On Wednesday of last week our family returned from our vacation feeling refreshed and looking forward to being back in our own home once again, meeting friends and family and settling back into the work of ministry in our congregation. I had a funeral to conduct the next day, and so I went to visit the widow of the elderly saint who had died. When I returned home my wife greeted me with the news that her uncle, one of our elders and Clerk of Session in our congregation for 17 years, had died suddenly that afternoon. On Friday night we received the tragic news that a previous member of our congregation, a young mother with four children under the age of 6, including a 6-month-old baby, had just succumbed to the cancer that had been ravaging every part of her body. On Sunday evening we heard that the 5-month-old baby in our congregation (Wilfred) who was born prematurely and who has been in hospital his whole life, was on the point of death. The Lord has given him a measure of recovery over these last few days, but his life is still hanging in the balance.
How do we respond to news like this as Christians? We respond like David did in Psalm 31.14-15: ‘But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand.’ Trust is what we do when we don’t see the whole picture, when we don’t have all the information we would like or all the answers to our questions. Trust is what we do because we know the person who is in control. We don’t know the ‘why’ but we do know the ‘who’.
What did David mean when he talked about his times? What kind of times was he living through? The first half of the psalm gives us some idea. In v4 he talks about enemies who have hidden a net for him. In v7 he speaks of his affliction and the distress of his soul. Verses 9-10 unpacks the symptoms of his distress: ‘…my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing… my bones waste away.’
So David was not living through easy, comfortable, pleasant times, but times that were full of anguish and tears. And yet he is able to say these times were in God’s hand. Not the Devil’s hand, or the hand of his enemies, or the hand of fate. They were under the Lord’s control, they were in his keeping. And he trusted the Lord with his times because he knew that God was his God—wise and good and loving.
Even more startling, David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, was able to say these words of his times. And his times were even darker than David’s. For Jesus’ last words were a quotation from Psalm 31.5, expressing the same thought as v15: ‘Into your hand I commit my spirit.’ He was clearly meditating on this psalm as he drew near the end of his life. Think of all that Jesus had suffered in the previous 24 hours—betrayal, abandonment, scourging, mockery, an unjust trial, the physical agony of being nailed to the cross and then the unimaginable horror of an infinity of wrath against his people’s sins being poured out upon him as the sin-bearer. And yet he could say of all of those events, ‘My times are in your hand.’
If David could trust that his times were in the Lord’s hand, and if Jesus could trust that his times were in the Lord’s hand, how much more can we say of our times, no matter how bleak they may be, that they are in the Lord’s hand. These verses should be the watchword of every believer—whatever this day brings forth, whatever time of life I’m passing through, ‘my times are in his hand.’ Times of bereavement and sorrow, times of disappointment, times of rejection and failure, times of sickness, times of pain, times of joy, times of success, times of encouragement, times of frustration, times of plenty, times of prosperity—they are all in the Lord’s hand, the hand of our heavenly Father who does all things well.