When I read this Psalm, I envision a man who is at the end of his rope. He’s had enough, he feels alone, he thinks God has abandoned him, he wonders if his enemies are going to get the last laugh. It’s almost as though he’s having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve probably faced some of these seasons in your life.
Seasons of complete darkness where you wondered how long it was going to last or if it would ever end. Whether you’ve lived with the anguish of the horror in this world, or you’ve been forced to stand helplessly on the sideline as a loved one derails his or her life, or you’re facing some kind of uncontrollable circumstance like poverty or sickness, you probably know a little bit about living in deep anguish over something.
David seems to know a little about seasons of anguish…
PSALM 13…TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID. 1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, 4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. 5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13 appears to be a song of anguish. To be in anguish is to be deeply depressed or afflicted; to be full of sadness and despair. David wrote these words most likely during a season of his life when he was running for his life from either Saul (his father figure) or Absalom (his own son). I can’t imagine what it would be like to live with the fear and the anguish of being hunted by a blood-thirsty father figure or a murderous son.
But I can imagine that if I was living under these circumstances that I would be super shook up. I wouldn’t be asking insignificant fluffy questions. My prayer life would probably look a whole lot different than it does now and the things I would find hope and joy in would have to be things of substance if I were going to make it through this season in tacked and thriving. This is what David does in this Psalm.
#1: DAVID ASKS GOD UNFILTERED QUESTIONS (VV. 1 – 2)
David asks some really honest questions when he asks, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (vv.1 – 2).
Questions don’t get any more real than this. How long will this last God? Have you forgotten me? Are you hiding from me? How long will I feel alone and depressed? How long will I feel like my enemy has defeated me? We tend to ask unfiltered questions when we are in a crisis.
When your long-time friend betrays you or hurts you, when your finances are upside down, when your child dies, when your spouse has an affair, when your child rebels, when your boss lays you off for no good reason, when the doctor diagnoses a terminal illness, when cities erupt with violence and anarchy, when people of every color are murdered senselessly on our tv screens; these are times of crisis when we begin to ask unfiltered questions.
What unfiltered questions are you wrestling with right now? Where will you find answers for your unfiltered questions?
#2: DAVID PRAYS TO GOD (VV. 3 – 4)
David cries out to God in prayer when he says, “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken” (vv. 3 – 4).
This is a desperate prayer from a heart that is filled with anguish. Lord please answer me and sustain my life. Please don’t let my enemy be victorious over me. Please don’t let death have the final word.
It’s almost as though David’s endurance is wearing thin like an old set of brake pads but David moves out of the darkness he finds himself in as he calls upon the God who seems to have abandoned him (Johnston 2015: 144).
It can be really tempting to shrink away from pursuing the Lord in prayer when there seems to be no answer to our unfiltered questions. It seems easier to move away from the point of confusion and pain rather than to lean into the confusion and the pain.
The confusion and pain for David here is that God seems to be absent from David’s suffering. But David calls out to God in prayer in the midst of the confusion and the pain. He asks God to look upon his condition, to keep his eyes open, to keep him alive and ensure that his worst enemy, Death, does not get the final word.
Speaking with my cousin this last week about his mom who at this time is in her last few days of life and he reminded me that there’s one enemy we cannot outrun, and that enemy is death. Death comes for all of us; whether it’s our own death or the death of a child or the death of a relative or the death of an old friend; death comes for all of us.
How do we stand and face our old enemy, Death, with any kind of confidence? What will keep our knees from buckling under the weight of the pain, the confusion and the fear of Death?
#3: DAVID FINDS CONFIDENCE IN GOD (VV. 5 – 6)
David proclaims that his confidence is in God when he says, “I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (vv. 5 – 6).
In these verses, David finds his confidence in God alone. David knows that God does not forget us; he does not hide from us; he does not abandon us or forsake us; he does not make orphans out of his adopted children.
Confident joy comes from trusting in God’s unfailing love. Confident joy comes from hoping in God’s complete salvation. Confident joy comes from singing of God’s immeasurable generosity.
Imagine the confidence you would have if all of your wildest dreams were guaranteed to come true. The reality is that all of our earthly dreams are invitations to the greatest dream that is guaranteed to never disappoint us; namely that in Christ our eternal destiny is certain. Our eternal destiny is guaranteed if we have trusted in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Trusting in Jesus as our Savior is the easier part because it promises a get out of hell-free card. Trusting in Jesus as our Lord is harder because it means that we ultimately trust God when the answers to our unfiltered questions aren’t so black and white.
In conclusion I want to encourage you by reminding you that when all hell breaks loose, when the stench of Death knocks on your door, when the fog of confusion overtakes your soul, when loneliness looms heavy in your heart, when fear fills your mind, when pain permeates your existence, when depression digs its claws into your thoughts and emotions…
in these moments, you can take your unfiltered questions to the Lord in prayer and you can find confidence in God’s unfailing love. You can find confidence in God’s complete salvation. You can find confidence in God’s immeasurable generosity.
God’s love never fails. God’s offer of salvation is a work of completion. God’s generosity in the cross of Christ is immeasurable. We have to remember that at the cross, Jesus, in all of his perfection, faced down our three greatest enemies, Satan, Sin and Death.
He felt the immense fear, loneliness and rejection that accompanies our greatest enemies and he called out to our Heavenly Father in his moment of utter darkness and yet he never sinned.
Jesus asked unfiltered questions (Father, why have you forsaken me?) and he uttered the most profound statement of trust (Father, into your hands I commit my spirit).
The truth here is that Jesus is a better David and in his work at the cross we find the ultimate source for all of our unfiltered questions, all of our deepest prayers and all of the confident joy we need to face the horrors of this life.
At the cross Jesus displayed his unfailing love for us. In the empty tomb Jesus displayed his complete and perfect victory over Satan, Sin and Death. In Christ’s promised return we have the certain hope and joy of eternity with our generous Father in Heaven.
So, when you begin to ask unfiltered questions, when you go to the Lord in prayer during a crisis, you can trust in his unfailing love as you find hope in complete salvation while singing songs of joy in light of his immeasurable generosity towards us.
All of this happens at the foot of the bloody cross, in the doorway of the empty tomb in light of the promise of Heaven.