“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8).
Psalm 56 is among the famous passages in the Bible. It contains the incredibly comforting refrain, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (v. 3). This is ultimately a psalm about God’s protection against evil. But rather than being just a general guard, God takes the time to notice our individual fears.
The first thing that comes to mind when observing this psalm is that David doesn’t write, “If I am afraid.” Instead, he states, “When I am afraid.” This indicates that he has felt fear before and is confident he will experience it again. In fact, when David wrote this psalm, he was a prisoner of the Philistines. He had spent the past few years in war against the Philistines, and he was easily their most hated enemy. Now he was their captive. At any moment, they could kill him. Needless to say, he was in a position that would terrify anyone. According to his typical honesty, David didn’t attempt to cover up his fear. Instead, he openly acknowledged it to God. He admitted he was afraid—but he didn’t stop there. He went on to confess his faith in God, expressing his confidence that man could do nothing to him when he trusted in God.
This confidence becomes even more intriguing upon reading verse 8. In this verse, David marvels over the fact that God keeps track of his sleepless nights, of every tear he sheds. This knowledge is what convinces him that God will truly be a protection against his enemies. David’s fears are personal to God. He knows exactly what frightens this strong warrior, and He treasures every one of his tears. Because of that, David can proclaim, “This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (vv. 9b-11).
God sees our fears, too. He knows when we are afraid, and He doesn’t belittle us for it. Instead, He rises up as our defender. He goes to war on our behalf. The great God of the universe cares enough about His frail creatures of dust to write down every one of our tears. When we trust in Him, we don’t have to be afraid. What can man possibly do against such a God?