Psalm 13 – How long, O Lord?





A psalm of David – setting is uncertain – clearly born out of a life situation that was very tough – this is the cry from the heart of an individual – we can’t know for certain when this was in David’s life – could be a number of occasions – a protracted time of difficulty  – possibly the time he was fleeing from King Saul in the deserts of Judea – hounded day after day.

Hated by Saul – rejected by the masses of Israel – hunted like an animal – living in caves – AND feeling abandoned by God –

This psalm is not the cry of an unbeliever over sin BUT the cry of  believer who is feeling hurt and alone and who cries out to God and gets no response!!

Remember that David is called “a man after God’s own heart”



Psalm 13:1-6

1 [For the director of music. A psalm of David.]

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation [deliverance].

6 I will sing to the LORD,

for he has been good to me. (NIV)

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?………..





Does this psalm touch a cord in your heart?

Have you at the place were your heart is breaking and heaven is silent?

  • As your partner you fell head over heels in love with a few years before walks away –”I don’t love you any more!”  [to you or your child]
  • as you stand at the grave side and watch your loved one buried!!
  • as you watch your children messing up their lives and you are helpless to stop it!
  • as you are relentless hounded by an unreasonable boss and there seems no end in sight
  • as you struggle with your past / abuse as a child / broken home /
  • as you live year in and year out with that unsaved spouse and your heart breaks when you think of them dying without Christ
  • as you or your loved one battle some dread disease

C S Lewis in his book A Grief Observed writes….

“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, if you turn to Him with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting on the inside. After that silence. You may as well turn away.


You cry out to God  – and he appears to be a million miles away!!


1. DAVID’S SORROW [v1-2]


             How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

4x “How long?” – he is stretched to the limit – his strength is gone – can he hold on? – his patience has run out. He has clearly cried out to God – over and over and over again BUT heaven is silent!!

Why doesn’t God do something!!

Why does he intervene in the situation and bring relief?

It seems as if God is hiding his face from this desperate man!!

It is so long since he has heard from God that it feels like forever –

Ever been there??

Your prayers bounce off the ceiling – as far as you are aware there is no besetting sin in your life. BUT from God their is no apparent response. Sometimes our communion with God is broken because of sin – and that needs to be repented of – BUT it doesn’t appear to be the case here – This is not like Psalm32 and 51 written after David had committed adultery and murder!!

David was having a hard time – life was tough!

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

This gives us a glimpse of the struggle that is going on inside him – he is [it seems] lying awake at night trying to solve these problems –

  • problems at work
  • kids/ grand kids going through hard time
  • marriage problems
  • financial worries
  • been deeply hurt and struggling with all the emotions that that brings


Then you lie awake in the night trying to find solution – going round and round in circles – looking for answers – mentally/ emotionally exhausted – in desperation you cry to God – SILENCE

And then your complaint like David “Lord, how long?”

Are you afraid to complain to God??

Afraid to tell God that you are angry with Him?

God has broad shoulders – he would rather here a complaint from us than not hear at all!!

Jeremiah 20:7 & 14

7 O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived;

you overpowered me and prevailed.

I am ridiculed all day long;

everyone mocks me. … ……………….

14 Cursed be the day I was born!

May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! (NIV)

We can almost feel David’s despair in this fourfold cry uttered out of the depth of grief of heart and soul




3 Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

first two verses complain — these two petition / supplication.

It is as though God has turn away / disinterested / indifferent

As if God has not even bothered to give a look of acknowledgement to the cries / if he would just say something/anything — just a nod would do – some indication that he has heard!!  “Lord just look at me!!”

NB the words of this plea – in spite of his distress – David has not turned away from God – O Lord My God –  David still knows that he is a child of God and that this God is HIS God – MY GOD –

Is seems as if David has been stripped of all earthly props – all he has left is God – “Lord, if you go – I have nothing – I may as well die – only you can light up my eyes – only you can give me life!”

Sometimes it is only when God strips us of all earthly props that we come to realise that only HE has the answer to life!!

ILLUS.: The Rwandan Christian – lost his wife, children and all possession on the genocide a few years ago “I did not know that Jesus was all I needed until Jesus was all I had!”

David knows this – Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; –

David’s cry is not only for his own sake BUT for God’s honour – If he is killed by his enemy, King Saul, God’s promise will fail – David is God’s anointed King in waiting – if he dies God’s word will have failed.

