Psalm 3:1-4 – “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God.’ But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.”
While Absalom, David’s son, was chasing after David to kill him, David prayed Psalm 3. Imagine saying of your own son: “How many are my foes!” Imagine your son taunting you saying: “There is no salvation for you in God.” The vast majority of us could never even imagine that kind of suffering. David moves quickly to speak of his hope in the Lord in verse 3, but don’t minimize the pain and torment he was under in verses 1 and 2 as Absalom chased him down. I can imagine sleepless nights (v. 5), an exhausted body as he fled through harsh lands, and an overall sense of fear and anxiety that many of us can’t imagine. The contrast comes in verse 3 when David simple says, “But.” “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
I love this imagery of God lifting our heads. When are our heads hung low? When do our heads need to be lifted like this? One answer is when we are enduring suffering. Suffering produces all sorts of emotion. This emotion sometimes causes our heads to literally be hung low in sadness. Other times our head is hung low after we’ve made a big mistake that caused hurt to someone else. When we realize the hurt we have brought, our heads hang low in sadness for what we’ve done. In this context, we come to the point where we understand how we have sinned against God. Like David we cry out, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4). Maybe this sin is so overwhelming that we feel overcome by shame for what we’ve done.
If you’ve ever seen an abused dog, you understand this idea of a head hanging low. As a person comes near this abused dog, the dog’s tail quickly moves between its legs, and its head bows down expecting to be hit. Sometimes we approach God in this way. We know the sin we’ve committed and we know that it is against God and God alone that we have sinned, and so we go to prayer with such an overwhelming sense of shame that we look like this abused puppy. What does God do as we humbly come to him? He lifts our head. He is a shield about us, our glory, and the lifter of our heads.
He lifts our heads up when we come to him for forgiveness in our sin and shame. He lifts our heads up when we come to him in the midst of our suffering and sadness. He lifts our heads up when we’re overcome by the situations around us that are outside of our control. While there is always a time and a season for mourning, there are also times when God wants us to come to him as we are so that he might lift our heads. Praise God for his grace, compassion, and kindness in being the only one who can lift our heads in these moments.