Always Throw Your Burden on Jehovah
MANY today feel crushed by burdens. Economic hardships, distressing family problems, health problems, pain and suffering due to oppression and tyranny, and a host of other afflictions hang like millstones around their necks. Besides these external pressures, some also feel weighed down by a sense of personal worthlessness and failure because of their own imperfections. Many are tempted to give up the fight altogether. How can you cope when burdens seem unbearable?
At one time King David of Israel felt that the pressure was almost unbearable. According to Psalm 55, he was driven to distraction by anxiety because of pressures and animosity from his enemies. He felt great heartache and fear. He could only groan in his grief. (Psalm 55:2, 5, 17) Despite all his distress, however, he found a way to cope. How? He looked to his God for support. His advice to others who might feel as he did was: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself.”—Psalm 55:22.
What did he mean by “throw your burden upon Jehovah himself”? Is it simply a matter of going to Jehovah in prayer and expressing our anxiety? Or can we do something ourselves to help relieve the situation? What if we feel too unworthy to approach Jehovah? We can find out what David meant by looking at some experiences he would have remembered vividly when he penned those words.
Do Things in Jehovah’s Strength
Do you recall how Goliath struck fear into the hearts of the fighting men of Israel? This giant of a man, over nine feet [over 2.7 m] tall, terrified them. (1 Samuel 17:4-11, 24) But David was not afraid. Why? Because he did not try to deal with Goliath in his own strength. From the time he was anointed as Israel’s future king, he had allowed God’s spirit to direct him and strengthen him in all he did. (1 Samuel 16:13) So he said to Goliath: “I am coming to you with the name of Jehovah of armies, the God of the battle lines of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day Jehovah will surrender you into my hand.” (1 Samuel 17:45, 46) David was skilled as a slinger, but we can be sure that Jehovah’s holy spirit guided and made more lethal the stone he slung at Goliath.—1 Samuel 17:48-51.
David coped with this immense challenge and came off victorious by having confidence that God would support and strengthen him. He had developed a good, trusting relationship with God. This was no doubt strengthened by the way Jehovah had delivered him earlier. (1 Samuel 17:34-37) Like David, you can maintain a strong personal relationship with Jehovah and have complete confidence in his ability and willingness to strengthen and sustain you in all circumstances.—Psalm 34:7, 8.
Do What You Can to Solve the Problem
This does not mean, however, that there will never be times of intense pain, anxiety, and even fear, as Psalm 55 clearly shows. Some years after this fearless display of confidence in Jehovah, for example, David experienced great fear in the face of his enemies. He lost favor with King Saul and had to flee for his life. Try to imagine the emotional turmoil this must have caused David, the questions it must have raised in his mind about the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. After all, he had been anointed as the future king in Israel, yet here he was having to survive as a fugitive in the wilderness, hunted like a wild animal. When he tried to find refuge in the city of Gath, the hometown of Goliath, he was recognized. With what result? The record says that “he became very much afraid.”—1 Samuel 21:10-12.
But he did not allow his fear and deep anxiety to stop him from looking to Jehovah for help. According to Psalm 34 (written as a consequence of this experience), David said: “I inquired of Jehovah, and he answered me, and out of all my frights he delivered me. This afflicted one called, and Jehovah himself heard. And out of all his distresses He saved him.”—Psalm 34:4, 6.
Jehovah supported him, of course. Yet notice that David did not just sit back and wait for Jehovah to rescue him. He recognized the need for him to do all that he could under the circumstances to get out of the difficult situation. He acknowledged Jehovah’s hand in his deliverance, but he himself took action, feigning insanity so that the king of Gath did not kill him. (1 Samuel 21:14–22:1) We too need to do all we can to cope with burdens, rather than just wait for Jehovah to rescue us.—James 1:5, 6; 2:26.
Do Not Add to Your Burdens
David learned another lesson, a painful one, later in his life. What was it? That sometimes we add to our own burdens. Following victory over the Philistines, things went wrong for David when he decided to move the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. The historical account tells us: “Then David and all the people that were with him rose up and went to Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of the true God . . . However, they had the ark of the true God ride upon a new wagon, . . . and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new wagon.”—2 Samuel 6:2, 3.
Using a wagon to transport the Ark violated all the instructions that Jehovah had given regarding it. It was clearly stated that the only authorized bearers, the Kohathite Levites, should carry the Ark on their shoulders, using poles placed through the rings specially built into the Ark. (Exodus 25:13, 14; Numbers 4:15, 19; 7:7-9) Ignoring these instructions brought calamity. When the cattle pulling the wagon nearly caused it to tip over, Uzzah, who was likely a Levite but certainly not a priest, reached out to steady the Ark and was struck down by Jehovah for his irreverence.—2 Samuel 6:6, 7.
David as king had to bear some responsibility for this. His reaction shows that even those who have a good relationship with Jehovah can occasionally react badly to trialsome situations. First David became angry. Then he grew afraid. (2 Samuel 6:8, 9) His trusting relationship with Jehovah was severely tested. Here was an occasion when seemingly he failed to throw his burden on Jehovah, when he did not follow his commands. Might that be the situation with us sometimes? Do we ever blame Jehovah for problems that result because we ignore his instructions?—Proverbs 19:3.
