I feel like sometimes we read the psalms of David, and we think his hope and his faith in the Lord strong and secure—and yet, I think we miss the glimpse of his human nature: his doubt, his fear, his hopelessness. What David did so well to overcome those feelings is to speak truth despite how he felt. He declared the work of the Lord; He spoke of what he knew was good and true, even if it didn't line up with his circumstances or his emotions at that moment.
In Psalm 13, he begins by crying out to the Lord. These are not verses of hope or faith or trust. These are verses of honesty, of raw vulnerability before the Lord, of the truth condition of his heart, his flesh, his soul—every human component of his being. He writes, “How long, O Lord, will you forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemies be exalted over me?”
Those questions reveal his despair, his anger, his doubt, his fear. And yet, David does what he always does: he changes his attitude by declaring in faith, by changing his perspective. He ends the Psalm with a “But”: “But I have trusted in your mercy. My heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
Did David’s circumstances change between verses 1 – 4 and verses 5 – 6? Likely not. Most likely, nothing in his physical circumstances changed. But when he writes “But,” when he shifts, something takes place in the spiritual. David learned this valuable lesson in prayer. I think we read the Psalms and are encouraged by the declarations of faith and God’s promises because David prayed in faith. He prayed despite what he saw and felt.
But what we miss is that he did see and feel the natural circumstances he faced. We don’t know how long he suffered in hopelessness before writing these psalms of declaration. That’s why I love Psalm 13. I feel a real connection to David’s words and to his courage to write them. I imagine him standing and yelling at the Lord as he writes them.
They resonate within me because they are truth conditioned to how my own flesh feels sometimes: overwhelmed, hopeless, forgotten. But may I learn an important lesson from David—to not stop there. He felt all his emotions. But he always knew how to encourage his soul, how to declare God’s truth in faith. He knew how to change his current attitude by changing his perspective from the natural to the spiritual. His circumstances may not have changed, but he knew how to stand in faith for the things he believed God would do, based on the things He had done in the past.
We are encouraged by David’s psalms because of the promises he declares, but may we also see the patterns of his prayer and take a lesson from his faith walk. He didn't deny his circumstances. He didn't deny his flesh or his feelings. He didn't hide his heart from God – ever. But he did declare God’s truth and His word.
I imagine he often didn't feel like it. I imagine it felt forced sometimes, maybe even fake—and yet, he declared it, and each time he did, God moved. Something in the spiritual changed; something in David’s heart changed—even if his circumstances never changed. Still he declared again and again: the Lord is good, the Lord is faithful, the Lord will rescue me, the Lord will comfort and bless me. Still he declared: I will wait, I will trust, I will hope.
And so, today, so do I.