Dancing in Distress: Levity in the midst of Gravity

For the past few weeks, like many of you, I have felt like I am living in a split screen reality. I am doing life here in the United States: running errands, watching my children’s sports games, helping with homework, enjoying weekly worship with other believers. Yet, all the while, half of my brain and heart is flashing images of the grave, unspeakable reality which people in Ukraine are currently living.

I have found myself wrestling with the dizzying dissonance. Psalm 31 presents a picture of fighting for gospel levity in the midst of grave situations as David learns to dance in the midst of distress.


In Psalm 31, David cycles back and forth from gravity to levity, from desperation to dancing in the midst of distress.

As this particular Psalm opens, we find David walking into the presence of God armed with His promises. Let me never be put to shame, incline your ear to me, rescue me speedily, be a rock of refuge for me (verses 1-2).

Upon first hearing, these arrow-sharp imperatives may sound brazen or even disrespectful. However, far from being evidence of egotism, David’s invoking God with imperatives reveals a strong respect for and confidence in God and His word. David conntects his imperatives with an explanatory statement: For you are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me (verse 3).

David then writes words forever etched into our minds as the words of Jesus on the Cross, “Into your hands I commit my spirit (verse 5),” the ultimate statement of trust. What Christ quoted in His death, David wrote in the context of the hardships of life. David begins with a decision: I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love (verse 7).  No matter what becomes of my situation or even of myself, I have chosen to trust you and will continue to do so.

The Hebrew word for rejoice is gil, which comes from an Arabic root literally meaning to spin around, to be excited with levity.

Before even going into detail about his distresses and depression, David anticipates dancing in the midst of the distresses. How can someone possibly speak with such levity in the midst of such grave situations?

David doesn’t leave us wondering, but plainly tells us in the remainder of verse 7: because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul. Before David has unpacked his heavy laundry list of hardships, he is convinced that God is attentive toward him and already knows them. His God sees, hears and knows, and he draws great comfort from such knowledge.

Having peppered the pathway to the Lord with confident claims of His promises, David finally hauls his heavy laundry list of grievances onto God’s lap.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress. My eye is wasted from grief; my soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away (verses 9-10). 

The Psalm gets swamped down in heaviness in the middle, sagging under the weight of hard cirumstances; however, David continues to fight for levity in the midst of gravity.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand…Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love! (verses 14, 15 & 16). 

Although none of his circumstances have changed, we feel David begin to float up from the depths with the winds of hope in the Lord.

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you (verse 19). 

David, who began his poem with a string of imperatives directed at God, ends with a similar strain directed at us, his audience: Love the Lord, all you his saints!…Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord (verses 23 & 24). 

David models for us levity in the midst of gravity; however, Jesus does even more. He models and empowers us with His Spirit, reaching His scarred hand out of the pages of the Word, inviting us to join him in dancing with levity and hope in the midst of distressing situations. After all, He is the One who literally commited His dying breath into the hands of the Father and danced with levity when he conquered the gravity of the grave.

May we literally spin with the levity of gospel in the midst of our own grave situations.

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