Psalm 13 as a Pattern for Lament
In light of the recent tragedies in Buffalo and Uvalde, many Christians are again left wondering what to do, how to lament, etc. Lamenting is not something we are particularly good at, especially in our fast-paced, "microwave" culture. In one moment, I am reading the headline of a tragic article on Facebook, and in the next I am scrolling through videos of baseball highlights. We quickly move back-and-forth between entertainment, drama, tragedy, family affairs, etc. I think we have much to learn from the Scriptures, especially the Psalms, on how to lament and process when tragedy strikes in our world today.
Psalm 13 is the one of the many places where we see a sweet pattern of lament for the people of God. The psalm is divided up well: pain (vv. 1-2), petition (vv. 3-4), and proclamation (vv. 5-6). David begins the psalm with raw, unfiltered questions, describing his pain: "How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 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?" Can you imagine if someone prayed like that during a prayer meeting or small group? People would not know what to do with that. But that is exactly the way David begins his prayer in this psalm.
Now, I am in no way advocating that we begin to question God and His goodness. But I do think we need to be honest with the Lord. Too often our prayers are clean, whitewashed, well-ordered sayings, all the while holding back how we "really feel." David knew of no such thing. He poured out his guts to the Lord. David was not necessarily describing what God had done (we know that He never abandons His people), but rather what he was feeling. He was open and honest, expressing to the Lord what was going through his mind and heart. When was the last time you were honest with God about how you felt? When was the last time you anguished and spilled your guts out before Him in prayer?
We all deal with moments of despair, as David did. He is tired of enduring suffering. So are many of us. But where we go with that hurt and despair makes all the difference in the world. David takes his questions to God, and then pleads for God's goodness. He petitions in verses 3 and 4, "Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, 'I have prevailed over him,' lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken." As is the pattern of many of the psalms, David "begins in darkness but fights toward light" (Dane Ortlund, In The Lord I Take Refuge). When in pain, we should petition to God. He is the One hope we have in all the world.
But David does not stay there. He moves on to proclamation in verses 5-6: "But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me." Notice what David is doing. He is preaching to himself, reminding himself (through prayer) of God's goodness.
David trusted in God's "steadfast love." We live in a day where we have the totality of Scripture, and we can see the full plan of God's steadfast love throughout history for His people. We look to Jesus' death and resurrection, as He conquered Satan, sin, and death for us. And as we begin to remind ourselves of these Gospel-truths, it will lead us to rejoice in His salvation. David's preaching led to rejoicing in and singing to the Lord. We are not told whether or not David got the answer he was looking for. Many other examples in Scripture show us that God does not always answer all our questions about why suffering happens. But He does give us a reason to hope and rejoice. He simply calls us to look to Him and to focus on His goodness.
Maybe you are left with many questions regarding Uvalde or Buffalo or numerous other sufferings that occur in our world on a daily basis. Go to Psalm 13 and honestly pour out your pain to the Lord. He knows it already anyway! Bring your petitions to God. Ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7-11). Ask the Lord to "consider and answer." He is faithful to do so according to His plan. And make proclamations in your prayers. Remind yourself of the gospel. Remind yourself of God's steadfast love. And sing the praises of our good and sovereign King in the midst of the storm, even when it hurts.