Living Beyond the Grind of Discouragement
by Charles R. Swindoll
The Book of Psalms is the oldest hymnal known to man. This ancient hymnal contains some of the most moving and meaningful expressions of the human heart.
Songs are usually born out of surrounding circumstances that so affect the thinking of the composer, he cannot help but burst forth with a melody and an accompanying set of lyrics describing his plight. This is certainly the case with the blues and jazz of yesteryear as well as the old spirituals of days gone by and the romantic love songs of any era. The same has often been true of gospel songs and sacred hymns; their historical settings explain their message.
Psalm 5 is no exception. As we read it, we can detect that it emerged out of an atmosphere of strife and oppression. David is down in the dumps . . . discouraged. Whatever his pressures were, they prompted him to compose an ancient hymn in the minor key.
I seriously doubt that there is any subject more timely than discouragement. So many folks I meet are playing out their entire lives in a minor key. There is the grinding discouragement that follows an unachieved goal or a failed romance. Some are discouraged over their marriage which began with such promise but now seems hopeless. Lingering ill-health can discourage and demoralize its victim, especially when the pain won't go away. And who can't identify with the individual who gave it his best shot yet took it on the chin from a few self-appointed critics? The discouragement brought on by several back-to-back criticisms can scarcely be exaggerated. It could be that David was just picking himself up off the mat when another sharp-worded comment knocked him back to his knees . . . hence the birth of Psalm 5.
Many a discouraged soul has identified with this song down through the centuries. Frequently, the words just above the first verse (which comprise the superscription) set forth the historical backdrop of the song.
If you glance just above verse 1 in the King James Version of the Bible, you will see that David desired this song to be played "upon Nehiloth." A nehiloth was an ancient woodwind instrument, something like today's flute or oboe. An oboe is a double-reed instrument giving a sad-sounding whine as it is being played. Its penetrating tone causes it to be used frequently as a solo instrument.
Interestingly, David did not play the nehiloth, but rather an ancient stringed instrument called the harp (see 1 Samuel 16:23, KJV). My point is simply this: David wrote this sad song of discouragement for someone else to play—not himself. Perhaps the surrounding circumstances were too overwhelming for him to participate in the playing of this piece. It could be rendered better by one who was skilled on the nehiloth. The sad tone of that instrument would enhance the feeling of discouragement which gave birth to this song.
Consider your song today. If you are discouraged, admit it. Spell it out in detail in your time with the Lord. Take time to express the depth of your pain. Don't deny the reality of your sorrow. State your honest feelings. God can handle it!
But don't stop there. Now at least twice, tell someone why you are grateful to be alive . . . why you are more encouraged than you used to be. It will not only be therapy for you, it will lift that person's spirits as well. Wonderful changes can occur in us and others when we spread a few cheer germs around.
Excerpted from Living Beyond the Daily Grind, copyright © 1988, 1989, 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.