This psalm was written and sung by David after “the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul” (18:0). David suffered much at the hand of his enemies, and he recounts some of it in this song (18:4, 5, 16, 17). We don’t know why God allows suffering in our lives, but at this point David isn’t asking that question. He is rejoicing.
We don’t know why God allows suffering, but the answer David offers here is that it leads us to praise God more when we are delivered from it. His praise is emphatic at the beginning of this psalm; he can’t seem to get enough descriptors out of his thesaurus to tell how wonderful and merciful and strong and kind and gracious God is. “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (18:1-2). That’s nine descriptions in two verses. That’s praise.
The fact is that the peaks of life would not feel nearly as high if they didn’t stand above dark valleys. Sweet would not taste nearly so good if we did not know bitterness. The gloriously warm sun last weekend would not have felt half as delicious had we not just had a month of cold, gloomy weather. The hardships we face in life stretch us, grow us, deepen us to understand all the better “the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:18-19).
That isn’t a philosophical proof to explain the problem of evil. It doesn’t provide an open-and-shut, air tight case for God’s existence or Christianity’s truthfulness. But this momentary affliction pales in comparison to being “filled with all the fullness of God,” doesn’t hold a candle to “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” If part of the reason we go through trial and difficulty is so that we can be incredibly, miraculously, thunderously delivered from them by the hand of God himself (18:6-19, 31-45) and experience the embrace of his love for us, perhaps that’s reason enough.
“For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down” (18:27). What are you struggling through right now in your life? Perhaps you’re tempted to proudly ask God why. Maybe you’re frustrated and want relief from your hardship more than you want to know God and his love. Humble yourself before the Lord and trust in his salvation for you.
“For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?” (18:31). It’s a rhetorical question, but you are clearly not the answer. Whatever you are suffering, commit it—and yourself—to our Rock, the Lord. His love and faithfulness hits bedrock. His loving purpose for you is better than a painless, comfortable life. David knew that. Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2) knew it too. May God teach all of us as well.