When life’s trials, disappointments, and sorrows visit our children, the Psalms provide a helpful tool to teach our kids how to talk to God about their troubles. They give real-life examples of how men like David trusted God through difficult times. Too few of us know how to lament over tragedy and loss, and as a result, we feel alone in our struggles and distant from a God when troubles come.
Laments comprise a full third of the book of Psalms, and a number of them, such as Psalm 3, offer a clue as to the nature of the trouble the writer faced. The introductory attribution to Psalm 3 reads, “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his Son.” So along with reading Psalm 3, we can teach our children the story behind the psalm and then show them how David called to the Lord in his time of trouble. That way our children will know how to call to God when they face their own trials.
The story behind Psalm 3 is found in 2 Samuel. Samuel reports that Absalom “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6) and then four years later planned a mutiny against his father, King David (2 Samuel 15:10). Imagine the grief David felt when he learned of his son Absalom’s plot. David was forced to flee the palace and run for his life. It is while on the run that David composed this lament to God. There are three things we learn from David’s prayer that we can teach our children.
O LORD, how many are my foes!Psalm 3:1-8 (ESV)
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O LORD!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people! Selah
1. God is Ready to Listen
Once David is told of Absalom’s rebellion, he goes on the run. There is an army of more than 10,000 men hunting for him. David can’t believe his own son and so many men of Israel have turned against him. As David climbed the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, he wept (2 Samuel 15:30). What does David do next in this time of great time of distress? He talks to God about it.
“O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God’” (vv. 1–2).
David’s fervent prayer teaches us that God is ready to listen. David comes to God with faith that he will be heard.
“I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill” (v. 4).
When we are in trouble, we should remember that we can tell God our concerns and remember he is ready to listen and help us.
2. God is Bigger than Your Trial
While David faced a great enemy, he knew that God was greater. David described God as a shield.
“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (v. 3).
Absalom assembled a great army against his father, but David remembered that God was his shield and the “lifter of his head.” This truth calmed his fears, dissolved his worry, and bolstered his faith. Often our worries, fears, and anxieties cause us more pain in times of trial than the trouble itself. We fear the worst will happen and worry that even greater trouble may come. But, if we remember that God is more powerful than our troubles and remember that he is in control of all things, we can find rest in the midst of our most difficult times. As David’s loyal soldiers went to battle against the army of Absalom, they insisted David remain behind for his own protection. Somewhere amid that battle, David stopped to rest, trusting that God was bigger and would deliver him.
“I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (vv. 5–6).
3. God is ready to help
As we have reflected on the ways David shared his anxiety with God and remembered the Lord’s power, he also clearly believed that God was ready to help.
“Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people!” (vv. 7–8)
Fear tells us that God can’t or won’t hear our prayers, but when we remind ourselves that God is bigger than our trial and he is able and ready to come to our aid, faith floods our soul. Faith tells us that God can deliver us. Then like David, we can declare that God will deliver us. That doesn’t mean that God instantly takes every trial away or that every story has a happy ending. After all, David’s son Absalom was killed in the rebellion he started. David’s prayers to God do demonstrate that God walks with us through our trials and will deliver us. In this story, God spared David’s life, and walked with him through the grief of losing a son. David made through the trial by trusting the outcome to a God who is ready to help.
When life’s greatest trials visit, we should follow David’s example and share our worries with God. Second, let us remember that God is bigger and able to deliver us. Then as we remember that God is ready to help and await our rescue our fears and anxieties lift, knowing God hears our prayers.
So, let us read the psalms of lament to our children and explore the lives of the men who wrote them. By this we teach our kids how to grieve over loss, trust God in times of trouble, and how to lament in the midst of their suffering without losing their focus on God. Life is full of trouble, but these laments give us an example and invitation to share our troubles with a God who is willing to carry our sorrows and able to deliver us from all our trials.
WONDERFULL: ANCIENT PSALMS EVER NEW
Your children may know of the psalms, but with WonderFull by best-selling author Marty Machowski, young readers learn to use the whole book of the Psalms to pray, worship, and find help through the challenges life is certain to bring.