Coping With the Burden of Guilt
Later, David created a huge burden of guilt for himself by sinning grievously against Jehovah’s moral standards. On this occasion David had abdicated his responsibility to lead his men in battle. He stayed in Jerusalem while they went out to fight. This led to serious trouble.—2 Samuel 11:1.
King David saw the beautiful Bath-sheba bathing. He got immorally involved with her, and she became pregnant. (2 Samuel 11:2-5) To try to cover up the misconduct, he arranged for her husband, Uriah, to return to Jerusalem from the field of battle. Uriah refused to have marital relations with his wife while Israel was involved in battle. (2 Samuel 11:6-11) David now resorted to wicked and devious means to cover up his sin. He arranged for Uriah’s fellow soldiers to leave Uriah in a vulnerable position in the battle so that he would be killed. A heinous, grievous sin!—2 Samuel 11:12-17.
Eventually, of course, David’s sin caught up with him, and he was exposed. (2 Samuel 12:7-12) Try to imagine the weight of grief and guilt that David must have felt when the enormity of what he had done as a result of his passion dawned on him. He could have been overwhelmed by his own sense of failure, especially because he was likely an emotional, sensitive man. He might well have felt completely worthless!
However, David quickly acknowledged his wrong, admitting to the prophet Nathan: “I have sinned against Jehovah.” (2 Samuel 12:13) Psalm 51 tells us how he felt and how he supplicated Jehovah God to cleanse him and forgive him. He prayed: “Thoroughly wash me from my error, and cleanse me even from my sin. For my transgressions I myself know, and my sin is in front of me constantly.” (Psalm 51:2, 3) Because he was truly repentant, he was able to rebuild his strong, close relationship with Jehovah. David did not dwell on feelings of remorse and worthlessness. He threw his burden on Jehovah by humbly acknowledging his guilt, demonstrating genuine repentance, and praying intensely for Jehovah’s forgiveness. He regained God’s favor.—Psalm 51:7-12, 15-19.
Coping With Betrayal
This brings us to the episode that prompted David to write Psalm 55. He was under great emotional strain. “My very heart is in severe pain within me,” he wrote, “and the frights of death itself have fallen upon me.” (Psalm 55:4) What caused this pain? Absalom, David’s son, had schemed to steal the kingship from David. (2 Samuel 15:1-6) This betrayal by his own son was hard enough to bear, but what made it worse was that David’s most trusted counselor, a man by the name of Ahithophel, joined the conspiracy against David. It is Ahithophel that David describes at Psalm 55:12-14. As a result of the conspiracy and betrayal, David had to flee Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 15:13, 14) What anguish this must have caused him!
Still, he did not allow his intense emotion and grief to weaken his trust and confidence in Jehovah. He prayed to Jehovah to frustrate the plans of the conspirators. (2 Samuel 15:30, 31) Again we see that David did not merely wait passively for Jehovah to do all the work. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, he did what he could to combat the conspiracy against him. He sent another of his counselors, Hushai, back into Jerusalem to pretend to join the conspiracy, though, in fact, he went to undermine it. (2 Samuel 15:32-34) With Jehovah’s support, this plan worked. Hushai gained enough time for David to regroup and to get organized to defend himself.—2 Samuel 17:14.
How David all through his life must have appreciated Jehovah’s protective care as well as his patience and willingness to forgive! (Psalm 34:18, 19; 51:17) It is with this background that David confidently encourages us in our times of distress to turn to Jehovah for help, to ‘throw our burden on Jehovah.’—Compare 1 Peter 5:6, 7.
Build and Maintain a Strong, Trusting Relationship With Jehovah
How do we get the kind of relationship with Jehovah that David had, a relationship that sustained him in times of great trial and tribulation? We build such a relationship by being diligent students of God’s Word, the Bible. We let him instruct us about his laws, principles, and personality. (Psalm 19:7-11) As we meditate on God’s Word, we grow ever closer to him and learn to trust him implicitly. (Psalm 143:1-5) We deepen and strengthen that relationship as we associate with fellow worshipers to be further instructed by Jehovah. (Psalm 122:1-4) We intensify our relationship with Jehovah through heartfelt prayer.—Psalm 55:1.
True, David, like us, did have his low points when his relationship with Jehovah was not as strong as it should have been. Oppression can make us “act crazy.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7) But Jehovah sees what is happening, and he knows what is in our heart. (Ecclesiastes 4:1; 5:8) We need to work hard to keep our relationship with Jehovah strong. Then, whatever burdens we have to carry, we can depend on Jehovah to relieve the pressure or to give us the strength to cope with our situation. (Philippians 4:6, 7, 13) It is a matter of our staying close to Jehovah. When David did this, he was absolutely secure.
Therefore, whatever your circumstances, says David, always throw your burden upon Jehovah. Then we will experience the truth of the promise: “He himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.”—Psalm 55:22.