Psalm 13 – 3/18/17
1How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2How long must I bear pain in my soul,
And have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4And my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”;
My foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
5But I trusted in your steadfast love;
My heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6I will sing to the Lord,
Because he has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalm 13, NRSV)
I love the honesty of this psalm. The gut-wrenching, no-holds-barred honesty. Clearly, David–assuming he was the author–was feeling neglected, even forgotten, by God, his troubles having gone unnoticed for far too long. God, where are you? he laments. And why aren’t you paying attention? How long will I have to put up with this pain? this distress? How much more do I have to take? I don’t honestly know how much more I can take! Come on, God–where are you?? he cries out. I’m really hurting here–can’t you see that? Don’t you care?? So honest, so real, so raw.
Then, after baring his soul in anguish, it seems that David pulls back some. Rather than simply–yet passionately–lamenting his present situation and God’s perceived inattention, David makes a request of God. He requests that God “consider” him, or, as Merriam-Webster offers, that God “gaze on [him] steadily or reflectively.” What a beautiful image–God, not only no longer inattentive but gazing steadily on David…or on me…or on you…. Look at me, God. Put your attention here for a moment, please, and think about what I’m going through…and respond! Show me that you care before this pain overwhelms me! I don’t know if I can make it without your help…. David makes himself vulnerable before God, like a dog showing his belly, trusting their relationship enough to plead his case before God, to make a request. So honest, so real, so trusting.
And then, as on so many other occasions, he remembers. He remembers that in days past he has trusted not only in their relationship and its unwavering solidity, but he has trusted, perhaps even more, in God’s love and its steadfastness. He has trusted in the goodness, in the all-encompassing-ness, in the real-ness of God’s love. And he remembers that that love, that relationship, that God has not let him down. And in recognizing that, in remembering, he rejoices! No longer does his heart overflow simply with bitterness and pain but also, and seemingly in larger quantities, does it overflow with joy and with gratitude. And David cries out again–this time in joy rather than anguish: I know you haven’t forgotten me, God! I know that you are with me, just as you have been in times past and will be in times yet to come. I know that you are here, holding me and loving me. And that is enough. So honest, so real, so humbled, so blessed.
God, in my times of struggle and pain,
especially when it seems like you’re just not paying attention,
help me to be
and as willing to remember
so that my bitterness and pain might be,
as his was,
overshadowed by gratitude and joy,
and so that I might be,
as he was,
humbled and blessed.