Today, we have even greater assurances of God’s steadfast love: a bloody cross, an empty tomb, and a Savior who sits on the throne. And if this steadfast love is ours, then we too can sing with abandon, far before deliverance comes.
I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. (Psalm 13:5)
If faith is the beating heart of a Christian’s spiritual anatomy, then praise is the healthy pulse. When faith looks back upon God’s wondrous deeds of redemption, we cannot help but praise. We praise him for parting the Red Sea with a word. We praise him for felling giants with a shepherd’s sling. We praise him for sending his Son to suffer and die. We praise him for raising Christ from the grave.
Yet faith goes further still. Not content to praise God only on the far side of deliverance, faith teaches us to praise him before deliverance even comes: not only after he’s parted the Red Sea, but while the Egyptian army still presses in; not only after Goliath lies slain, but as he still taunts the hosts of Israel; not only after the stone rolls away from the tomb, but during the Sabbath silence of Holy Saturday.
As David shows us in Psalm 13, such praise does not arise effortlessly. Often, it comes on the other side of agonizing prayer.
How Long, O Lord?
Without introduction or preamble, Psalm 13 opens in anguish: “How long, O Lord?” The question is a familiar one for most, even if our straits have not been quite so dire as David’s. Pressure builds. Prayer apparently goes unheard. All the while, God’s promises rest unfulfilled.
No matter where David looks, comfort eludes him. Above, a wall of clouds hides God’s face (Psalm 13:1). Within, cares and sorrows swirl (Psalm 13:2). Around, enemies threaten the tottering king (Psalm 13:2). Four times in two verses, David repeats his question: “How long?…How long?…How long?…How long?”
Yet even here, faith has not forsaken him. For all the misery wrapped up in David’s question, he knows that God’s intervention is a matter not of if, but of when — not of “Will you?” but of “How long?” His is no cry of despair thrown up into a godless sky, but rather the song of distressed trust.
“Consider and Answer Me”
With each breath in the psalm, faith grows firmer. By verse 3, God is not only “O Lord,” but “O Lord my God.” At the same time, lament gives way to petition: “Consider and answer me…light up my eyes” (Psalm 13:3). Genuine faith may often speak the language of lament and complaint, but eventually it takes up the language of specific request.