Summary: Psalm 13 helps us to learn how to communicate with God on the deepest level. God is big enough to handle our tough questions. And He loves it when we talk to Him honestly.
Communication between people takes place at three levels: the frivolous level,
the factual level, and the feeling level.
Frivolous communication takes place on the surface with the use of innocuous questions and casual clichés. How are you doing? Looks like it going to rain today? What do you do for a living? That's communication on the frivolous level, the kind of communication we have with strangers.
Factual communication goes a little deeper with the discussion of things in which two parties are vitally interested. We are still $10,000 short of our goal. What is your strategy for getting people to vote? How about them Cowboys!
That's communication on the factual level, the kind of communication we have with acquaintances.
Feeling communication takes place at the deepest level with the expression of our feelings about what is happening around us. I don't believe you are doing your part. Why do you always gripe and about everything I do? I really love you.
That's communication at the feeling level, the kind of communication we have with our closest friends.
Of course it's not that simple.
We communicate with our friends at the frivolous level at times sometimes we communicate with strangers at the feeling level. But the principle still stands:
the more intimate the relationship, the deeper the level of our communication.
That is true of our human relationships; it is equally true of our relationship with God. At the beginning of our relationship with God, we are like a teenager with a new car. Full of excitement. Thrilled. Totally clueless about the dangers involved in operating that vehicle.
That's the way we are as new Christians. Someone suggested we need to lock up new Christians for about six months before we let them out. Full of excitement.
Thankful to God for the new life we have in Christ. We have God and life is good. We might call this the "honeymoon" period of our relationship with God.
However, as we move to a deeper level in our relationship with God we begin to be confronted by some paradoxes.
God assured us He would never leave us; yet at times we cannot sense His presence in our lives. God rules over all creation; yet evil often seems to have the upper hand.
God promised to guide us; yet there are moments when He seems to have left us in the lurch. God offered abundant life; yet this life is frequently filled with pain. How do we respond to these paradoxes of life?
Some cover them up with pasted on smiles and hollow hallelujahs. Others blame them on their lack of faith and try harder. Some silently slip away and become alumnus of the church. There is a better way and that is to lay these paradoxes before God in the language of complaint. We learn about this language of complaint in Psalm 13.
Traditionally, psalms like this one we are considering today are referred to as the lament psalms. They are found throughout the book of Psalms. In fact, more lament psalms appear in the book of Psalms than any other type. One scholar identifies 50 individual laments and 17 community laments.
Psalm 13 is a stereotypical lament psalm. One commentator suggested the six verses of this psalm take us through three stages: from a long, deep sigh in verses 1-2, to a much more gentle prayer in verses 3-4, to a believing joy in verses 5-6. Or to express it another way, from complaint to God, to communication with God, to confidence in God. Let's walk through these stages.
Complaint to God 13:1-2
In verses 1-2, we see the complaint to God. Four times the Psalmist addressed God with the question, "How long?" How long will you forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I hurt? How long will evil reign?
We must not soften these questions for they are full of passion and intensity and anguish. With great feeling, the psalmist declared, "God, there are some things we need to talk about."
Have you ever been there? Have you ever been perplexed by the paradoxes of life,
ever felt evil's fury in your soul, ever looked at your life and wondered where God was in all of this? Have you ever been in a place where singing, "God is so good, He's so good to me." was simply too simple a response?
If you've been there ... if you are there today ... you need to learn from the psalmist. What does he teach you?
Lesson Number One:
When life falls apart, we need to turn to God, not away from Him.
That is perhaps the most significant truth the psalmist teaches us. He didn't close God out by crawling into a hole and throwing a personal pity party for one. He didn't rail against God to others about the injustice of life. He turned to God.