To Hope in Despair

JDudgeon on June 4, 2023
To Hope in Despair
June 4, 2023

To Hope in Despair

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Passage: Psalm 13
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If you do not know who I am, my name is Jordan. I have attended this church for a few years, since my second year of Bible College. I graduated from NBC in 2018, and it is very much a great honour to be up here today. And indeed, a great honour to be one of the summer speakers as we go through the Psalms. I remember taking a class on Wisdom Literature in Bible College, and I remember our teacher talking about how the Psalms are so deep and rich and how not every Psalm is the same. He even went so far as to say that “This is what life looks like for the believer.” There are so many moments of praise, and as Richard mentioned last week, so many times where the psalmist cannot contain themselves on how great God is and how they long for him. It is an inspirational book. You can see the emotions all over the page. Emotions not just in a hallelujah glory be to God way, but a sorrowful way of sometimes asking, “Where are you, God?” Growing up for me, emotions were very much frowned upon in our house. If we wanted to cry, my father sometimes yelled at us. So, my siblings and I did our best growing up, trying not to show emotion. Some of you may know what I am talking about.

And the Psalm we are talking about today is probably one of my favorite in all the book of Psalms. Because it teaches us how to approach God with our sorrowful emotions, it shows us how to even come to God with our questions of why life is the way that it is. It shows how we can live in the sufferings we experience from time to time and yet, proclaim His greatness while we hope in our despair. And ultimately, this Psalm does point us to our Savoir, who died and rose again for our sins. With that being said, turn with me to Psalm 13.

Verses 1-2 The inward struggles – His Feelings

Let us look at verses 1-2, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 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?” We immediately see that this Psalm would be considered a psalm of lament. The word lament means a strong expression of grief or sorrow. There are approximately 67 Psalms of lament in the book of Psalms. This is the largest category in the Psalms. Some lament Psalms were also used in communal settings, which is where God’s people come towards him and share a specific predicament. However, see words such as me, I, and my repeated and often addressed to God. And we see from reading this Psalm that this is an individual lament of David.

We don’t know why David is addressing these words to God like this. We are not given an exact story behind what is happening here. But that is not like we know nothing at all. David uses an expression in the first two verses four times. He repeats, “How long, how long, how long, how long.” We see five question marks to go along with the how longs in this passage. These words convey that David is starting to feel impatient with the present circumstance in his life. David uses similar verbiage in Psalm 6:3, which is considered another psalm of lament, “My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord – how long?” This is not how long it will take for us to be at our destination for our trip. Or how long have you two been married? Or when you ask someone a question, how long have you been living in Nipawin? Or how long have you been working at your job? This is a question of how long to express that David can no longer endure what he is facing. David is looking to God and believes Him to be inactive. That is why he uses the questions “Will you forget me forever” and “Will you hide your face from me?” There is a sense of abandonment David is feeling from God. David felt so abandoned that he was forced to try to advise himself on what to do. But yet, as he takes counsel in his soul (or wrestles with his thoughts, as the NIV says), he still has sorrow all day long, and his enemy exalts over him. The enemy here hates God and does not want anything to do with him. David feels abandoned by God and expresses his grief in these first two verses.

A good question to ask is, have you ever felt like this at all? Whether this would be a current or a problem, you faced in the past. And maybe the questions do not sound exactly like this, but perhaps the question sounds like, “How much longer am I going to feel lonely? I have prayed to God for years that you would provide me with a spouse, and it still has not happened yet?” Or maybe it sounds like,” How much longer do I have to endure this physical pain that I am feeling? It seems like, O Lord. You are not answering me or hearing me right now.” Maybe you know of someone who is feeling this way and have been praying this prayer for a while but has not found answers as of yet.

3-4 The Outward Danger – His Foes

We now see this Psalm move along to a time of petition. We see what David is dealing with. He is feeling abandoned by God. He feels God is hiding from him, and now he is forced to look to his own heart and try to come up with ways to counsel himself, only to have his issues never truly solved. Now here comes the petition by David up to the Lord. Let’s now look at verses 3-4, “Consider me and answer, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy says, I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.” The prayer of David is both very emotional and urgent. The NIV says in verse 3, “Look at me” You know, when you are maybe in the middle of some kind of heated conversation, and suddenly that person does not seem to be paying any attention to what you are saying. Perhaps this is a child in some kind of deep trouble that they caused, and you are trying to let them know what they did is wrong. And as they look around the room without any care in the world. You may say, “Hey, look at me when I am talking to you!” You are trying to let them know what you are saying to them is crucial, and they need to hear every word that comes out of your mouth. 

