It is one thing to read with cold observation about a drenched bed and swollen eyes brought on by a despondent heart. It is another to know the feeling personally and to have experienced the desperation that David feels here. I know I have to some degree, and I know others who have to a far greater degree. David’s answer (as well as Christ’s answer in the Garden of Gethsemane) was a curious mix of emotions. One part despondency and one part humility.
While being in this situation is no lovely experience, it brings us so close the reality that clouds our vision in prosperous times. There is no solace in the world around us. Of course, in times of plenty, there’s plenty of distraction. There’s financial security and good relationships, holidays and fulfilling vocations. Yet when all was stripped away, as it was for David, there was nothing left for him but God. What was true all along for David was now realised without obfuscation, as he looked towards God. The despondent human is the one whose contingency plans have run them adrift, shipwrecked on an island of predators.
David had two paths in his despondency. Pride or humility. Pride claims something of God’s for itself and humility surrenders all. Pride would be to curse God for withholding deliverance, saying to Him that my will be done if His does not deliver fast enough. David instead pursues humility. He begs and pleads, prays and hopes. Simply, he acknowledges God as God. “How long, O Lord?” rather than “Now, Lord!” He can (and should) plead all he likes, but the power and will for deliverance rests in God alone. Yet this did not become true only when all other options were exhausted. It just became clear.
This humility is difficult to exercise in good times, where weeds seem to come up and choke our vision of God’s providence, replacing Him with palatable distraction. I don’t wish this despondency on anyone, but I don’t think it a coincidence that so many remember their hardest times as when God’s nature was clearest. It seems like despondency is the truest occasion for humility, at least for now. Pray that it not only come in sadness, but also when things are bright. And look forward to the End when humility will be natural, and not extruded from us in worldly turmoil. When we will know God is God forever.
Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger;
do not discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, Lord, for I am weak;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are shaking;
my whole being is shaken with terror.
And you, Lord—how long?
Turn, Lord! Rescue me;
save me because of your faithful love.
For there is no remembrance of you in death;
who can thank you in Sheol?
I am weary from my groaning;psalm vi (csb)
with my tears I dampen my bed
and drench my couch every night.
My eyes are swollen from grief;
they grow old because of all my enemies.
Depart from me, all evildoers,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea for help;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be ashamed and shake with terror;
they will turn back and suddenly be disgraced.
<— psalm v psalm vii —>