Lectio Divina: Psalms 13 – Despair and Hope

SA Lloyd Morgan
SA Lloyd Morgan

Psalm 13 presents the complaint of one waiting for God’s intervention. The writer, David, is clearly under some type of oppression from people he deems enemies. He has been patiently waiting for God’s action, but it seems that it will never come; now he struggles with despair.

When meditating on this divine reading, notice in Verses 1 and 2 the four vexations of the writer: the sense that he is 1-2) forgotten and avoided by God; 3) shamed and left to figure out his own escape plan; and 4) oppressed by the ungodly.

Verse 1 (ESV)

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?”

Every believer walking with Christ will face trial, and every believer will have to wait for God’s deliverance. How we wait makes all the difference. We can wait trusting God’s promise to deliver us or we can wait begrudgingly and wondering why he doesn’t help us. But what about when we are patient, even longsuffering, but God seems to never come?

This is the writer’s foremost trouble: God has forgotten him. We sense that he is a godly man, has guarded his heart from bitterness, and endured much trouble while waiting for God’s vindication and deliverance. But the tenor of his words reveals that despair has seeped into his heart.

“How long will you hide your face from me?”

CC Marc Bruneke
CC Marc Bruneke

He charges the all-seeing God with the notion that he is avoiding him. Haven’t we all felt this way? We are confident that we belong to God and rightly understand that we will suffer, just as Christ himself suffered. We endure our pain with our minds focused on God and his Word but grow perplexed when he doesn’t make the pain go away fast enough.

Is God avoiding us? We can indeed feel this way. We all know what it feels like for a person we consider a friend to evade us; it doesn’t feel good. This is what troubles the writer. Satan will also attempt to confuse us and bring guilt. We’ll begin to ask, “What have I done that is pushing God away from me?”

Verse 2

“How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?”

Have you ever gotten frustrated because you waited on God? You trusted the Lord, but, when his aid took forever, you felt that you would’ve never had trouble if you had only used your own head to solve your problem. This is the writer’s quandary. God gives us a mind, so we should use it; but when does our rationale interfere with God’s plan? And are there some trials he needs us to experience for our own making such that we could never think our way out of them?

The writer’s agony in this verse is his feeling embarrassed by God’s absence, that the Lord has left him to his own devices to fix his troubles when he has been doing what he’s always known to do, which is wait on God. What was right: to wait on the Lord or to tunnel his own way out? Not knowing what to do, he becomes depressed.

“How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

 Here is our clue that the writer has been afflicted by someone. So to add insult to real injury—“God, are you going to let my enemy rule me, your child?” How long will he allow those who scoff at religion to vex a believer?

NC-ND, Ferran Jorda
NC-ND, Ferran Jorda

It is not a charge against the writer here, but it’s a good place to deal with the topic. It is our human thinking, even for the Christian, that personal righteousness is to be rewarded by God. God has told us this in no uncertain terms (Matt. 20:4), but it is not our place to decide what is rewarded and when. Job was indeed righteous, but we notice pride in his attitude toward his suffering, which always has a profound way of making us see what’s in our hearts. Our thinking is off. Living godly is its own reward and only the Spirit and Heaven itself can prove this to us. God owes us nothing; we owe him everything.

Verse 3 and 4

“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.

Could it be that the writer is antagonized due to his faith and because they understand his modus operandi is to trust his God? He pleads with God to prove his fame, for the man’s faithful witness and the credibility of his religion depend on God’s response. He has been a bulwark of conviction to this point; but now he’s in his prayer place wondering if God will ever come. He asks for light, here so symbolic of hope or a sign, lest depression consumes his very life.

Verse 5

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”

Suddenly, as though the light prayed for has come, the writer’s strength of heart returns. He remembers the kindnesses and the favor of God shown to him in the past, assurances that he has not forsaken him now, for God is constant. And with that look toward the future, he grows joyful at the prospect of God’s imminent deliverance. Trouble couldn’t last forever, but hope would steady the heart until the answer came.

Verse 6

“I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

CC Pol Sifter
CC Pol Sifter

We should praise the Lord for his mercy toward us. He knows our frailty and that we don’t always understand his dealings with us. He can also see where the strength of our faith weakens; and first not letting us be overcome by any trial, he draws close to us in hardship to let us know that he will answer.

Think in your own life how once you may have despaired and thought you’d never be happy again, at least not until the problem was solved. But the Spirit came and lifted your heart ever so lovingly; before you knew it, your confidence had returned though the problem lingered.

David remembers the character of God and sings his praise: “He has been good to me!” It all comes down to this—his kindness, his love, his faithfulness, his justice, his incredible goodness toward us. They are our assurances that God is present and coming to our rescue.

6 thoughts on “Lectio Divina: Psalms 13 – Despair and Hope

  1. Your message is very timely. It reinforces my pastor’s sermon this morning. God is so faithful to those who love him. We need only to practice patience and let Him do it his way. I only happened on your website this afternoon and have bookmarked you. Thank you so much for being a “Mike for Jesus.”

    • Thank you for your encouragement and feedback. I’m thrilled that my post confirms the holy words you spoke today. I look forward to sharing more of your company. Do you have a blog? I’d love to read it. Cheers!

  2. Mike, this is very insightful. I think you sum up the human condition well. As with Job, on those rare instances I’m able to dutifully stand fast, I notice pride creeping in as if I’m really something to be so strong and brave, etc. God answers us in His own time and we are wont to fall into despair the moment we demand a response from Him.

  3. Great insights here, Mike. Amen. There are Theocentric (from God’s perspective) and anthropocentric (from our perspective) aspects of the Bible that we always need to consider. The Psalms are usually anthropocentric and rather cathartic to the soul of the writer: questioning God, complaints, expressing our negative emotions, questioning our own faith, and finally praise.

    God is an absolutely brilliant counselor! He lets us do all the talking, letting us work through our emotional baggage until we get free from the toxicities to faith that we’re feeling inside. That’s why I love the Psalms. It’s a great template for us to process what’s going on inside of us with God!

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