Morning Pages: Psalm 6
Updated: Jan 15
Psalm 6 descends into the depths of human suffering—both as a result of personal sin and the sins of others—and wrestles with God.
Vs. 1-3 “O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD—how long?”
The language beginning in these first verses and continuing throughout the psalm is raw and unfiltered, the kind that can only come from someone in significant mental, emotional, and/or physical distress.
David appears to be experiencing the Lord’s discipline or some consequence for his sin. Perhaps he is plagued by guilt or shame, and his conscience condemns him. Whatever David is experiencing, he feels the heavy hand of Yahweh. But even though he attributes some of his anguish to God's prolonged discipline, he doesn't reject God or even God's discipline. Instead, David asks God not to discipline him in wrath but rather be gracious and show mercy.
The word for anger in this verse is literally nostril or nose, which is illustrative of how a person's face distorts when angry—nostrils flaring, jaw clenched, and brows furrowed. If you’ve ever been disciplined by your father or mother when they were in a heightened emotional state, you understand how frightening that can be. It is one thing to be disciplined when you need correction, but to be disciplined by someone more powerful than you who is out of control or full of rage—even if justified—is terrifying and almost unbearable. How much more so when the one disciplining you is a holy, all-powerful God? A God who created you and has the power to destroy you, but who is also the God you love deeply and through whom you find life, joy, hope, peace, and refuge.
These first few verses could have come from my own lips many times. I remember a specific season in my life when I was growing more spiritually aware of my sin and brokenness. The more I realized all my motives were, at best, mixed—an intermingling of my love of God and my love of self—I was brought low. On top of the growing awareness of my sin, I was also clinically depressed at the time, increasing my fragile mental, emotional, and spiritual state.
David's language in verses two and three reveal the depth of his suffering: “I am languishing,” “My bones are troubled,” and “My soul also is greatly troubled.” He’s not flourishing; he’s languishing—wasting away, a shadow of himself.
Because we are fully integrated beings—body, heart, mind, and soul—every part affects the other. You cannot experience extended periods of physical ailments without it eventually wearing on you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. When I am tired, I’m more prone to feeling discouraged. When I am depressed, I’m more lethargic. When I am struggling spiritually, all of me is thrown off.
And this is where David finds himself. His whole being is overcome—body and soul. And all he can do is cry, “How long, O Lord?”
There are perhaps no other words I feel in the depth of my soul like, "How long, O Lord?" Especially when I survey the landscape of my life and the lives of those around me—friends and family languishing under the brokenness of the world and grappling with the ongoing effects of trauma, divorces, addictions, chronic pain, loss, mental health, disordered eating, self-harm, loss of loved ones to natural and unnatural causes, cancel-culture, bullying, abuse of all forms, broken relationships, church wounds, family of origin wounds, children with debilitating illnesses. It’s a lot. And the cry arising out of my heart is the same as David’s, “How long will you delay, Lord? How long will you allow this to go on? How long until you make good on your promise to return and restore all things? How long will you allow sin, suffering, and brokenness to wreak havoc in your children's lives? How long until you end the madness and bring shalom?”
David's questions are honest, raw, and arise out of great suffering and from great faith. They are questions born from a deep intimacy with God—a relationship solidified over time—where he has repeatedly proven that he cares for his children and can be trusted to keep his promise, no matter how long the delay. But these questions don't just arise out of intimacy with God; they also foster it. A truly intimate relationship with God is not built upon spiritual pretense but on the bedrock of vulnerability and honesty—both in times of strength and profound weakness. It is the stuff of genuine relationships—messy and hard and forged in the fire.
David again turns to the Lord,
Vs. 4-5 “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?”
David is in a feeble state, and he knows his help is found in Yahweh alone. So he appeals to Yahweh’s character—his hesed. Yahweh’s very nature is goodness, kindness, faithfulness, mercy, generosity, and compassion toward his children. Yes, he is holy, mighty, righteous, and just. One thing doesn’t cancel out the other. The Lord is equally just and merciful, compassionate and corrective.
But! When Yahweh gave Moses direction for the Israelites, his chosen people, one of the chief ways he chose to describe himself is rooted in his lovingkindness, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…” (Deuteronomy 7:9). David would have known this story very well, so it is to this he appeals when in deep distress.
And then David ups the ante. In what feels like a form of trying to manipulate God, David says, “How will I praise you if you allow me to die and descend to the depths of the grave?” Bargaining is one of the stages of the grieving process. Perhaps this is David bargaining with the Lord in a transactional, quid-pro-quo “if you do this, then I’ll do that” kind of appeal. But God’s glory is not dependent on my praise. The rocks will cry out his praise even if I fail to. And he is now, and forever will be, surrounded by crowds of heavenly beings praising him. So what is my praise to him? Still, this doesn’t deter David. He’s pulling out all the stops, and his language grows more intense,
Vs. 6-7 “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with weeping. My eye wastes away because of my grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.”
David is in utter anguish, the depths of despair—moaning, weeping and wasting away in his grief. And here is where we get a glimpse that he’s not only somehow experiencing the Lord’s correction, but he is also suffering at the hand of his enemies. Grief upon grief, being kicked while he's down.
And yet he somehow musters up enough strength to hope….
Vs. 8-10 “Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.”
Despite this, David is confident that the Lord is aware of his lowly state, has heard his pleas, accepted his prayers, and will not allow his enemies to overcome him.
This psalm is full of words that can only arise from the depths of the human soul—one who knows great pain and suffering. This kind of psalm frees me to take my raw pain to God. But the real hope for me isn't found in merely expressing my pain to God; it's in a God who willingly entered my pain.
There was another whose soul was distraught—Jesus. Instead of praying that he would be delivered from the Lord’s wrath and the hands of his enemies, he surrendered himself to it. He knew that he would most glorify the Lord by descending into the depths, not by being rescued from them (John 12:23-32). He who was innocent and deserved no wrath took on all my sin and the wrath due me. He suffered the worst anguish possible in my place so that I might be saved. And ultimately, he was the full manifestation of God’s steadfast love, which brings me so much hope.
Until next week,
One final thing: If David's cry of "How long, O Lord?" resonates with you, too, check out this song by Young Oceans. It's been on repeat for me lately!