I think that is what David is trying to convey here. Since he felt God was not responding to him, he thought he had forgotten him. He is trying to get the attention of God because his matter is important to bring up to him.  And now we get maybe a sense of what was going on here in verse 3, “Light up my eyes lest I sleep in death.” David wants God to reveal His word to Him since he feels he could use some words from God. Psalm 19:8 uses this exact verbiage of enlightening the eyes to describe God’s precepts. It says there, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing to the heart the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Having God reveal himself to David was a matter of life or death. He is saying God, if you don’t enlighten my eyes, I will sleep the sleep of death. And now, his enemies see this as some time to take advantage of. They will say, “We have conquered David! And now let us rejoice that God’s great servant has fallen!” They will have something to boast about. So, Lord, consider my plea, consider your servant and reveal your precepts to me, please. 

David is doing something very honourable here. He is looking to God for his help. He is looking to no other. How often do we, when faced with trials or sufferings do we go to things other than God? Maybe we try to ease our pain by drinking, eating, or spending too much time on our smartphones, hoping the problem will disappear. These first few verses teach us that we are to be people who, amid suffering, urgently seek the Lord and hold on to the faith that we profess.

The Upward Look – His faith (vv. 5-6)

And we see David’s faith in these last few verses. It is almost like his heartbeat starts to slow down. He slowed his breathing, closed his eyes, thought deeply, and said these words in verses 5-6, “But, I 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 NIV says that “He has been good to me.”. These two verses are in direct parallel with verses 1-2. David goes from “how long, Lord” and “consider me” when I am seeking you to you have dealt “bountifully with me.” We see David immediately went from fear to faith. He immediately went from questioning if God was listening to meditating on the promises of God. He was thinking about all the ways God provided for him. He knows that God’s love for him is “steadfast” He has shown his covenant loyalty to him and the people of Israel. Yahweh has chosen to enter into a covenant relationship with God, and that is what David has decided to look to. He does not only look to God in this time but rejoices. He says I will do something my enemies think they will do; rejoice in my falling. He is saying I will rejoice in the God that you are. The One who promises to fulfill the promise to the patriarchs. The one who grants salvation. David says my present circumstances do not compare to the unfailing, steadfast, covenant love God gives to his people. This same love is provided for us today for those who believe in him.


So how do we respond to this? How do we respond to someone else’s individual lament toward God? How do we see Christ crucified in this Psalm? To be honest with you, I struggled with this a bit. I think because I see so many different ways that this applies to us, and hopefully, you have too. So, I will present you with a couple of things here.

Remember how God is with you.

Another way we apply this passage to our lives is that we remember how God is always with us. Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” Verse 37 onward, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Every one of us will have trying times in our lives. Times when we feel like we are not being heard or even cared for. But we can have confidence that God's word is true and that he does love you and has not forgotten you in your suffering. God has not forgotten you.  And that the sufferings that we face are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us. We have been given a wonderful Savior in Jesus Christ, who was willing to suffer like David, here for you and give his life for you. And not only is he not with us, but he has given us in his grace, his bride called the church. A people that we can share our sufferings with others. And when we come together, we can all reflect on how God has dealt bountifully with us. We have so many people here who are willing to pray for you. This is a great thing that the Lord has given us to help make our burdens feel lighter. He has given us Himself and the church.

Rejoice in His Salvation for you

Lastly, what do we do when facing trials and hardships as believers in Jesus? We rejoice in the salvation that he paid for us. David did not live on the other side of the resurrection like we do today. But he did know that God is someone who offers salvation.  We know and read that our Savior did sleep the sleep of death and was raised again in three days, and we have been granted salvation. How can we rejoice in that truth during our trials and suffering? When we are suffering, we triumph by remembering His suffering for us. When we ache, we remember his aching and how He gave himself for us! The bread and the cup we partook today represent his body and blood, which is for us. We can rejoice in our despair in his salvation that He gave us on the cross. Listen to the words of Hebrews 2:14-15

"Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery."

Jesus will always be our greatest need in life. He is the answer to our trials and tribulations. He is the answer to when we need encouragement. And we can look to him, for He is our great high priest who endured what we have endured, and he does understand our every need. And we know that He has not left us or forsaken us. This is most certainly a beautiful truth if you are a believer. And if you are not a believer, you must consider this. That Jesus loves you, He was obedient to his Father and willing to give up His life for us so that we can have life in his name.


So, to sum up, how do we respond to the individual lament of David? We look at it to approach God with our sufferings. We remember that God is with us and will never leave or forsake us. Understand that He wants us to pursue Him while suffering. We urgently seek him in what is happening in our lives. We also lean on his church in times of need. And we rejoice in the new life He gave us in Jesus. Let us pray.

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