Psalm 13: a psalm of lament
There are many psalms of this kind. As poetry, the sentiments are always rather over the top. This psalmist was facing a time of estrangement from God when [he] wrote this. It was the sense of the dark night fo the soul. I spoke about that a couple of Sundays ago. How long will this last, he asks. Why am I so sad?
We can’t know whether “the enemy” is an external person, or perhaps whether it is the devil, or whether it is a time of severe depression. The psalmist seems to regard the situation as so dire that he may be contemplating suicide. ‘God,’ he says; ‘light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.’
Perhaps the enemy is an external agent.
The psalmist fears that the enemy will be able to claim victory over him, and his foes will rejoice that they have beaten him. I can well imagine that this is how Ukrainian President Zelensky must feel. His Russian foes outnumber his forces; they have far more equipment and armaments. They would certainly rejoice if they could destroy him and his nation.
But yet. In the midst of all his problems, the psalmist was able to trust in God’s steadfast love. This is a uniform conclusion of psalms of lament. No matter how awful the situation, the psalmist puts his trust in God. Also, he remembers all the blessings that he has received from God over the years. I assume that he believes – or at least hopes – that God’s mercy and generosity will continue. But, even if not, “it is what it is” as they say.
Lament in Ukraine
Whether President Zelensky – or the people of besieged Ukrainian cities – can summon this degree of faith in God, I can’t say. Because – and I’ve said so many times before – Scripture is unhelpful over questions of luck, both good and bad. It was Zelensky’s bad luck that his presidency coincided with an invasion of his country. And likewise for all those of his compatriots who find themselves in the midst of a brutal conflict, from which there is either no escape, or escape with all their possessions – all they have built up, all their hopes and dreams – left behind.
And so, for all those who are experiencing the dark night of the soul – in Ukraine, or elsewhere, “How long, O Lord, will you leave me forgotten?” May they trust in God’s steadfast love; and find the inner strength to sing to the Lord, because they discern that God has dealt bountifully with them.