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.

Do You Make the Grade?

Tobias von der Haar, Flickr
Tobias von der Haar, Flickr

I’m not sure where things went off the rail in my apologetics course, but there was a schism growing between the class and the professor. Our prof was a swell man and a true scholar. I’d often sit amazed listening to him march through church history, doctrines, councils, and personages, all without notes, and facilitate great discussion.

Since most of us had other classes with him, we knew what to expect of his sessions. They were challenging but not difficult. Yet something baffling began happening in this class. Students started receiving low grades and didn’t understand why. When we inquired, our work just wasn’t up to par and not what he had explained. When it happened with a major topical essay, it was a last straw for some.

Mad and I Won’t Be Silent!

One of my buddies in the class got downright angry, and his response surprised me. He was taking the matter to the dean of the department. This guy was well-liked for his gentle and friendly demeanor, so I was stunned at his reaction. To me his response was overboard.

Now, I wasn’t happy about my grade either. I had written the biggest and most deeply researched paper I ever composed in grad school and was happy with what I had produced, knowing I had satisfied the professor’s requirements. When I received a “D” for it, I was dumbstruck; and so it went for most of the class, now for the second or third time.

I didn’t know what the solution was, but I knew it wasn’t being up in arms and reporting the professor, as I was encouraged to do. I was grieved because my friend had the wrong spirit about him. He was furious and hostile. I advised him to talk with the professor instead of going to the dean. He flatly rejected the idea.

A Surprising Message

The most curious thing then happened. One day soon thereafter I returned from that class and discovered that the professor had emailed me in that short time. It was a surprise since I wasn’t sure when I had given him my email address. But it was his memo that was still more surprising.

marsmettnn tallahassee, Flickr
marsmettnn, Flickr

He too knew something wasn’t right in the class, and he wrote to ask for my opinion about how to resolve it. Talk about shocked!

I used the moment to voice the concerns of the class. I told him that we were grasping all that he taught and meeting his stated demands; however, if there was more he desired, it wasn’t being fully communicated. Then, I offered him some simple suggestions. Well that solved everyone’s problem. The professor re-graded papers and graciously tossed out other low scores.

In Step with the Spirit

I’m still struck by that lesson and favor from the Lord. When I read that email, my first thought was about my classmate who chose to lash out in anger rather than to be prayerful and find a satisfying resolution. That opportunity wouldn’t have come had I harbored a contemptible attitude.

Another occasion taught me like principle. I had to confront a matter with a superior since no one else would—not easy. I took a weekend just to pray about it. On Monday when I addressed my leader, he replied, “Yeah, the Lord spoke to me about that.” I didn’t have to say more.

I’ve learned that if I stay in the spirit of Christ, God will work out the kinks.