This one is especially important because it addresses the fact that men who deal with tremendous anxiety, and worry hide it, and don't know how to handle it. The result is often tragic. Marriages collapse, father and children become estranged, loss of a long time job, businesses fail, and even suicide.
You are not alone men. David, the man that God said was a man after His own heart, struggled. He wrote about those struggles and God saw fit to have them preserved for you..
3 Psalms for Men Who Are Struggling
Scott Slayton, scottslayton.net
*Full scriptures and bold emphasis added by me
Men face overwhelming pressures both internal and external. We feel an internal drive to provide for our families and to contribute to our communities. Whether we want to admit it or not, we struggle with the expectations other people place on us too. We have trained ourselves to ignore the nagging pain because we can’t show weakness.
Our churches often don’t know what to do with the weight men carry. Too often, we berate men for their failures without pointing them to the resources that will help them grow. We pretend like the inadequacies we feel either don’t exist or shouldn’t be talked about in polite company. The grace we talk about fades from view and we replace it with heavy weights that sink us deeper into the abyss.
Turning to the Psalms
The Psalms made no sense to me when I was in college because they sounded so bleak. Here were these compositions that were supposed to be so worshipful, but the Psalmists just spent too much time complaining about how hard life was. Now that I’m in my 40’s, the Psalms resonate with me because in my frustration with the difficulties of life I’ve said many of the things they say.
If you are a man who struggles in silence, turn to the Psalms. In them, you find strong men revealing their weaknesses and showing you where you can turn to for help. There are three Psalms in particular that give you grace for the difficult situations you face.
Psalm 127, for When You Feel the Weight of the World:
Psalms 127:1-5 ESV Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord , the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” God built men to take responsibility, work hard, protect, and provide. In our brokenness and sin, this God-given wiring can become a complex where we feel like we have to become not only our own savior but the savior of the people who rely on us as well. When we do this, we take a responsibility upon ourselves that only God can fulfill. We wear ourselves down and exhaust the people around us.
Psalm 127 does not call us to a “let go and let God” approach to life, but rather to an appropriate understanding of God’s work and our own. We work, but we realize our work accomplishes nothing if the Lord does not work through it. We work hard, start new ventures, and look for new opportunities, but we do it entrusting the results to the Lord and praying he would give us the strength we need.
Sleep for the Anxious
The second verse speaks a truth that every man needs to hear. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” When we take the sole responsibility of leading, providing, and working upon ourselves, we tend to become slaves to our work. The anxiety this produces destroys our sleep. However, what does God give to those who don’t vainly toil day and night with an anxious spirit? Sleep. When we entrust our work and our provision to the Lord, we can lie down at night and sleep soundly knowing that God works even when we don’t.
Psalms 56:1-13 ESV Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life. For their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God! You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord , whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
David wrote Psalm 56 during one of the most terrifying moments of his life. He was on the run from King Saul and hid among the Philistines at Gath. The servants of the king questioned the king about why he would harbor the one who had the song sung about him, “Saul has struck down his thousands and David his ten thousands.” David sensed the growing tension around his presence and grew so fearful about their killing him that he pretended to be insane so they would send him away.
David faced danger on every side and this Psalm breathes the kind of honesty that goes along with a situation this terrible. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” We are often afraid to say these kinds of things, even to God. In our pride, we are scared to admit that we are afraid. Yet, here is the man who slew Goliath crying out to God because he is filled with fear.
Your Weakness Displays Christ's Strength
The refrain “what can man flesh do to me” occurs twice in this Psalm because the answer is nothing. David knew that no one could do anything to him unless God permitted it. This is why David could say, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” David knew he was in a position where he could not deliver himself, so he looked to the Lord who is the only one who could protect him.
Men, you will deal with fear. You will be afraid of the future and you will walk through seasons where you know there is nothing you can do to deliver yourself. These moments remind you of what is always true. You always need God. No time has ever or will ever exist when you are truly self-sufficient. Learn, as Paul did in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, to see that your weakness and need is when his strength shines through.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Trust him. You have the need and he has the strength.
Psalms 51:1-19 ESV Haven't mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
We all know what it’s like to struggle with the guilt and shame of sin, so we should turn to Psalm 51 often. David wrote this Psalm after Nathan confronted him about his sin with Bathsheba. He took another man’s wife and had him killed. He did not come clean until Nathan stood before him and uttered the words “You are the man.”
Psalm 51 shows us how to accept responsibility for our sin, how to repent, and how to seek God’s forgiveness. David does not hide his sin but rather confesses that he has sinned against the Lord. He repents, knowing he can no longer walk in his foolish and sinful ways. He also prays that God would forgive him, cleanse him, and restore the joy of his salvation.
A Better Alternative to Hiding from or Wallowing in Sin:
This Psalm confronts two deadly tendencies we run toward when we have sinned. We either hide our sin or wallow in our guilt. We pretend nothing has happened or we act as if there is no hope. David shows us a better way. Though repentance is often painful, it leads us to the place where we can receive grace and know we are forgiven. Because Christ bore our sins in his body, we can come clean about our sins and know our guilt is removed.
One Tip for Reading the Psalms:
When you read these Psalms and absorb their message, pray them as if they are your own words. Take these complaints, fears, and confessions before the Lord. Pray them, laying your sins, anxieties, and burdens before the Lord. Then, rest in the peace, assurance, strength, and forgiveness that only he can give.