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The Psalm of the Day (or Year)

04/04/2011

Psalm 13

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

Is it just myself or is this the most schizophrenic poem ever written? I have been coming back to this psalm for a few weeks now, and it shocks me every time. It actually does not make any sense.

You start reading and soon realize that this person is writing from a very dark place. There is no doubt that the poet wants, or rather needs, some answers. And to be honest, it is that raw pain and frustration that, at times, has drawn me in. Those words have become my words on various occasions.

But, then the whiplash comes. What happened between verses four and five? Read it again and tell me that’s not the most disjointed writing in history. What great event took place between the writing of those two verses? Did the editors of the Psalter make a mistake and combine two psalms into one? I mean, can a brother get a transition sentence—please?

Seriously, I read this psalm, and it actually frustrates me. I feel a deep connection to the honesty and vulnerability of verses 1-4. I resonate with those verses, and so do many others, I presume. So, it almost feels cheap to throw in the last two verses. I want to ask the author, “Why did you wimp out? I came to this psalm for raw emotion, for truth, for lament. And you have to go and wrap a nice, pretty bow on it.”

So, I walk away from the text feeling like I didn’t get my money’s worth.

But, as I start going about my day, I begin to see how the arrival of verses 5-6 might not be as random as first suspected. I slowly realize that this psalm, the whole psalm, speaks truth with more depth and clarity than I could have imagined. Because, on those days when the first four verses are my song, I still find myself wanting to speak a word of hope into the lives of those around me–and that hope seems to come out of left field, or rather, from deep inside myself. I see the systems and cycles in people’s lives that imprison them in walls of despair and fatalism, and I want to shout that there is good news for them. I want to “sing the Lord’s praise” before them and share how “he has been good to me.” And I want to say these kinds of words even in the midst of crying out the words of verses 1-4.

Thus, song #13 in your hymnal speaks truth, but not in the way I first thought. There is no event that happened between verses 4 and 5. This isn’t some cheap, psychological defense mechanism. This isn’t a copout. This is hope.

There is no denying that “How long?” is often the question of the day. Sorrow and longing are frequently in the air I breathe. But, I sing verses 5 and 6 because “he has been good to me” before, and I believe, I trust, I hope he will again. I sing the last two verses not because the questions, the doubts, and the fears have been resolved. I sing them because I hope that God’s answer is coming soon—and his answer will be good.


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2 comments

  1. Beautiful post!


  2. Thank you for that. Trust even in the midst of trials & fear. It’s ALL we have, to believe & have faith. Long for that or we will be defeated. It is what keeps me going in this year of total frustration. Hope, trust, & believe in the greater power & things to come! Unfortunately, we live with Satan but He will not win, we can’t let him. Satan is verse 1-4… the doubt & fear he puts in us.
    Thank you Derran for your words, study & thoughts. Thank you for reminding me to not just read but listen… think… understand.



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