By Rod Campbell | MAMFT, LPC-S


The whole of Psalm 31 relates to the obstacles, conflicts and disappointments life can bring.

Over the course of 24 verses, David takes us on an emotionally rich journey concerning his relationship with himself, his neighbors, his adversaries and God. The verses include phrases like “deliver me” and “rescue me,” along with descriptions of grief, despair and pain that affect the body, spirit and soul.

Jesus even quoted this psalm from the cross when He said, “Into Thy hands, I commit My spirit.”

Verses seven and eight are especially meaningful to followers of Jesus who are dealing with disappointment.

In these verses, the psalmist writes: “I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the distress of my soul and You have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a broad place.”

I love these verses and they have been a great source of encouragement to me over the last few months. There are five truths about dealing with disappointment in these verses.

1. God takes notice of His children. The word used for “seen” here can mean to behold, to consider, to perceive. It is not a reactive noticing, as though God is responding to some surprising noise. It means God looks intently on our affliction. Imagine that we are in pain, suffering a wound of body or spirit and God is there. He sees us — really sees our affliction. He does not turn away, does not ignore, does not shut out the noise.

2. God knows the distress of our souls. This word for “know” means intimate knowledge. This means that through the sufferings of Christ, God the Father knows suffering. When He sees us, He does not walk away but instead draws closer, actually sympathizing with us in our pain. He knows the pain and he knows us — intimately.

3. God does not reject us. God sees us. God knows us. Yet God does not reject us. How beautiful. God’s Word assures us that our greatest fear — that if we are truly known, we will be found unworthy — will not come true with God. This verse assures us that God does not abandon His children.

4. God grants us freedom. To be put in a “broad place” is a figure of speech that means we are given freedom from distress and anxiety. It also means we have the freedom to express our distress and give voice to our affliction. Scripture does not require us to ignore our feelings and rush through the process of grief. God certainly does not expect us to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” Neither is the concept “fake it ’til you make it” taught anywhere in the Bible.

5. God’s love is steadfast. The opening phrase of verse seven reassures us of God’s steadfast love in the face of disappointment. People in our lives often disappoint us. We may even be disappointed in God because it seems He was not there for us in a difficult time. No matter the source of our disappointment, we must work to combat those thoughts and feelings with what we know to be true in Scripture — we can rejoice and be glad in His steadfast love in the face of disappointment.

Like many of David’s psalms, Psalm 31 begins with verses of lament, grief, pain, anguish and sorrow before returning to a place where David can again rejoice and offer praises to God.

However, we do a great disservice to others and to ourselves when we impose a limited time frame on that process. Just because we can read Psalm 31 in a matter of five minutes doesn’t mean it took David only five minutes to get from the lament of verses 1–13 to the praises of 19–24.

Coping with disappointment is a process that can take weeks, months and even years, but the Bible tells us God is always there for us and with us, even in the midst of disappointment and affliction.

Whatever the source of your suffering, however deep the distress of your soul, you can know that God will restore you and His mercies are new every morning. All of us can know with certainty that God ultimately restores His children to a place of freedom. And in this freedom, we can deal with our disappointments as a child of God who ultimately can depend on God for all of our needs.

This article was originally published in The Alabama Baptist newspaper as a part of the Faith and Family series.