Theme: The Psalmist’s Distress
In this week’s studies we learn about David’s great affliction, and how his confidence and hope in the Lord were restored through prayer.
Scripture: Psalm 6:1-10
Yesterday we looked at the first feature of verses 1-7. Today we look at the other three.
2. A loss of a sense of God’s presence. A sense of being disapproved of by an angry God is bad enough, but sometimes in our depression the case seems even worse than this. What if God should not even be present? Suppose he has turned away from us or withdrawn himself? This is what David was feeling, which he indicates by the word “return” in verse 4. The New International Version says “turn,” but this weakens the statement somewhat. What David actually prays is that God will turn back to him, since he senses that God’s presence has been withdrawn. Haven’t you felt like that? Recently I talked with a woman who was suffering severe depression. She felt that God had abandoned her, and her complaint was that God is not answering her prayers.
3. Loss of sleep. After speaking of such things as being abandoned by God or being disciplined by him, it may seem trivial to speak of sleep. But it is not at all trivial to those who are unable to sleep due of the kind of distress I am describing. Peter C. Craigie says that “for most sufferers, it is in the long watches of the night, when silence and loneliness increase and the warmth of human companionship is absent, that . . . pain and the grief reach their darkest point.”3
One man who went through a particularly black period described himself as dragging through his day’s work, hardly able to function, and then getting into bed at night and lying awake through the long dark hours until the dawn came and it was time to begin the whole desperate process all over again. Nights like this are often filled with deep soul groanings and tears. Listen to how David described his experience: “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes” (vv. 6-7).
If you are experiencing something like this, the last thing you want is some easy dismissal of your problem or a Pollyanna-type solution. But it may help to remember that these words were written, not by some unsuccessful or weak person naturally inclined to depression, but by King David. If anyone was ever strong or successful, it was he. Yet sometimes, it would seem, the strong in particular have this problem. Martin Luther was inclined to depression, at times even doubting his salvation or the rightness or value of the Reformation. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was likewise affected. It is good to know that one is not alone in such afflictions.
4. A sense of spiritual and bodily fatigue. If you have been long in such a condition, you will know the feeling of utter weariness and fatigue that David describes. He speaks about it in verse 2 when he says, “Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint,” and in verse 6, “I am worn out from groaning.” In times like these we feel that we are too tired to do those many countless things that urgently need to be done. We are too tired to get out of bed and get dressed, too tired to get into the car and go to work, too tired to get the kids off to school, too tired to clean the house, too tired to go to church, too tired to read the Bible, too tired even to pray.
Perhaps the only thing you can pray is the prayer David utters in verse 3: “How long, O Lord, how long?” Spurgeon, in his great book The Treasury of David, tells us that this was a favorite prayer of John Calvin’s: “Domine, usque quo” (“O Lord, how long?”)? It was wrung from him again and again by the countless burdens and responsibilities he bore, the physical ailments he suffered, the dangers he faced and the misunderstandings he endured.4
In addition to feeling a sense of God’s wrath, what else characterized David’s experience?
How does your experience compare with David’s?
Application: Do you feel as if God is not answering your prayers? What should your response be? As part of your response, make a list of Bible promises that you need to remind yourself of.
3Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), pp. 93-94.
4C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. la, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 57.