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Trekking through the wilderness for miles. Sleeping in caves. Scaling mountains to escape danger.

David, the chosen king of Israel, was running for his life. Saul, the king God rejected, was hunting David like an animal.

During this dark season in his life, David wrote many psalms, including Psalm 31.

“Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.” -Psalm 31:9-10

David clearly communicated the immense pain and sorrow he was experiencing when he wrote this psalm. He looked around at his life, how everything was falling apart, and penned his emotions. Many believers can relate to David’s words, especially those in unreached places where Christians face intense persecution.

But a few verses after describing his anguish and affliction, David wrote this:

“But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’” -Psalm 31:14

Despite his suffering, David trusted in God’s goodness when his life was not good. His great-grandmother Ruth also trusted the Lord when she chose to follow Naomi and her God, even though her husband had just died. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted that God could save them from the furnace, even though they acknowledged that He could choose not to save them.

The Bible tells us that things turned out well for Ruth, David, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But at the time, none of them knew that everything would be well. Yet they trusted God through their tough circumstances.

How can believers today confidently say that God is good in seasons of chaos, grief, and tragedy?

Remember: This World is Not Heaven

“But our citizenship is in heaven.” -Philippians 3:20a

Those who don’t follow Christ look toward the things of this world to satisfy their desires. They seek to make this world their Heaven through money, relationships, status, comfort, and more.

Believers can fall into the same trap. If we’re not careful, the desire for good things can become an idol. And when we don’t have those good things, it can be easy to question God’s love.

When life is not perfect, followers of Jesus should remember that Christ returned to Heaven to prepare a home for us (John 14:2-3). This life will never be perfect and pain-free, but Heaven is. When life is disappointing, it should only fuel the desire to see the paradise awaiting those who have trusted in Christ.

Remember: Our Ways Are Not God’s Ways

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” -Proverbs 3:5-6

Another translation for “lean on” is “support oneself.” Trying to support yourself on the foundation of your own understanding will prove to be unreliable and unstable. That’s because our understanding is so minuscule compared to God’s knowledge and wisdom.

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” -Isaiah 55:8-9

God has a reason for every painful thing that happens in life, whether it’s to deepen faith in Him or to expand His Kingdom. The death of Ruth’s husband led her to Boaz, and she became a part of the lineage of David and Jesus. The miracle that saved the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego opened King Nebuchadnezzar’s eyes to the true God.

It may take weeks, months, or years to come to fruition, but God’s goodness is at work during life’s most painful seasons.

Remember: God is Near

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18

Around the time that David wrote Psalm 31, he also wrote Psalm 34. He knew the Lord was near to him while he fled from Saul, hid in caves, and was separated from his loved ones.

Believers can take comfort in knowing that God is near to them as well. He knows every tear that is shed (Psalm 56:8) and is actively consoling those who are grieving.

A beautiful thing about David’s psalms is the reminder that trusting in the Lord is not the absence of emotion. While he ran for his life, he didn’t frolic through a meadow saying everything was well. Though his faith in God stood firm, his eyes were also wasted from grief (Psalm 31:9, ESV).

Life is incredibly difficult at times, and believers are free to feel sorrow and heartache while believing that God is still good.

“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” -Psalm 31:19, ESV