What Does It Mean to Be “Faint in Heart” in Psalm 61:2?

What Does It Mean to Be “Faint in Heart” in Psalm 61:2?

The world is not fooled. They do not believe for a second that because we are Christians, we have perfect lives. Christians should be the first to raise their hands and offer a confession: “I struggle sometimes!” Life is hard for everyone. Suffering happens to even the most faithful of people. Sin affects even the most sanctified of souls.

The Bible does not shy away from suffering language, and neither should we. The difference between a Christian suffering and a nonbeliever suffering is that Christians are not alone in their suffering. In fact, Psalm 61helps provide us with a blueprint for how to respond to our suffering. This chapter was written by David, probably when he was on the run from his revengeful son. His family has been torn apart by sin and corruption, some of it his own actions. David is desperate. 

In his turmoil, David turns to God, right away. When sin and suffering touch our lives, where do we turn first? Is it to God? Or to other things. May we cry out to God, in language that is honest and raw, “Listen to me!” David is calling out to the God of the universe to listen to him. Not just hear, but to lean down and listen. Like an adult does with a child, God turns His eyes and looks and listens with intention.

What Does “Heart” Mean?

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

The word “heart” in this psalm means the innermost part of our being. It is the part of us that makes us – us. David is crying out to God from the deepest part of himself. He does not try to call to God with just his mind or intellect. Nor does David just shout from his emotions. David takes his knowledge of God and his deepest feelings, wraps them all together and cries out to God from his heart. 

The part of us that people rarely see is the part that God sees clearly. We can rest in the fact that God created, understands, and loves our hearts. You might have heard that the heart is deceitful or wicked, but a Christian has a new heart. God has come in and changed our hearts so that we are becoming more and more like Christ. As we cry out to God, we can do so from an honest place that tells the truth about how we feel.

What Does “Faint” Mean?

David says that his heart is “faint.” The basic understanding of this is the idea of being overwhelmed. I heard a comedian once tell what it was like to go from having three kids to four. He said, “Imagine yourself drowning. Then someone hands you a baby.” I can remember when we adopted our fifth child. Overwhelm was a good word to describe how I felt those first few months of adjusting. We’ve all felt that feeling of being overwhelmed. 

Steve Lawson says this phrase or word means “becoming discouraged and weak, and {David} felt estranged from God’s presence” (p. 308).

Spurgeon describes it best when he says, “huge waves of trouble…completely submerged, not only as to my head but also my heart…affliction is all over me” (p. 40).

Imagine yourself out in the middle of the ocean, and the waves are crashing all around you. You have no way to see the shore. The crash and pull of the waves barely give you room to breathe, and you are all alone. Even God doest not feel near. That is what the phrase “faint in heart” means here in Psalm 61:2

The Request

This is the state of David’s heart, and if we are honest, we also feel this way at times. So, what do we do? The first thing David does is make a request. He says, “Hear…listen…lead me…let me…and prolong my life.” (Psalm 61:1-4, 6) David asks for help! He runs to God in prayer and lifts us his hands in desperation, and asks God to intervene. 

David does this because he recognizes that only God can be the one to save him. How often do we face trials and suffering with our eyes on other people? We turn to those around us for comfort. Or we try to find comfort in other things. Shopping. Drugs. Alcohol.  Our ultimate source of peace can only come from God. Let us say in our hearts and declare that only God will truly answer our call of distress. 

We can be like David and say, “Listen to me! Help me!” 

The Remembering

The next thing David does is remember. Over twenty times in the book of Psalms, God is mentioned to be the “rock.” He is our refuge. David remembers this. 

“For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” Psalm 61:3 

In the past, David had received protection and refuge from God. God has always provided for David and kept His promises. Think back to a time when God has rescued you. Remember that time and cling to it like you would a rock in the middle of the ocean. That truth about God and His promises remain true! It is in the remembering that we regain our strength. God will provide because He has in the past. God’s track record is perfect. David claims God’s faithfulness and steadfast love in Psalm 61:7.

The Response

David ends his cry to God with praise. He sings and then promises to serve God.   Psalm 61:8 says, “Then I will ever sing in praise of your name and fulfill my vows day after day.” Each day David will wake up and serve God. Does it mean the suffering ended? No. David still struggled, and his circumstances didn’t change from verse 1 to verse 8. The only thing that changed was David’s perspective. 

May we remember that we can have the right response to our circumstances when our eyes are on God. Even if our life doesn’t change on the outside, God can change our hearts. We can remember and then respond in praise to God. As we go about each day, we can faithfully serve Him.

The Rock & Refuge

Who is our true Rock and refuge? Jesus! Some believe that these verses could also relate to Christ, the Messiah. David asks God in verse seven, “May he {the king} be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.” This could be a reference to Jesus, the Messiah’s reign forever. 

Jesus came to earth, lived, died, and rose again so that we could live a life of hope. He did not say we wouldn’t suffer; in fact, he said, “when you suffer…” Christians should not pretend to be people who have found Jesus, and now life looks perfect. Instead, we need to show the world that we are real and raw. But more than that, we show the world that when suffering happens, we reach for the Rock that is God and the Refuge that is His Son, Jesus Christ. 

I have a great resource if you want to study the Psalms with us and go even deeper with Psalm 61. Check out the course here.here.