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 resourses 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.
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
“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.
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 like down at night and sleep soundly knowing that God works even when we don’t.
Psalm 56, for When You Fear the Future
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 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.
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. Trust him. You have the need and he has the strength.
Psalm 51, for When You Have Sinned
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.
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.
“Why You Should Live in the Psalms“
For Further Reading:
How to Read the Psalms by Tremper Longman
Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney