Have you ever felt so discouraged that no matter which way you turned, things looked hopeless? David experienced times like that, and Psalm 6 is one of the most gripping expressions of despair in the Bible, if not all literature. Yet by the end of this sacred hymn, David is filled with confidence that God will provide a way out.
What did David do to overcome his despair? And what can we learn from this psalm to help us when we feel helpless?
1. He looked outside himself with realistic awareness.
What would cause a man to be so worn out from his despair that “all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears”? (Psalm 6:6). He tells us plainly: “my eyes grow weak with sorrow . . . because of my foes” (Psalm 6:7).
David’s battles with people are well documented in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. We don’t know which particular situation has put him such a funk. We simply know that he is depressed because of “all you who do evil” (Psalm 6:8).
2. He looked inside himself with humble self-examination.
What intrigues me most about this psalm is verse 1, in which David cries out to God, “Do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.” Even though these human enemies are the external cause of his trouble, David looks within himself because he is convinced that his own sin brought about this situation.
David is acknowledging to God that he is responsible for his plight. He believes that his unfair treatment is the result of his own doing, and God is chastising him through these men. He deserves to be rebuked and disciplined for his wrongdoing. This leads David to ask God, “Please go easy on me, lest your chastening hand result in the full force of your anger being unleashed on me, and I am destroyed.”
In other words, David is looking deep within his soul. He is ever mindful of his own sin and is taking responsibility for the mess he’s in.
3. He looked up to a gracious God with faithful expectation.
The sequence of prayers in verses 2 and 4 are a breathtaking display of faith in the saving power of God. “Be merciful to me . . . Heal me . . . Turn and deliver me . . . Save me.” This is the cry of a man desperate for his God to come to the rescue. This is the prayer of a repentant believer who knows that the same God who wields the rod of justice can also send a boatload of grace to the port of his heart.
This psalm presents a biblical model for us to follow when the stress of life has hemmed us in. First, we need to identify any external cause of the problem. Often the source of our despair is found in people we know well. Perhaps a relationship has gone sour. A friend has betrayed us; a spouse has let us down; a child has rebelled.
Second, we must share the blame for our difficulty. Be careful not to merely shake your fist at others. It’s also critical to spend time in prayerful self-examination and determine the part we played in the creation of our dilemma. Once we have discovered the sin we’ve committed, godly sorrow, confession and repentance are in order.
Finally, we must pray the prayer of David in Psalm 6:2 and 6:4. Cry out for mercy, healing, deliverance and salvation. The God of heaven sent his only Son to earth to die for these very sins. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can receive forgiveness of sins and the assurance of salvation, no matter how bleak thing look. We can proclaim with David, “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:9).