One of the things I find so appealing about the Psalms is the way they articulate the full range of human emotions. They often provide a way for me to articulate feelings I lack the vocabulary or clarity to voice.
Psalm 13 is such a psalm. A feature of the psalm which strikes me is how quick and easy it is to lose sight of God when faced with difficulty and sorrow. The psalmist is clearly facing some significant challenges and his thoughts are dominated by these difficulties. He feels forgotten. He feels that God is hidden from him, obscured behind the dark shadow of his circumstances (v1). He feels sad and sorrowful and encroached upon by these enemy circumstances (v2).
The problem is that all of us do go through periods of difficulty and sadness. These things are inescapable in life! Some circumstances just do produce sorrow and heartache. Some news is, quite simply, sad. Some situations are difficult and provide challenges we wish we didn’t have to face. When we encounter illness, bereavement, loss of a job, pain, incapacity, death, confusion, betrayal, rejection, disappointment, life-limiting health conditions and other troubles, sorrow and sadness can be the overriding emotions. The psalmist knows this well: ‘How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?’ (v2). And there is nothing wrong with feeling these things. There is nothing wrong with expressing disappointment, with lamenting, with crying out to God for relief from, and His intervention in, the situation.
It is in the midst of these difficult circumstances that I sometimes find that I am more distant from God than I used to be. Since He is immovable, it must have been me that drifted without noticing. And this leads, all too quickly, to finding myself asking where God’s presence is (see v1).
But it is in that place, amidst the soul-searching and the tears, after the prolonged cries and the anguished prayers where I find that there is only one decision I have to make. I have to decide to trust in the gracious lovingkindness of my God (v5). Again and again, I have to deliberately bring to mind the salvation which marks out my life (v5). I must return and remember the vast unquenchable love He pours out on me.
The decision I have to make is simply to remember, to trust in Him and even to rejoice in Him because of His wonderful grace towards me. And though I may have to sing through tears of disappointment and sadness, I must do it all the same because, even though in the moment it doesn’t seem like this is the case, underneath it all He has dealt bountifully with me (v6).
‘Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.’ (Psalm 30:5)