Praise In the Hard Times
Read Psalm 13
Today’s Psalm is a short one written by David. It is a Psalm most of us can relate with as it is a feeling, we probably have had during trying times. This is a song with varying emotions that begins with crying out in despair and anguish and concludes with joy and hope.
Psalm 13 was likely penned at a low point in David’s life; some have suggested he was fighting a life-threatening illness and others suggest it was penned during the time when David was fleeing from the murderous pursuits of King Saul who was trying to kill him. Whatever the situation he was facing at the time it is apparent that he was in utter despair and close to the end of his rope.
The Psalmist begins his song by asking God a question, “How long?” He asks this question four times and his repetition show that David is at a breaking point, he is getting to the point of being unable to bear or endure the situation(s) he is facing. He asks God, “How long YHWH will you forget me, how long will you hide your face from me, how long must I take counsel in myself and how long must I watch the enemy exalt over me?”
Initially one would think David is having a crisis of faith as he wonders if God is around or if He even cares. Now, I don’t believe David is questioning the existence of God nor is he literally thinking God has forgotten about him. Remember this is a poem or a song which is intended to express a pure feeling or a raw emotion. His song is not intended to be a theological treatise about God in any sense; he is just expressing his real and open emotions and feelings to God.
David is simply doing something that people in the Bible did for centuries and something we Christians do today and that is question God. Some examples would include Abraham questioning God when He promised Abraham’s wife, Sarah, would one day bear a son. Job questioned God when he lost everything that was precious to him. The prophet Elijah questioned God’s whereabouts when he fled for his life from Queen Jezebel. And the Israelites continually questioned God in the desert, in famine and other times of calamity. This should bring comfort to us because when we see some of the greatest people of faith having struggles in life, and they had the guts to cry out to God with these questions and express their true emotions to their sovereign God. Now, there are people who believe questioning God or complaining to God is wrong, disrespectful and irreverent. I could not disagree with them more whole heartedly and the Psalms prove that.
You see God is not taken back, intimidated nor offended when we bring our raw unfettered emotions to him. In fact, I believe He welcomes cries of despair and welcomes when we cast our anxieties on him.
David is voicing his anxiety and concern to God by asking, “How long do I have to endure before you will intervene and take control of the situation?” It is at this point he feels alone and abandoned by God (yet he knows He’s there) and he is in despair as he faces this difficulty or trial before him.
In verse 3 he asks God to consider, pay attention, show regard, or look favorably upon his request. In other words, he is saying, “God, hear my prayer! I have made my request known and I implore you to give it consideration. Give me the hope I need to know that I will emerge victoriously over my enemies for your name sake; lest my enemies think they have won.”
So, in the first three verses we see David lodge a complaint to God (How long O LORD?), a request (Consider and answer me), and now the Psalmist waits with great anticipation and expectation. He does not have a shallow hope that God may pull through for him; he is expecting God to hear his prayer and respond in an appropriate manner.
Verse 5 is the turning point of this Psalm as it goes from a cry of despair and lament to one of joy and hope. In despair David is faced with a choice; he can choose to continue in one of two ways
He chooses to not allow his feelings to hinder his faith. It is so easy to let our feelings or emotions determine our relationship with God and in the same manner it is also very difficult to not allow our feelings and emotions to determine our relationship with God. In other words, if we feel down in the dumps, it can be easy to feel that God is far away and when we feel happy it’s easy to feel close to God. Now, I don’t want to imply that we should never listen to our feelings and suppress them so that we become emotionless people. We should instead learn from David as he writes, “But I have trusted…” David does not allow his feeling of despair or his anxieties to dictate his circumstances and his faith. In fact, the remainder of the Psalm shows us that although David is in great despair, and anxiety but he will still trust in God’s steadfast love. God has never failed him, and he will trust Him to never fail him ever. Instead of looking at the circumstances around him or at the overwhelming feelings he has, he will focus on the steadfast love of God. He will focus on God’s loving kindness and on the many times He has shown David his steadfast love. David will not only focus on God’s character, but he will also focus on his salvation.
In the Old Testament salvation meant being saved from physical and spiritual danger. David is rejoicing a bit prematurely because nothing had changed from the opening of the song to its closing. The situation hadn’t changed one iota, but David’s heart did. He believes that God will deliver him from his enemies and despair.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be more like David with my emotions and anxiety. There are so many times when I get anxious about finances, work, and ministry and I cry out to God. I submit my concerns, anxiety and negative feelings to him and inevitably I come to the realization that God has never failed me, and He is not about to begin failing me.
In closing, I would like to give some application points for those of us who may feel the anxiety and despair David is feeling. Maybe you feel anxious, helpless, and in complete despair and my prayer is that you will gain some insight and respond in the way David does.
Application/” Regaining a Sense of God’s Presence”
Gerald H. Wilson writes in his commentary of Psalm 13 of three helpful responses to the question “How we can regain a sense of God’s presence when we feel as though we are all alone and far from his presence.” Below are three ways we can be assured of God’s presence in times of despair. He writes…
Today, if you feel as though your life and all its difficulties seem to be weighing you down and you feel all alone please remember to keep your eyes fixed on God… He is there and He does care. Talk to Him today and voice your complaint, trust in his steadfast love and rejoice because he has and will deliver you from this time of despair in His perfect timing.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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