Before starting this study, take a moment to read Psalm 3. Although I’ll primarily be using the NIV version for the preparation of this study, you can read from whichever version you prefer.

Psalm 3 is the first lament in the Book of Psalms. Laments are psalms of grief or distress. They offer us an outlet for similar feelings in our own lives. More importantly, they serve as a reminder that it’s okay to take our hardest feelings before God in prayer.

This psalm is attributed to King David, supposedly written when he fled from his son Absalom. However, scholars disagree on this point. Some think that David may have literally written this psalm, while others think someone else wrote it with King David’s situation in mind.

Either way, this psalm is a reminder that God is at work, even when the odds around us don’t look good. Whether or not David literally wrote it is not important for understanding the emotion behind the psalm and the truth of God’s goodness in hard times.

Dire Circumstances

The psalmist finds himself in dire circumstances. He is surrounded by enemies who are bent on seeing his destruction. Those around him look on, telling him that God will not deliver him from the angry army.

Although the verses of this psalm become progressively confident in the psalmist’s safety, that doesn’t take away from how severe of a situation he’s in. It’s possible that he even feels doubt that God will deliver when he first evaluates his situation.

The movement of trust in this psalm is just that: a movement. The psalmist may not feel trust instantly, but he does get there eventually.

Trusting the God Who Delivers

Despite the fact the psalmist is in a life-or-death situation, the bulk of this psalm centers around his worship of the God who delivers. The psalmist doesn’t know how God will deliver, but praises God for what he knows is coming eventually.

Because God has delivered the psalmist before, he knows God can be trusted to do it again. In the end, the psalmist rests, even in his dire circumstances, because he knows he is safe in God’s hands.

Justice vs. Retribution

There are some pretty violent images in this psalm, painting a picture of what the psalmist wants to see happen to his enemies. In light of the words of Jesus about turning the other cheek, we rightfully have discomfort when we read some of this psalm.

In one line of the psalm, the writer asks God to strike his enemies and break their teeth. This image seems extremely violent to our modern eyes. However, there are some places in Scripture where the teeth of a lion are broken to free the prey from its grip.

While this is a poetic image that may be meaningful to us, there’s no denying that many of the images in this psalm cross the line from seeking justice to desiring retribution.

The thing is, we want justice. And when we’re really honest with ourselves, sometimes we really do want retribution against those who have hurt us. This psalm gives voice to that desire, while gently reminding us that vengeance is God’s alone.


This has been a hard week for me, personally. Our family has been living through an ongoing situation that comes with lots of ups and downs. On Monday, we got amazing news that things should be working out shortly. Then on Tuesday, we got word that the news we received was for another family and we’re still in limbo.

I’m not going to lie: I’ve spent a lot of the last 24 hours in a funk. I’ve very much been in the space the psalmist holds in the first two verses. I see the odds stacked against us and nothing else.

It’s taking time, but I’ve also been reminded about how God’s faithfulness before is proof that God will be faithful to our family again. I’m still aware of how hard our situation is, but I’m (slowly) taking steps toward trust and assurance.

This psalm is a reminder that when we face hard things, we can still trust God. It’s also a reminder that when our first thought is “This is hard” instead of “God’s got it,” that’s honestly okay. What matters is that we’re seeking God’s face in the midst of it.

God is big enough of handle our big feelings. God is also big enough to handle whatever situation you’re facing today. Take those little steps toward trust, knowing we serve a faithful God.