In a Squeeze

The daily stress of 21st century life puts us in a squeeze. Job pressure, time constraints, financial limitations, relationship demands—impossible expectations at every level.

Some days we feel like the walls are closing in on us, we’re backed into a corner, we have no room to breathe. I have felt this recently with decisions and deadlines hanging over me.

I found a wellspring of encouragement in Psalm 4 as I dug deeper into the words. David felt this same pressure from adversaries who were trying to tarnish his reputation. He begins his prayer,

“Answer me when I call to you,
O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress
Be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”

Looking at the Hebrew words I found a vivid word picture.

The word distress literally means narrow.
David is crying out to God saying, I’m in a tight space, I’m being hemmed in, I’m in a squeeze.

The word relief literally means to be wide, to enlarge.
When David asks God to give him relief he is saying, enlarge my space, give me some breathing room, push back the walls that are closing in on me.

That’s how we all feel some days. But let’s not panic. Take it to God. He knows how to widen our space and ease the pressure that closes in on us.

David continues the psalm, speaking next to his enemies in verses 2-5. Verse 3:

“Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD will hear when I call to him.”

Who are the godly that the LORD (Yahweh) has set apart for himself?

Let’s start with the Hebrew word hesed, the term used for God’s covenant love for his people.
The godly in verse 3, are the haseed (a derivative of hesed), meaning the loved ones, the ones he loves with covenant love. This is why he has set them apart—because they belong to him—they are the people under his loving care.

So David tells his adversaries to back off because God has set apart the godly, and I am one of those people. David’s boldness comes from knowing what God has promised, and from knowing that he is included as one of the loved ones. He has no doubt that God hears him when he prays.

The same is true for New Testament believers. We are in a covenant with Jesus. His death on the cross for undeserving sinners (that’s us), and our acceptance of his sacrifice on our behalf, makes us one of the haseed—the loved ones. He has set us apart for himself. We belong to him. And he hears us when we pray.

David closes the psalm with continued confidence even though God has not answered yet:

“I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

David isn’t staying up all night fretting over the pressure he’s under. He has asked God to widen his narrow, cramped space, and he’s leaving it with God, trusting that God has heard his prayer and will be faithful to act on behalf of the haseed.

I confess that some nights I sleep poorly because my anxious heart won’t let me rest. The pressure of the day squeezes me into a tight space and I toss and turn trying to figure my way out. This psalm refreshes me and brings me back to what I know is true:

When I pray to my covenant God, I am heard, because I am loved.

I’ve given you the highlights of my study of Psalm 4. There’s more in this compact psalm and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

6 comments to In a Squeeze

  • Beverly Schlomann

    Psalm 4 was one of the first that I memorized on my “journey” in the Psalms! What God knew I needed to remember was what to do when those “yahoos” were turning my glory into shame, loving vain words and seeking after lies (I was in a time of backlash and opposition)
    “Be angry, and do not sin. Ponder in your own hearts on your bed, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.”
    Yes, I can be upset that I am being misrepresented and misunderstood and maligned. But do I call 5 friends with a “detailed prayer request” or make sure that I have equal numbers on “my side?” No. Just because they sin does not give me license to sin. I must obey God. I must trust Him. The Lord has set apart the godly for Himself. The Lord hears when I call to Him. Do I believe that, or do I not?
    And then I wait for God. I wait for him to “lift up the light of His face upon us,” even when people say, “who will show us some good?”
    And, then I remember all that I do have in Christ. He truly has put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. I have the complete and steadfast love of the Sovereign God of the universe. He has justified and redeemed me. He calls me His child. That is permanent. Those that “love vain words and seek after lies” are just temporary.
    God alone makes me dwell in safety. I will be ok.

    Thanks for the reminder, Janet. I am going through another season of difficulty. God has set me apart for Himself. He hears when I call to Him. He alone makes me dwell in safety . . .

    • Such great words Beverly. We all have detractors and you’ve pointed us in the right direction. I am constantly amazed (but shouldn’t be) how timeless God’s Word is. There is wisdom for every situation we face. Press on dear sister, we are in the fight together.

  • Beverly Schlomann

    I am amazed, too (but shouldn’t be) at the “extras” that God supplies — telling me to not sin even when I am sinned against is sufficient. But then God tells me to remind myself of all that I DO have in Him, which is so much more than what the detractors want to take away. . .I love how God does not just bark out commands — He gives solutions and provision. He gives himself, and relationship. Wow!

  • Barbara Tyndall

    Thank you both for these wonderful reminders and for so graciously sharing them. I am still relishing in Psalm 62 and will now turn to Psalm 4. May God richly bless you both.

    • Hi Barbara, that’s the benefit of a blog. We get to exhort one another with what God is teaching us. Mutual edification across the blogosphere!

  • Sue Bond

    Oh, this is exactly what I needed to read right now. Thank you!