Psalm 13

We often think of the Psalms as songs of joy, comfort, and praise, but the largest number of Psalms are laments expressing sorrow, anguish, and fear. Psalm 13 is a very good example of such a cry of desperation from one in a frightful situation.

The psalmist feels that God has forgotten him, that God is hiding from him, that his sorrow will be unending, and that his enemies will never stop taunting him. The psalmist is angry with God and demands an answer. He is in a desperate situation contemplating his own death and perhaps even suicide. The psalmist cries out, how much longer must I wait to receive an answer, how much longer must I wait even to know that you are there? “How long, O Lord… How long?”

Regardless of how desperate he feels, it is important to see that the psalmist continues talking with God, even if it is a very angry complaint. Having presented his pitiful pleas to God and having addressed his angriest comments directly to God, the psalmist waits… and waits… and waits. Perhaps he waited for days, weeks, months, or even years. For however long it took, he waited.

We are not given a clue as to what changed – perhaps a dramatic change in the psalmist’s situation or perhaps a spiritual transformation in the psalmist’s own life or outlook. Whatever happened, the psalmist is finally able to speak of God’s steadfast love and rejoice in his salvation. He concludes with words of praise, “I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

There is a very helpful pattern to be found in Psalm 13: in our darkest moments when things can get no worse, we can continue to turn to God in prayer, even if it is just the voice of our anger and despair. And the testimony of the psalmist is sure: in those times of travail, during the long night of the soul, we can trust in God’s steadfast love and rest assured in the joy of our salvation.

Prayer: God we thank you that even in our desperate hours, your steadfast love is there for us.

Tom Graves