor. 1:3-4). He restores you when you feel sad: “But You, LORD, are a shield around me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.” (Ps. 3:3). “A Psalm of David. I will exalt You, LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.” (Ps. 30:1). “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Lk. 21:28). When others around you are in pain, Jesus also wants you to share with them the same “comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (1 Cor. 1:4). Are you showing the comfort that Jesus has shown you to those who are in need?

3. Submission: During a Trial, Petition God With Humility. Ps. 59:6-9.

  • In the face of his enemy’s arrogance, David submitted himself before God. Unlike his enemies who relied upon themselves, David was humble and made God his refuge: They return at evening, they howl like a dog, and prowl around the city. Behold, they gush forth with their mouths; swords are in their lips, for, they say, ‘who hears?’ But You, Lord, laugh at them; You scoff at all the nations. Because of his strength I will watch for You, for God is my refuge.” (Ps. 59:6-9). David had killed 100 Philistines (1 Sam. 18:25-30). But he could not hope to defeat Saul’s army and his paid assassins, who might try to kill him in his sleep. “For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.” (Ps. 22:16). But God had anointed David. No enemy could undermine God’s will. Thus, David was able to avail himself of God’s protection merely by being humble and taking refuge in God.

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Take refuge in God and let Him strengthen you2

  • When you face evil, trust God and do not lean on your own understanding. David did not know why Saul had turned on him. In the face of the unknown, David learned to place his trust in God: “Trust in the Lord and do good; live in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” (Ps. 37:3). God also wants you to trust in Him and not to lean on your own understanding: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” (Prov. 3:5-7; 28:26; Ps. 62:8). God gives wisdom when you ask for it: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in secret You will make wisdom known to me.” (Ps. 51:6). But many view the wisdom of God’s Word as a foolish waste of time. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18; 1 Cor. 2:14). If you reject God and rely upon your own understanding the result is frequently disastrous: “There is a way which seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). When you feel overwhelmed or the reason for a trial is unknown, place your trust in God.

  • When God is your refuge, He will deliver you by being your shield against evil. David knew he would prevail because he declared “God is my refuge.” (Ps. 59:9). “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Sam. 22:3). “The LORD will also be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble;” (Ps. 9:9). God protected David from Saul’s spear attacks (1 Sam. 19:8-10). He also protected David against Goliath’s attack from a giant spear (1 Sam. 17:7). He also protected David in his many battles against the Philistines. In all these instances, David trusted God to provide his spiritual armor: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:11-12). When you wear God’s armor, no weapon can harm you. “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; . . .” (Is. 54:17). God also promises to be a shield to all who submit to Him: “As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” (2 Sam. 22:31). “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5). Jesus invites you to seek His protection (Matt. 6:13). If you submit to Him, He will be your hedge of protection.

4. Faith: During a Trial, Have Faith in God to Deliver You. Ps. 59:10.

  • In the face of death, David had faith in God to deliver him. Even while his trial was ongoing, David professed his faith in God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promises to David: “10 My God in His faithfulness will meet me; God will let me look triumphantly upon my enemies.” (Ps. 59:10). “Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). David had faith in God's deliverance before he witnessed it. “The LORD is for me among those who help me; therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.” (Ps. 118:7). God also wants you to trust that He is in control.

  • Have faith in God to deliver you. David had faith in God because had been faithful to deliver him throughout his entire life. “And David said, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:37(a)). God also wants you to be assured that Jesus will deliver you as well. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Tim. 4:18). The Bible is filled with countless examples to prove that God is faithful. If your faith is lacking, study His Word and keep a prayer journey with His answered prayers.

  • Have faith that God is stronger than any evil that you will ever face. God wants you to have faith that the Holy Spirit inside of you is greater than any spiritual adversary that you will ever face. “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 Jo. 4:4). “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31; Ps. 118:6; Heb. 13:6). Samuel later encouraged David that Saul would never capture or harm him: “ Thus he said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.”’ (1 Sam. 23:17). Satan is as powerless in God’s presence as Saul was before the prophets. Do you also trust in God against all evil?

5. God’s Glory: During a Trial, Seek to Give Glory to God’s Name. Ps. 59:11-13.

  • Instead of seeking his own glory, David prayed for God’s holy name to be glorified. Even though he faced death, David asked for God’s holy name to be glorified from his ordeal: “11 Do not kill them, or my people will forget; scatter them by Your power and bring them down, Lord, our shield. 12 On account of the sin of their mouths and the words of their lips, may they even be caught in their pride, and on account of curses and lies which they tell. 13 Destroy them in wrath, destroy them so that they will no longer exist; so that people may know that God rules in Jacob, to the ends of the earth. Selah” (Ps. 59:11-13). “David didn’t only want the defeat of his enemies. He wanted them defeated in a way that would do the most good for God’s people. If those enemies were kept alive but scattered, the lesson would last longer. ‘Lest my people forget’ reminds us that whenever David prayed for the destruction of his enemies (and sometimes he prayed quite severely), he had in mind not only his personal deliverance but also what the display of Divine justice would teach God’s people . . . What David did care about was God’s honor and glory. David prayed that the way God dealt with these bloodthirsty assassins would tell the ends of the earth something about God’s righteous rule in the world.” (David Guzik on Ps. 59).3 God also wants you to give Him glory. Failing to give God the glory when He answers a prayer frequently leads to pride.

