We have all been tired or run down by life, but there are certain times where it seems the entire world is against us. In those moments, it is all we can do just to keep awake through the day.
Psalm 61 is the perfect psalm to recite to yourself during those times: verse 2 says, “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
But what does it mean to have our heart overwhelmed?
When Life Seems All Wrong
David is recognized as the author of this psalm, and he frequently found himself in situations where the entire world was against him. After being plucked from his father’s flocks and assigned to be a bodyguard and musician for King Saul, David was constantly sent out into battle and eventually hunted down by the king himself. Saul knew that the favor of God had departed from him and had been given to David, and his own failures haunted him to the point of madness. Even after Saul spared his life and he ascended to the throne, David was assailed by warring nations and his own sinful desires.
No matter the cause or reasons, we can all relate to David at times. It may seem like everything is against you: a bad diagnosis, a lost job or loved one, another failure, a fall to temptation, or some other calamity. And it seems like they all happen at once – when you assess your life and think you can stay steady under this new tension, another weight is dropped on your shoulders.
However, he never lost sight of the One Who could deliver him from any trouble: the Lord.
The Rest of the Story
The cry of David’s heart can be a guidepost for us in times of weariness and sadness. The first verse of this psalm is a broken cry to God, asking Him to hear our prayers to Him. David asks God to lead him to safety in the midst of seemingly unending tragedy. David claims God as his refuge and strength against his foes and asks God to open His gates to let him dwell there in safety.
The people of Israel seem to join in the cry and carry on the king’s request to God in the final verses. They petition God to protect the king as he rules over them and ask God to watch over him in love and faithfulness.
We may not know the specific event that prompted this psalm, but it is clear that the appropriate response to heartbreak and emotional exhaustion is to turn to God for help and restoration. We can come to Him with our brokenness and trust that He will renew and restore us with strength and peace we cannot fathom.
Is Your Heart Overwhelmed?
The sadness described in this psalm is not an everyday sadness. The level of exhaustion and resignation is not the normal tiredness we feel at the end of the day. It is a profound, soul-rending sense of loss and fear. It is important not to make light of the deep struggles others may go through by comparing your pain, however legitimate, with theirs.
That being said, we will be worn down by the world. Jesus Himself promised us that even our loved ones could turn on us, and practically guaranteed that we would have trouble in this life. Our world is fallen and tainted by sin, and no amount of manmade goodness can cover the stain of evil that has scarred mankind.
Many things can contribute to an overwhelming sense of dread at the prospect of facing even one more day. A deep personal loss can certainly be a valid reason to mourn. On days when it seems that the whole world is against you, that sense of loneliness can be pretty overwhelming. Even in the face of the everyday evil that swarms over the earth devouring the innocent and preying on the weak can overwhelm a soul sensitive to the heart of God.
What Can We Do?
First of all, know that your grief is not misplaced. When you reach the lowest point, know that your mourning is not worthless. God wants to hear the deepest cries of your heart at all times, and if your heart is only capable of producing tears, God will take that honesty.
Next, we must always remember that God not only wants to hear our cries, but He also wants to heal our cries. He wants to carve out the broken places in our lives, soothe them with His healing presence, and replace them with more of Himself. Only by inviting God into your hurt can you experience a peace that passes all understanding, regardless of what is happening around you.
It is healthy to grieve, but it is not healthy to wallow endlessly, assuming there is no hope. In all things, Jesus is the ultimate hope for the world. His grace is sufficient for every shortcoming, and His strength is made perfect in every weakness. While we should express our sorrow in healthy ways, we should also be willing to give our hurt to God and trust that He will work something good from it. We will never fully understand the mind of God in this life, but that faith can sustain us through the dark times.
The next time your heart seems overwhelmed, try turning to God in worship. You may not feel fully invested, but the Word of God never returns void. God will use even the smallest amount of faith to work miraculous things in our hearts. Psalms like this one are called psalms of lament, and they are in the Bible for a reason: they can be a model and an outlet for our worship when words simply will not come. Try reading through this entire psalm or another familiar passage and use those words to pour out your overwhelmed heart to the God Who is never overwhelmed.
Expert Overview of Psalms
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.