How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?salm 13 is a fascinating look into a side of David's prayer life we can all easily relate to. This man after God's own heart pours his soul out in frustration, fear, and ultimately faith as he struggles through the ordeal of tribulation.
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
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.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
The psalm is first of all a great prayer. There's nothing typical about it; in fact, it shatters our presuppositions about what really "spiritual" praying is like. But a close look shows it is in perfect harmony with how Jesus taught us to pray. Brevity and honestytwo qualities sadly missing from most of our prayersstand out as its hallmarks.
More than a lesson about prayer, however, this psalm is a model response for those of us going through deep trials. David wrote it in anguish over the apparent success of an unrelenting enemy. We don't know which enemyit might have been Saul, the renegade king, who chased David like an outlaw; or it could have been the Philistines, who as a nation epitomized all that God hates.
Imagine David's frustration, seeing enemies like that prosper while it seemed God was hiding His face from him! If we're honest, we have to admit that we understand David's inner turmoil in the opening cry of this psalm all too well.
But that initial, desperate groan is only the beginning of the story. In the six brief verses of Psalm 13, David moves from doubt to deliverance, teaching us the sublime and emancipating principle that victory depends chiefly on how we look at our trials.
The Inward Look
At first David looks inside himself, and sees only his own sorrow (vv. 1-2a). See how many times in these early verses he uses the first-person pronouns: "I," "me," "my," "my soul," "my enemy," "my heart." He's questioning God, wallowing in his own defeat, wondering why God seems to be hiding His face.
Was God hiding His face? Of course not! David was merely looking in the wrong place.
There's a serious danger in the wrong kind of inward look. Healthy introspection, the kind that leads to confession of sin and the humble brokenness of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 5:3-5, is critical to our spiritual survival. But looming in the face of those who look within themselves is a monstrous peril: a morbid preoccupation with our own inadequacies that breeds depression and debilitates us spiritually.
The difference between the two kinds of self-reflection is not so subtle. A wholesome look inside becomes hurtful when we begin looking within ourselves for a solution to the problems we find there. The solution doesn't reside in us; we must look elsewhere.
The Outward Look
David turns his focus from within and begins to look around (vv. 2b-4). Now all he sees are his surroundings. What a different David this is from the young shepherd who strode confidently into the presence of the mighty Goliath with no armor and only a few pebbles for weapons! Pay careful heed to the lesson: one great victory does not ensure future triumph.
This time David is fearful. We can sense his trembling, as he grapples with a paralyzing dread that this trial might ultimately kill him (v. 3).
I've felt that way, too, and in trials of much less consequence than David's. Such fear is the inevitable result of looking at circumstances and hoping some kind of help will come through them.
But deliverance doesn't come through circumstances, either.
The Upward Look
Finally, in verses 5 and 6, David looks to the Lord, and there he sees his salvation. Compare this passage to verses 1 and 2. "Me . . .I . . .mine" has given way to "thy mercy . . . thy salvation . . . the Lord."
Thus what in the beginning sounded like a dismal wail of unbelief becomes an exhilarating hymn of faith. What's the difference? The trial has not changedbut David's point of view has. Now his eyes are clearly directed upward.
Salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8)that goes for deliverance from trials as well as salvation from sin. No other truth emerges from everywhere in Scripture so definitively. If we look around or withinor anywhere but to Godfor a way of escape, we are condemned to disappointment and ultimate failure.
It is God who provides the way of escapenot out of our trials, but rather through them. He enables us to bear testing, not avoid it (1 Cor. 10:13). And He uses our tribulations to accomplish His wonderful purpose in us (Rom. 5:3-5, James 1:3-4).
Thus God works all thingsincluding our hardest testingstogether for our good. That's the ultimate victory, and it's how even in our darkest hour of trials, we can fix our eyes on Him and say confidently with David, "He hath dealt bountifully with me" (v. 6).