Psalm 13 was composed by David when he was going through a period of distressing soul trouble. He was experiencing a time of spiritual darkness and he brings his situation again to the Lord. His words indicate that there are times when the Lord does not immediately answer the earnest prayer of his people. Such delays are difficult to cope with, but we should remind ourselves that they are designed by God to test our commitment to him. The fact that David persisted in coming to a silent God was clear testimony that he was in a state of grace.
David seems to be alone, without any human help. There was no-one with whom he could take counsel, and he was left to his own considerations of his troubles (v. 2). His experience was one of great sorrow, not primarily due to the activities of his enemies but to the reality that God was hiding his face from David. When a believer faces trouble, he or she usually has a sense of God’s favour and this knowledge strengthens him or her to continue in the life of faith. When God hides his face, it is a different story.
This sense of the loss of God’s gracious approval was not unique to David nor is it an infrequent experience for God’s people. Job experienced it in a very marked way, as did others of the psalmists. When such experiences come to us, it is important that we respond correctly.
First, we must remember that such dark experiences do not always mean that we are guilty of unconfessed sin. It is true that if we don’t confess our sins, God will hide his face from us. Therefore, when we sense the absence of God we should search our hearts to see if there is unconfessed sin. If we discover that there is none, then we should realise that God is testing us.
Second, we should speak to God about the matter, which is what David did. He told the Lord about the sorrow and pain he was enduring and mentioned his fear that his enemies would prevail. Daily, David put his sad case into the hands of God despite the fact that he could not sense God’s gracious presence.
Third, we should resolve to trust in the Lord (v. 5). David focussed on the attribute of God that was most suitable to his need (God’s mercy). This helped him have the assurance that he would yet experience God’s deliverance. He also recalled previous occasions when God had helped him. Memory is one of the greatest helps to faith in dark times. If we are in darkness, we should take the torch of memory and let it shine into our hearts.