  • Give God the glory both during and after a trial. David knew that only God would deliver him so that His faithfulness and name would be glorified: “For You are my rock and my fortress; for the sake of Your name You will lead me and guide me.” (Ps. 31:3). “So that they will know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.” (Ps. 83:18). Most people feel the need to take credit for their success.  But every good and perfect thing that you have also comes from God  (Jam. 1:17). Moses warned the Jews that they were not to take credit for their success because God had provided for them:  “He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint.  In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.  Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’”  (Dt. 8:15-17).  When God delivers you, do you give Him the glory by praising Him to others?

  • When you seek to serve and glorify God, you never need to fear evil. Whenever the Jews submitted to God and served Him, God promised to destroy their enemies: “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.” (Ex. 23:27). ‘“This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.’” (Dt. 2:25). Are you praying for God’s will to be made known to you to serve Him?

6. Trust: During a Trial, Place Your Trust in God for Your Deliverance. Ps. 59:14-15.

  • In the face of enemies who sought to kill him, David placed his trust in God. Even though David was Israel’s might war hero, he placed his trust in God to deliver him from evil: “14 They return at evening, they howl like a dog, and prowl around the city. 15 They wander about for food and murmur if they are not satisfied.” (Ps. 59:14-15). Saul’s assassins were like hungry dogs. They were determined to kill David, possibly for a bounty that Saul had placed on David’s head. David had no army of his own. All he could do was place his trust in God to deliver him from his more powerful enemies.

  • God alone will deliver you from the evil one. As a recurring theme in the Bible, God warns that you cannot trust in rulers or in government for your deliverance. God wants you to put your faith and trust in Him alone: “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Ps. 118:9). “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). Do you trust in God alone to deliver you?

7. Worship: During a Trial, Turn to God With Praise and Worship. Ps. 59:16-17.

  • Before knowing the outcome of his trial, David turned to God in praise and worship. Even while his trial was ongoing, David praised God with gratitude and worshiped Him: “16 But as for me, I will sing of Your strength; yes, I will joyfully sing of Your faithfulness in the morning, for You have been my refuge and a place of refuge on the day of my distress. 17 My strength, I will sing praises to You; for God is my refuge, the God who shows me favor.” (Ps. 59:16-17). From this point until Saul’s later death, David would be forced to live as a fugitive from both Israel’s army and the Philistines. But even in his darkest hours, David found peace by taking his eyes off himself and praising God. “For the music director. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day that the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said, ‘I love You, LORD, my strength.”’ (Ps. 18:1). Even in your darkest hour, you can find His peace by giving Him praise.

Psalm 59 16 Photograph by Dawn Currie

Show your gratitude through your worship4

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Praise God for His blessings in your life5

  • Praise God when He delivers you and share your testimony. When God does deliver you, always give Him praise for doing so: “He rescues me from my enemies; You indeed lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from a violent man.” (Ps. 18:48). “Who also brings me out from my enemies; You also raise me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent person.” (2 Sam. 22:49). If God has delivered you, never forget to praise Him. This should include sharing your testimony.

  • Praise God because He is faithful to keep His promises. As a man of faith, David led the Jews with both psalms and songs of praise and thanksgiving: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His faithfulness is everlasting.” (1 Chr. 16:34) “Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets.” (1 Chr. 13:8). The psalms also encourage believers to express their praise to God with worship music (Ps. 92:104; Ps. 150:3-6). Does your devotion to God include heartfelt worship and praise?

  • Be thankful in all things. Whenever God answered David, he gave thanks “Blessed be the LORD, because He has heard the sound of my pleading.” (Ps. 28:6). “But God has heard; He has given attention to the sound of my prayer.” (Ps. 66:19). When God answers your prayers, many psalms remind you to give Him the credit. If you fail to make a habit of thanking Him, you may take Him for granted. Even in times when he was jailed and persecuted, Paul worshiped God and gave thanks: “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father;” (Eph. 5:20).

  • Praise God for using your trials to build perseverance and draw you closer to Him. God allowed David to suffer through many trials so that he would have a deeper faith. Your trials should also produce perseverance and build up your faith: “And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;” (Ro. 5:3). Paul was persecuted and thrown in jail. But he encouraged believers that faith should include “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,” (Ro. 12:12). “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Jam. 1:2-3; 2 Cor. 1:8-10). Are you praising God for using your trials to build you up your faith in Him?

When God delivers you, use your testimony to encourage others6