BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the fourth in a five-part BCC Grace & Truth blog series on biblical counseling and depression. Few issues are more painful. God’s Word provides us with wisdom for addressing depression with compassion so we can care well and wisely. You can read Part One by Andy Farmer here, Part Two by Hayley Satrom here, and Part Three by Bob Kellemen here.
Psalm 13 is one of the most heart-wrenchingly honest prayers in the Bible. Here is a depressed soul, in anguish, wrestling day-in and day-out with what God is doing in his life. He feels abandoned by God, overtaken by grief, and totally pummeled by the enemy of his soul. Yet, as he learns to submit every thought and fear to the Lord, in prayer, ultimately he chooses the path of joy.
“How long, O Lord?” is the man’s repetitive cry. How long will you forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will sorrow fill my heart? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Here is honest lament—godly complaining to God.
The sons of Korah experienced the same soul agony and also brought their lament to God. “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground” (Psalm 44:23-25).
Far from being sinful, these cries of the soul are actually acts of faith for it is the Lord to whom each of these struggling believers turned. They ran to God, not from God. Yes, they struggled to trust God’s wisdom, but their cries were, in reality, cries of confession of their deep need and utter dependency upon God. These are cries of submission, not anger. In the agony of their soul they knew where to turn. “Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!” (Psalm 44:26).
First, the psalmist begs for the assurance that God cares, that He indeed sees him in his affliction. “Consider,” i.e. look, gaze, pay attention. That is the cry of the agonized soul. Again, his cry is an act of faith. It is the “Lord, my God” to whom he pleas. By faith, he believes God does hear his groaning (compare Exodus 2:24).
Second, he needs hope. In his affliction, he has used up all of his resources and his eyes have darkened with despair. Therefore, his plea is “enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” It is for the brightness to return to his eyes, which hope alone can give, that he asks from God.
The turning point comes when this man’s faith, which has given him only enough strength to cry out to God, leads to three resolutions in his heart and mind.
- He resolves to trust. “I have trusted in your steadfast love” (v. 5). By faith, he determines to rest upon the Lord’s covenant love for him as one of God’s people.
- He resolves to rejoice. “[M]y heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” It is God’s salvation, not the psalmist’s own assurance of it, which will ultimately strengthen his soul. Yes, there is wonderful comfort that comes from our own personal assurance that we are saved. But it is not our personal, subjective experience that will be our real rock in this storm. No, it is the objective reality of God as He is revealed in Scripture, the God of salvation, that he chooses to focus upon.
- He resolves to praise. “I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” This is so significant! He chooses to praise the God whom he knows is ultimately sovereign over the circumstances of his life. Even in his time of affliction he consciously remembers how bountifully the Lord has dealt with him—not only in “the good times,” but even in this time when his soul is completely crushed.
Whatever the trial, however dark the valley, we can learn from the stark honesty of the psalmist. We can bring our complaints to God, in faith, trusting His wisdom and goodness. The steadfast love of the Lord never fails. We can trust Him.
Join the Conversation
How can the four cries, two pleas, and three resolves of Psalm 13 impact your life and ministry in the area of depression?