This is a good reason to plead with God –

ILLUS.: Moses knew this Israel in the wilderness made God so angry and he said I will wipe them off the face of the earth because they had made a golden calf…

Deuteronomy 9:25-29

25 I lay prostrate before the LORD those forty days and forty nights because the LORD had said he would destroy you. 26 I prayed to the LORD and said, “O Sovereign LORD, do not destroy your people, your own inheritance that you redeemed by your great power and brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Overlook the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their sin. 28 Otherwise, the country from which you brought us will say, ‘Because the LORD was not able to take them into the land he had promised them, and because he hated them, he brought them out to put them to death in the desert.’ 29 But they are your people, your inheritance that you brought out by your great power and your outstretched arm.” (NIV)

If we are going to pray like this then we need to be sure that it is GOD’s honour that we are concerned about and not just our comfort!!


3. DAVID’S SONG [v5-6]


5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation [deliverance].

6 I will sing to the LORD,

for he has been good to me.

— Has God answered David? Have all his problems gone away?  NO!!

BUT David it seems has reflected on two things

1) the character of God – his unfailing love

2) God’s dealings with him in the past –  he has been good to me

As David looks back he remembers that God has been good to him – there is great merit in counting your blessing and naming them one by one.

It reminds us, in the midst of sorrow and trouble,  that God is faithful – his love is unfailing.

David doesn’t know when he will get relief from his troubles – maybe you are in a similar position — BUT he knows that God is faithful and deliverance will come!

At the end of this psalm David has had a glimpse of God – his problems haven’t been solved – but he has seen God

ILLUS.: letter from Ronald Dunn, whose 18 year old son committed suicide due to manic depression – author of “Don’t just stand there pray something!” [from his book When Heaven Is Silent  p.115 writing to a friend Manley who suffered many life threatening medical problem “..What is the greatest exhibition of the power of God? not to remove the pain … but to keep us in the love of God through it all. Now my point: the despair of the sufferer is not caused by the depth of the suffering but by the depth of the sense of separation from God. You [Manley] said that when you were finally able to get hold of God, the peace came. The suffering didn’t diminish, it was as deep as ever, but the sense of separation had vanished. You no longer felt separated from God…… I believe that the fear and despair I feel lying in a hospital bed, not knowing if I will live or die, is caused, not by the pain, or the fear of dying, but by the fact that I seem to have lost contact with God. I can’t sense his presence. I can’t get hold of him. BUT when I do the sense of separation from God is dispelled; the despair, the fear is relieved. The pain may remain, but the despair does not. It is not the suffering but the separation that undermines our confidence in God.

………………………Teilhard de Chardin was right: Joy is not the absence of pain but the presence of God.”

This is not a worked up ‘Praise God for everything’ attitude popularised by people like Merlin Carouthers in his book ‘Prison to Praise’ or ‘Praise Power’

This is not a Chestershire Cat happiness – BUT the deep joy that David understood.

We may feel that God is distant BUT he is not….

Matthew Henry “The God of Israel, the Saviour, is sometimes a God that hides himself but never a God that is absent; sometimes in the dark, but never at a distance.

God calls us to trust him – even when life is tough and your heart is breaking – there are no trite answers – and sometimes God allows us to struggle through feeling as if we are on our own BUT we never are – He is always there!!

Heaven may be silent BUT God is never absent.

ILLUS.: George Matheson – 19thC hymn writer – bright young man with promising future, engaged to be married. Began to go blind. Not wanting to be shackled to a blindman for the rest of her life, his fiancee left him.

Broken hearted he wrote these words……..

O love, that wilt not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee.

I give thee back the life I owe,

that in thine ocean depths its flow

may richer, fuller be,


O joy that seekest me through pain,

I dare not shut my heart to thee.

I’ll trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain

That morn shall tearless be.

There are times when life doesn’t make sense and the problems seem overwhelming – and heaven is silent – your heart is breaking and you feel that you may never smile again!!

Jesus promised that we would have trouble in this life!! BUT also promised that it will not destroy us!!

John 16:33

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

Jesus calls us to take an eternal perspective – this life will have trouble BUT the life to come is joy and peace forever in HIS presence and fellowship with the saints!!

In the meantime he gives us the strength to cope and is always with us, even when – like David – we feel that heaven is silent.

Annie Johnson Flint was orphaned at a young age – as a young lady she was very ill and was bed-ridden and blind and eventually incontinent … and in that state wrote these words ….

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,

He sendeth more strength when the labours increase:

To added affliction He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials, He multiplied peace.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,

His power has no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

When we has exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.


Annie Johnson Flint

Christian Hymns #801



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