“How Long, O Lord?” Psalm 13


Our text for today is Psalm 13. These are God’s Words.

13 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.


Psalm 13, written by David, neatly divides into three stanzas. First, David asks a question, then he makes an accusation, and finally, he resolves to sing. The first stanza consists of 5 lines, the accusation is 4 lines, and the song is 3 lines. As one commentator put it, Psalm 13 “casts up constantly lessening waves, until it becomes still as the sea when smooth as a mirror.”

David doesn’t record the circumstantial occasion for this Psalm. We don’t know if it was sickness, betrayal, or his own sin. That’s because the focus of this Psalm is on the apparent absence of God in David’s life. Worse than any other suffering is the suspicion that God has willfully turned his face away from David. He doesn’t ask, “Why are you hidden,” but, “Why are you hiding?” (v. 1)

This spiritual desolation has been prolonged. “How long” occurs 4 times. His mind is racing like a car with a stuck accelerator, and there’s no end in sight. (v. 2)

Three petitions are asked in rapid-fire succession: consider me, answer me, light up my eyes. If God doesn’t intervene there is no hope for David. (v. 3)

And, if David goes down, this will be a stain on God’s promises. David is not just a Christian, he’s the anointed king placed on the throne by Yahweh. There is more at stake than David’s life if the enemy shakes him. If the Philistines took the judge, Samson, to grind their grain, what will they do to David if God doesn’t deliver? (v. 4)

We don’t know how much time elapses in David’s life between the despair of verses 1-4 and the renewed hope of verse 5 & 6, and we ought not to assume that David’s circumstances changes as quickly as we can read the Psalm. It’s likely that the single space between the period of verse 4 and the word “But” initiating verse 5 represents months or perhaps even years of David’s life.

But now, like a ship’s captain who has come through the hurricane of depression, David is radioing back to us a chart by which we too can safely endure the storm of anxiety. We do so by remembering God’s faithfulness and singing in hope of his deliverance. (v. 5-6)


Psalm 13 reminds us that not even a man after God’s own heart, not even a hand-picked king is immune to extended seasons of depression and anxiety. David knew this, and so do all true Christians.

The great Puritan, Matthew Henry: “The bread of sorrow is sometimes the saint’s daily bread. It is a common temptation, when trouble lasts long, to think it will last forever. Those who have been long without joy begin, at last, to be without hope.”

We don’t know what caused this extended season of depression for David, but we know exactly the kind of circumstances that cause it for us. The happiest early days of a marriage can stretch into years of callused resentment. A child who was baptized at an early age abandons the faith, wandering for years in agnostic unbelief. Chronic pain daily gnaws away our ability to see God in prayer. Even joyous blessings, given to us in the context of a fallen world can lead to depression. A new mother who has stayed up all night with a colicky baby for months on end knows the physical exhaustion that can lead to feelings of isolation and abandonment.


David’s threefold petition at the center of the prayer is “Consider me, answer me, and give light to my eyes.” In other words, “God, I’m not sure you see what I’m going through, and I’m certain that I can’t see where you are taking me. I’m blind to your purposes in this, and I want to see, right now what you are teaching me.”

We must remember that our lives are not like a Caesar Salad, and God is not working off a recipe card. If it was, we’d wonder why he just threw a couple of slugs in with the croutons. “But God, that’s not how you make a salad!” And God replies, “I’m not making a salad. I’m writing a story.” How good would the Lord of the Rings be if Frodo was never hounded by Black Riders?

Samuel Rutherford said, “Whenever I find myself in the cellar of affliction, I always look for the Lord’s choicest wines.” Charles Spurgeon said, “The Father’s wagons rumble most heavily when they are bringing us the heaviest gold of grace.”


David petitions God on the basis of his anointed position. David was God’s anointed and if he goes down, it will stain God’s reputation. Thankfully, God delivers David from his troubles. But we must not forget that David had a greater descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he was also God’s anointed.

Isaiah tells us that Christ was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. (Is. 53:3) The anxieties of Christ were not momentary, or even seasonal: they were life-long. Jesus is proof that a man can be fully empowered by the Spirit and bear a heart of grief simultaneously.

Added to his own sorrows, Isaiah tells us that he carried ours. He was pierced for our lawlessness, and at the cross, the Father hides his face, and the Son sleeps the sleep of death. And he did all this so that he claim you for himself.
And because Jesus did all this, the title deed to heaven is not written in the sand, but in the eternally beating heart of Christ.

So, what is God doing with your life? Some of you are thinking, “Boy would I like to know.” But if you are a Christian then you do know. He is doing exactly what it takes to make you into the image of Christ. And that should come as the most comforting news in all the world. God is not on autopilot. He is not distracted by anything.

He is infinite. And this means he takes infinite care in everything. So, your task is to trust him. Paul says this means rejoicing in all things. (Phil. 4:4) Do not grumble. Do not complain. God is taking you to heaven, and he is preparing you for infinite joy. And he is doing exactly what it takes to get you there. Rejoice in him, always—and learn to be content.

Leave a Reply