ABSENCE AND HOPE

Psalm 13

The six verses that make up Psalm 13 plunge us into the very depths of human despair, yet also carry us to the sublime heights of renewed hope. This psalm is for anyone who lives in an unpredictable world!

The psalmist starts with the raw and searching questions of a man walking in the shadow of despair:

‘How long, Lord? Will you forget me for ever? How long will you hide your face from me?’(Psalm 13:1, NIV)

These are the cries of a human heart, searching for an apparently absent God. Throughout the Bible godly men and women have faced seasons when they have felt God to be absent. Job is an obvious example; although we can turn to the latter section of the book and see the beautiful end result, two thirds of the book is Job’s painful scouring of the heavens for an apparently absent God.

Like Job, Jesus faced a season of God’s apparent absence. On the cross he cried out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:34). GH Wilson, commenting on Psalm 13, says,

‘Often when one is most firmly in the center of God’s purpose and will are attacks most severe and God seems most distant.’

Please note this is not an excuse for our refusal to enjoy the presence of our saviour through daily prayer and Bible reading, or for allowing our thoughts to be ruled by our emotions (see Romans 12:2), but rather an acknowledgement that, even at the very epicentre of the will of God, there are seasons when faith has to draw deeply from knowing our God, because every other sign seems to point to his absence and our abandonment.

See the surprising shift in verse 5:

‘But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation’. (NIV)

Because the psalmist knows God’s unfailing love — his loyalty, his allegiance — is towards him, he is able to face his circumstances with rejoicing. This psalm reminds us of the importance of really knowing the nature of our God. In moments when God feels absent we must draw from the wealth and depth of our biblical understanding of God.

Today, I’d like to encourage you to dive into God’s word, noting at every opportunity the character and nature of God, so that in seasons to come you can join with the psalmist and say, ‘But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation’.

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