King David hardly lived a quiet life, yet he once wrote some words which give us a glimpse into how he kept his composure when the world was in turmoil around him. Psalm 131 is a short Psalm with a lovely picture in the middle of it:
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like weaned child is my soul within me.
He pictures his heart as a little child, because little children need looking after, just as our hearts do. And this particular little child is still and quiet. Or at least, it is now. The implication is that it wasn’t always so calm; it had been squawking and crying. Which is a great description of what it’s like when you get all churned up inside with anxiety or worry.
I find it encouraging to know that for David it wasn’t so much a matter of keeping his composure, but of losing it and then needing to regain it. David found what we find – things come along that can really knock us off balance. It feels like the world is too big for us, overwhelming.
But when David looked inside his own heart, he discovered the reason he’d been anxious wasn’t that the world was too big, but that he was too big – too big for his boots. In v1 he says
My heart is not proud, O LORD…
…not proud anymore – because he’s saying “I’ve dealt with it, I’ve humbled myself”. In contrast, we tend to think the answer to our anxieties is to change the world: if that thing out there that I’m anxious about could only be sorted out, then I could stop being anxious. But David says, I’ve discovered that it was me that needed sorting out first.
Actually, the word behind ‘proud’ is the word ‘high’ – ‘My heart is not high’, he says. In other words, David is talking about how we get above ourselves when we think more highly of ourselves than we should. We say, “I want things to be my way.” And they’re not – and that leads to anxiety.
Even Jesus, the night before he was crucified, when he knew he was going to die and he was deeply distressed and troubled, had to pray, “Not my will, but yours”. In other words, he humbled himself.
And the disciple peter watched Jesus praying that evening, and years later he wrote in one of his letters something that he no doubt first began to learn from Jesus that same evening in the garden – he wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on Him”. But just before he wrote those words, he said something else: “Humble yourselves.”
And that is exactly what David is saying in Psalm 131. Sometimes the reason we are unnecessarily anxious is that we’re trying to be too big for our boots. David reminds us that a good first step towards regaining composure is to remind ourselves that we are not God.
I am not in control. Someone else has that job. And when I humble myself before Him, I can cast all my anxiety on Him. And He is more than willing to take it.
If you would like to listen to a talk on Psalm 131, click HERE