Today’s response is written by Joshua Skogerboe. Many of you are already familiar with his work, as I link to it regularly on Forum Fridays. Aside from being an excellent writer, Josh is a husband, father, seminarian, and Worship Director for Living Hope Church.
There are three days that come to mind. Three of my darkest days. The first was the day Amy and I went to court as witnesses for some of our closest friends who were legally ending their marriage in divorce. We stood up for them on their wedding day. We are Godparents to their kids. I grieved the loss of that marriage like a death. The second was the day my one-of-a-kind friend Jeremy called me with the news… he had cancer. It was aggressive. He needed to start what was going to be a vicious few years of radiation and chemotherapy immediately, and there were no guarantees. I got off of the phone and held my face and wept that day. The third dark day on my calendar was the Tuesday afternoon I got a call from our adoption attorney. The tribe was denying us the right to adopt little Joshua. After being a part of our family for two years, his mom was on her way over to pick him up. We had to sit on the floor with our older boys and explain why their little brother was going to have to leave. We prayed for the Lord’s will to be done. And we cried. We cried until we couldn’t speak. Even now the tears run down my face when I think about those days.
We all have dark days. Some are so dark and so heavy and so unmanageable all we can do is weep. Psalm 6 is a gift to us for those days. Reading Psalm 6 reminds us that God is GOOD, that He really does care for us, and that he hears our prayers on our darkest days. It is a profoundly HOPEFUL message.
David, who is one of my heroes, was a man “after God’s own heart,” according to 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22. But David was not a super-saint. He had flaws. He sinned. He dealt with disappointment and failure, and he had enemies. David had dark days.
As we begin reading Psalm 6, David is soul-sick and in agonizing physical pain. He wails through the night, soaking his bed with tears. He feels abandoned, and to make matters worse, he has enemies who mock him and his God’s seeming inability to protect him from pain. David is so low here he believes death is imminent.
In verses 1-5 of Psalm 6, David in despair. Broken and crying out for mercy to the Lord. In verse 1, David asks the Lord not to rebuke him in anger or to discipline him in His wrath. We don’t know David’s inner thoughts here, but it seems likely that he either saw his present darkness as God’s will – punishment for sin in his life – or he may have simply recognized his state as a fallen man, rightly deserving of judgment. Any cry to God for mercy and kindness comes with the understanding that we don’t deserve His kindness. We are all defiant sinners according to Romans 3:23. David understood his depravity, and a cry to God for help from such a man (or from us) should rightly come with deep humility, and with a degree of trembling. God is holy. Righteous. Exalted. All powerful. God.
Verses 2 and 3 reveal the depth of the pain and darkness David was experiencing. It was all-encompassing breakdown of epic proportions. The Hebrew verb used to describe both his BONES and his SOUL can be translated “troubled” or “disturbed,” but perhaps closest to the mark is “terrified.” In David’s day, a person’s bones were used to represent the whole of their physical body. In the same way, the Hebrew “soul” conveyed a sense of the whole inner person. Heart, mind, emotions, will, personality, spirit, soul. The “me-ness” of me and the “you-ness” of you. David’s body was crumbling in agony due to sickness, and his soul was being crushed by despair to the degree that he believed he may be at death’s door.
Have you been there? Can you remember days when you couldn’t leave your bedroom? Can you remember nights when you couldn’t sleep, but you dreaded the morning? There is hope for you on those days. God did not abandon David. He will not abandon you.
David’s prayer gives us hope in verse three… “But you, O Lord… how long?”
Think on this for just a moment. God is the Righteous Judge, the Holy One, sovereign King of Kings, Captain of the Angel Armies, who created the sun and the stars and all the living things with a word, and the One who can measure the whole of the universe in the span of His hand. He is awesome, Almighty God. And here in His perfect, inspired Word – which he wrote through David and the prophets and Apostles with perfect precision and purpose – God Almighty gives his children permission to be HONEST with Him.
How can this be?
We can ask God… anything. The fact that He allows us access is mind-blowing. But even more amazing is that He invites our challenging questions, our honest anger and pain, our deepest needs. He has made a way for us through Jesus to His very throne. We have access. We can be honest. This is a GREAT hope.
David continues in verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 6 to lay out two reasons for his cry for mercy. First, in verse 4, is an appeal to God on the basis of His character. Notice here that David doesn’t ask simply for his own sake, but “for the sake of your steadfast love.” The Hebrew word for “steadfast love” here is a very important word in the Old Testament. It can also be translated “covenant faithfulness.” It is used over and over to speak of the love God has promised to show His covenant people. God will love and care for those who are in a covenantal relationship with Him, because He has promised to, and He who has promised is faithful (per Hebrews 10:23).
Remember, Church, if you live reborn into a new life in Jesus Christ, you are a part of a NEW COVENANT in His blood. God loves and cares for those who bear His name. You can be honest with Him. You can cry out to Him. He hears you on your darkest day.
Secondly, in verse 5, David again points to God’s glory as an appeal for healing and comfort. His references to “death” and “Sheol” (believed to be the place of the dead – a nothingness without the presence or memory of God) stand as an endpoint to David’s ability to honor and praise the great name of God. In other words, he is appealing to his created purpose – the worship of the one true God – as a reason for God’s healing hand. In the end, David makes it clear that he longs to bring glory to God. Just as Jesus prayed on the night he was taken captive and led away to be crucified… “Not my will, but Yours be done.” The man after God’s own heart longs for His great name to receive all the honor He is due. Even on the dark days.
But this can seem impossible. How can a heart look to honor God when our bodies and souls are crushed by despair? Verses 5 through 7 give us hope. Again, David lays bare his thoughts, and we see that God allows us honesty before him. Do you see what a gift this is? Do you see the heart of a loving father here? We don’t have to “do it right,” or approach the Lord in fear when our world is collapsing. We can cry out our pain with a loud voice. God is for us. He is our loving Abba. We can wail.
David makes it clear that he has reached the end of whatever rope he has left. All he can do is cry, and the haters are lined up to kick him when he’s down. Have you been there? In the dark?
There is radiant HOPE for you in the darkness. See verse 8…
“…the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.”
AMEN! God hears us on our darkest days! In verses 8 through 10 David has a strong word for His critics and scoffers. The Lord has not only HEARD his prayer, but verse 9 says “…the Lord ACCEPTS my prayer.” Those who refuse to believe in the powerful work of God alive in us will see Him demonstrate His power as are carried along by the Spirit. Healed and restored.
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” (Isaiah 42:3)
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
“The Lord has heard my plea. The Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:9)
The heart of God is inclined to you in steadfast, covenantal, Fatherly love. When your darkest day crushes you, and all you can do is cry, He does not abandon His own. God is good, and He cares about us on our darkest days.