Every believer needs to know what to do for his or her own basic spiritual care. None of us go to the doctor every time we have a physical ache or pain. In the same way we all need to know what to do for the spiritual ailments we suffer. This psalm, like others such as Psalms 6, 42-43, 88, and130, talk about the problem of spiritual depression. Psalm 13 presents a believer, David, who struggled in a condition of desertion. What is desertion? It is the state in which God, for wise reasons, hides the smile on his face from his believing child for a while. During this time the believer does not enjoy his usual comfort in God. We are not told when this happened in David’s life. Surely he went through many experiences where these words would have described his condition.
First, we hear David’s complaints (13:1-2). A wise friend listens to their friend’s symptoms. Note the extreme misery David was in, and how intensely he desired deliverance. He complained that God had forgotten him (13:1). His emotions were overruling his mind. In his words he denied what he knew so well. Can an all-knowing God in covenant with his people forget them? Meditate on Isaiah 49:13-16. Affliction had changed David’ s outlook. Where was the psalmist of Psalm 23 at this point? He painted a worst case scenario: “forever?” Observe how dark his thoughts became. You and I are liable to lose patience in our afflictions. We want everything yesterday, and this can cause additional complicating problems.
David complained that God was hiding his face (13:1). Is there a slight improvement here? Or a decline? First, he thought God had forgotten him. Now he looks at God as actively withdrawing from fellowship with him. God may hide his face for various reasons. Discipline for sin is one cause (Hebrews 12:5-13).
- Discipline for neglect of obedience to God’s purposes. The Lord desires us to follow him, and yet we become side-tracked from doing good works.
- Discipline for a false self-confidence. We assume that we can do that Christian life in our own strength.
- Discipline for grieving the Holy Spirit.
When we feel that God is far off, we might benefit from self-examination. Compare your walk with the Lord to that set forth in the Bible. But avoid over-introspection, which can cause similar problems.
David complained about his internal struggle (13:2). Hard thoughts that denied God’s love and promises were striving for the mastery of his mind. The battle brought weariness upon him. At least David is seeking to control his thoughts. He wrestled with them. This is better than letting your inner person run wild. Every action to take charge of your thoughts is a positive step. Take every one of your thoughts captive for Christ. Refresh your thinking with the knowledge of the greatness and grace of God.
Another villain tried to cut him down: sorrow. We can reach a point where we refuse to be comforted. It is remarkable the arguments that a human heart can raise against its own comfort. What do you do then? Go to God your Father (Read 2 Cor 1).
Discouragement also came because he felt like he had been beaten (13:2). The seeming triumph of our enemy is a terrible experience. No one likes to lose to their rival in sports. No one likes for one’s personal rival to show them up. Far worse is the experience of apparent defeat by the enemy of human souls. We must remember that our spiritual life is complicated by the spiritual foes who seek our destruction. Each of us has enough serious difficulty with our own flesh. But there is an external as well as an internal warfare. As the old hymn says, “For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe.” In Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan painted the sad picture of Christian’s journey through the Valley of Humiliation. There is no escape from these trials, even when we try to walk close to our Lord and Savior. Many situations will cause every follower of Jesus to cry out, “How long?” In your unhappy experiences, learn to cry out, “How long, Lord?” It is far too easy to think of our difficulties rather than to fix our thoughts on our God, who deeply cares for us. Keep the Lord God in your thoughts. He is light (1 John 1:5) and can brighten the darkest places of your soul.
Grace and peace, David