As I read Psalm 13 and reflect on the section describing David on his face, overwhelmed with grief and hopelessness, I see two practical areas of application:
1. It was the length of the test that began to weary David. “How long” occurs four times in two brief verses. Let us remember that God not only designs the depth of our trials but also their length. Sometime soon, read the words of the ancient prophet Habakkuk, chapter 1. He too asked, “How long?”
2. In the first two verses of Psalm 13, David turns against everyone and everything except himself. What I learn from this is that when I try to handle a test in the flesh, I turn against God, my enemy, or my circumstance rather than first asking the Lord what He is trying to teach me in this situation. What wonderful lessons God wishes to teach us if our proud hearts would only be willing to melt in the furnace of affliction.
In the midst of his grief and sorrow, David makes a critical choice. Rather than continue the downward spiral of sorrow, he changed his posture. This brings us to the second section of the song.
David on His Knees
Consider and answer me, O LORD, my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. (Psalm 13:3-4)
Something happened to David between stanzas 2 and 3 of his hymn. Perhaps he listened to his own complaints and realized it was self-pity. I’ve done that, haven’t you? Maybe he paused in his composition and looked back over what he had just written . . . and became alarmed at the unbelief that began to surface before his eyes. We observe a genuine and marked difference now. He is up off his face. His despondency is beginning to lift. We find him, at last, on his knees—the place of victory. The martyred missionary, Jim Elliot, once wrote: “The saint who advances on his knees never retreats.”
Please observe how closely verses 3 and 4 are connected with verses 1 and 2. David seems to recollect and redirect his complaints as he talks to the Lord about them. Three changes become apparent.
First, instead of viewing the Lord as being removed and unconcerned (13:1), David requests that He “consider and answer” him (13:3). And don’t miss what he calls the Lord in verse 3—“my God”! The distance is now gone in David’s mind. He is embracing an altogether different outlook.
Second, instead of the despondency and distress that had become his heart attitude due to his attempts to work things out (13:2), he now asks the Lord to “enlighten my eyes.”
Again, the Hebrew gives us a clearer understanding of this. The word translated “enlighten” in verse 3 is in the causative stem, meaning literally “to cause to shine.” In Numbers 6:24-26, the identical term occurs in a benediction we’ve heard many times:
The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.
(Emphasis is mine.)
David’s countenance had lost its “shine.” His face, and especially his eyes, had become hard, flat, and dull. He longed for God’s brightness to reflect itself once again from his eyes—his face had fallen.
I want to state once again that when trials are dealt with in the flesh, the eyes bear the marks of that fact. We cannot hide it. Our entire countenance becomes rigid and inflexible, lacking the “sparkle” and the “light” that once manifested itself from our hearts. When inner joy leaves, so does the “shine” from our eyes.
Third, instead of worrying about his exalted enemy (13:2), David now mentally releases his enemy to the Lord and lets Him take care of the results (13:3-4).
I notice this marked change in David occurred when he decided to lay it all out before God in prayer. Although it sounds like a cliché, our fervent petition is still the most effective oil to reduce the friction from the daily grind of despondency.