Surrounded By Terror - The One Year Book of Psalms

Surrounded By Terror

Psalm 31:6-13

6I hate those who worship worthless idols.

I trust in the LORD.

7I am overcome with joy because of your unfailing love,

for you have seen my troubles,

and you care about the anguish of my soul.

8You have not handed me over to my enemy

but have set me in a safe place.

9Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am in distress.

My sight is blurred because of my tears.

My body and soul are withering away.

10I am dying from grief;

my years are shortened by sadness.

Misery has drained my strength;

I am wasting away from within.

11I am scorned by all my enemies

and despised by my neighbors—

even my friends are afraid to come near me.

When they see me on the street,

they turn the other way.

12I have been ignored as if I were dead,

as if I were a broken pot.

13I have heard the many rumors about me,

and I am surrounded by terror.

My enemies conspire against me,

plotting to take my life.

The ups and downs of life are common for all of us, and the only surprising thing is how quickly the downs follow the ups. This was true for David as well.

But for the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, there seldom seemed to be any ups. “Surrounded by terror” (verse 13) could have been his motto. He spoke about it so much that he was given the nickname “The Man Who Lives in Terror” (Jeremiah 20:10). He was terrified, however, because he foresaw what his fellow citizens could not see: the city of Jerusalem surrounded by the attacking Babylonians. Jeremiah said that everyone else, not he, was surrounded by terror.

Life was always difficult for Jeremiah: in the stocks, in the pit, in the prison. Yet even in his darkest times, he knew two overarching truths: “The Lord stands beside me like a great warrior” (Jeremiah 20:11) and “Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day” (Lamentations 3:23).

In an old inn, the Chesa Veglia at St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps, is an inscription that reads: “When you think everything is hopeless, a little ray of light comes from somewhere.” Or as Jeremiah might say, “When you are surrounded by terror, remember that the Lord stands beside you like a great warrior.”

Whate’er your sacred will ordains

Oh, give me strength to bear.

Let me but know my Father reigns

And trust his tender care.


Many psalms start on a low note and end on a high note. This psalm does it twice. The psalmist begins with a prayer for help in the early verses, and by verse 7 he is “overcome with joy.” But then in verse 9, he begins all over again as if he is in deep distress. It is as if David is on an emotional roller coaster.

David wasn’t the only one who felt deserted by his friends. Check out how Job felt in Job 19:13-19.

From the Book:

The One Year Book of Psalms cover image

The One Year Book of Psalms
By William Petersen, Randy Petersen, and Tyndale

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