July 4 – Psalm 13


David had a pretty prolific musical career for a king, considering he wrote about half of the psalms in the Bible. Read the story of David’s life in 1-2 Samuel and you’ll see that the sorts of ups and downs portrayed in his psalms were taken straight out of his life. When David was a shepherd boy he was anointed king; he was born in a penniless village but died in a splendid palace. And all along the way he met foe after foe, from the infamous Goliath to the previous king, Saul, who tried to assassinate him multiple times, and even to his own son, Absalom, who attempted to steal the throne. When you read about his low spots like Psalm 13, remember that David wasn’t making any of this up. He was well, well acquainted with grief.

And that makes him good company, because you simply cannot get out of this life without experiencing something similar. Depending on your faith or cultural background, that might be hard to admit. Some treat sadness like a black hole that might swallow you if you get too close, or like a sign of weakness. But how amazing is it that God includes stuff like Psalm 13 in the Bible? David’s sorrow here confirms for us that God wants our genuine feelings, even when they might not seem very Christian to us.

Psalm 13 is a psalm of lament, and these sorts of psalms empower us with language for bringing our suffering to God. In doing so they don’t deny our suffering or try to dress it up in neat platitudes. They legitimize it, they empathize with it, they even help us vocalize it by giving us words to pray to God. But our laments don’t just express our suffering. They also confess our belief. In his lament, David implicitly confesses his belief in God by addressing it to God. In verse 3 he pleads, “Consider and answer me, O LORD my God.” Even in his despair he leans on his relationship with the Lord and calls him “my God.” And the same can be true for us. Even when we feel broken and faithless, simply mustering the strength to cry out to God is a confession of our faith.

The beginning of Psalm 13, “Will you forget me forever?” might remind you of another psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That’s the first line to Psalm 22, which is also a psalm of lament. And it’s one of the psalms Jesus quoted while he was dying on the cross. In his little book Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that the psalms of lament help us “cast the agony of suffering onto God.” They help us say to God, “We can no longer bear it, take it and bear it yourself, you alone can handle suffering.” That, in summary, is the gospel. All suffering is ultimately caused by the effects of sin and death, which is at work both in our broken world and within our broken hearts. We all know, “we can no longer bear it.” So Jesus came to bear it for us. Bonhoeffer goes on to tell us, “For our sake he cried on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Now we know that there is no longer any suffering on earth in which Christ will not be with us, suffering with us and praying with us—Christ the only helper.” We can rest assured that any time we would pray, “Why, Lord?” Jesus is there praying with us.

In our discussion we’ll take a look at verses 5-6, where David closes out his lament with a statement of hope. Despite his present suffering, David can look ahead to a future in which he will again praise the Lord “because he has dealt bountifully with me.” David looks back towards the riches of God’s grace to know with certainty that God will inevitably visit him with kindness in the future. In God’s power and sovereignty, in his past blessings and steadfast covenants, and in his love as we’ve seen it displayed in Jesus, we can find room both to cry to him and rest in his presence, holding onto a hope that is anchored in God’s rock-solid nature.

Questions for Discussion

• Would someone read Psalm 13 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• How would you summarize David’s state of mind here?

• God intentionally included this psalm in the Bible. What can that tell you about him?

• What are some of the benefits of bringing our suffering before the Lord?

• What’s something in your life, past or present, that you think this psalm could help you pray about?

• Look at verses 5 and 6. How do you think David is feeling here at the end of his psalm?