Great Faith in God

I believed, even when I spoke: ‘I am greatly afflicted’; I said in my alarm, ‘All mankind are liars’ ” (vv. 10–11).

- Psalm 116:10–19

Psalm 116:1–9 gives us an example of a godly man whose love for God was motivated in part by the fact that the Lord heard and answered his prayers. Indeed, our Creator is so kind not only to command us to love Him (Deut. 6:4), but also to give us reasons to love Him, including His mercy and faithfulness to us. Yet as we see in today’s passage, the psalmist did not give his love to the Lord merely to get a blessing in return. His love for and faith in our Maker was real even in seasons when he was not experiencing the fullness of God’s blessing.

Consider verses 10–11 of Psalm 116. Perhaps the most important term in this portion of the psalm is the word “even.” It introduces a contrast, an action or state of mind that the psalmist had in a setting where that action or state of mind would not ordinarily be expected. As we see in verse 10, the psalmist believed even when all he could say was that he was “greatly afflicted.” In other words, his faith did not depend on the ease of his circumstances. He trusted in God even when, humanly speaking, he had no good reason to do so because the Lord was allowing Him to suffer. His plight was so bad that he could find no one on earth to trust, saying “all mankind are liars” (v. 11). Often, we take this verse as a statement regarding the universality of sin—all people are guilty of lying. Certainly, it is true that all people are sinners (Rom. 3:23), so it is appropriate to look to this verse as a confirmation of that teaching. In the immediate context, however, the focus is more on the perseverance of the psalmist’s faith. He was so steadfast in his trust that he continued to believe the Lord even when the deceitfulness of his fellow human beings might have led him to doubt that God could be trusted.

The psalmist’s confidence in the providence of God enabled him to maintain his faith during his trial. He understood that the Lord does not haphazardly call us to suffer. The death of His saints is precious in His sight (v. 15)—each believer’s death is not overlooked, and God is so concerned about it that He puts great value on the passing of everyone who trusts in Him. In other words, He is attentive to His people and does not allow them to die at the wrong time; we go to our deaths when He has determined it is fitting. If this is true for our deaths, how could it be any different for the suffering that does not lead to death? We can trust the Lord in our pain because we know He has a purpose for it (Rom. 8:28).

Coram Deo

Knowing that our deaths are precious in God’s sight encourages us to trust Him in our difficulties. We die at the point that the Lord has determined to be the right and most valuable time, so no believer dies at the wrong time. In any suffering, then, we know that the Lord has a good purpose. John Calvin comments, “Let us hold fast … that the death of the faithful, which is so worthless, nay, even ignominious in the sight of men, is so valuable in God’s sight.”

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 56:3–4
2 Timothy 4:18

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