A Refuge in Christ for the Abandoned

David wrote more Psalms during this time—than at any other time in his life. These cave Psalms are 4, 13, 40, 57, 70, 141-142—lessons on how to overcome the feelings of loneliness and abandonment when we are far from help, or away from home and feel unable to go on.

David is abandoned and dejected in Psalm 13. In the first two verses he expresses the depths of his soul in four cries of aguish. Each cry is a figure of speech called erotesis—asking questions without waiting for or even expecting an answer. This is often a sign of deep emotional struggles.  

These four cries are also representing a second form of speech called anaphora—when the same word is repeated at the beginning of successive sentences. So listen as David cries in anguish four times, asking God “How long”; and he does so without even pausing because he is so overcome with sorrow, grief, and feeling so alone and abandoned.

 Psalm 13:1-2 “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”

These opening words reveal four areas of David’s life that were deeply wounded. His confessions sometimes strike a chord in our own hearts if we listen carefully.

  1. My life feels like an endless struggle. Psalm 13:1a “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?”

David is abandoned and dejected. Everyone has left him, he is hunted by his own family, his own people, his own fellow people of God, and is threatened by his enemies and now steps into a bleak desert region. David feels with every fiber of his humanity dejected and abandoned.

One commentator writes, “Well must David have understood what this was, when, hunted by Saul, he knew not where to betake himself, at one time seeking refuge among the Moabites, at another in the wilderness of Ziph; now an outlaw hiding himself in the cave of Adullam, and Anon a captain in the service of the King of the Philistines; and amid all his projects haunted by the mournful conviction, 'I shall now one day perish by the hand of Saul.’”[3] 

By repeating himself four times he shows how deep this feeling runs.

  • What David says is, “I just can’t go on.” 
  1. My life seems to have lost God’s blessing. Psalm 13:1b “How long will You hide Your face from me?”

David saw a lack of the apparent blessing of God. He says nothing is like it used to be. Every part of my life is troubled and seems to suffer from a lack of Your blessing. Think about what that feels like in our lives:

  • My family doesn’t seem blessed anymore. The early joys of newlywed life can fade as the reality of personality differences stress the relationship. Has God ceased to bless our marriage? Those quiet, smiling children sometimes grow into selfish and rebellious youths. The joy of home life is replaced with the tension of confrontation, correction, and sorrow. Has God ceased to bless our family?
  • My work doesn’t seem blessed anymore. The early days of idealism, creativity, boundless energy, leading to growth and success in your career is replaced with constant obstacles and personal stagnation. Has God ceased to bless my work?
  • My ministry doesn’t seem blessed anymore. The spring in my step is gone, my feet feel like lead as I cross the parking lot to serve in AWANA, or youth ministry, or the choir, or orchestra, or teach Sunday School. The joy and sense of purpose are gone. Has God ceased to bless my ministry?
  • My spiritual life doesn’t seem blessed anymore. The Word is stale, my singing is lifeless, coming to worship is drudgery, my sins feel unforgiven, my past is coming back to haunt me, I feel stained, I feel distant, I feel like no one, even God, cares about my soul. Has God ceased to bless me?
  • What David says is, “I don’t SEE YOU anymore in my home, my work, or my life.” 
  1. My mind seems so troubled. Psalm 13:2a “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily?”

David said that he had dark thoughts and uncontrolled emotions. He loved the Lord, but all of the stress of the terrible plight he was in had drained him of all peace and joy.

David had what is a common experience. He was swept away by his emotions. He couldn’t calmly reflect on the faithful hand of God in the past and feel the comfort of trusting the future to Him. He had ruminated so long on disaster after disaster he was feeding on dark thoughts of hopelessness. There are often several clear causes for these feelings David confesses. 

  • Emotional Temperament. David was probably of the temperament that was more prone to discouragement. As Lloyd Jones writes in the opening pages of his monumental book, “foremost among all causes of spiritual depression is temperament” [4]
  • Physical Weakness. “A plunge into disquieting thoughts and emotions can be caused by physical factors—illness, for example.  Charles Haddon Spurgeon was one of the greatest evangelical leaders of the last century, but he suffered from severe bouts of depression.  Why?  The main reason is that he suffered from gout, marked by painful inflammation of the joints and an excess of uric acid in the blood.  It was common in the last century, and it drained Spurgeon’s energies”.[5] Just like David when he was hungry and tired we can always beware of times of extreme fatigue and physical weakness as an open door for the Devil or our flesh to try to push us down.
  • Let down. Another weak time is often following great events. Jesus always retreated from the crowds after big events like the feeding of the five thousand and preaching campaigns. He needed extra time alone with God to refresh and renew His life. Elijah came down from the mountaintop literally, in I Kings 18-19 and got so low he was ready to die. God took him off to a quiet place, fed him, rested him, and met with him. Always remember what James says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.” (James 5:17) If Elijah, David, and Jesus needed to exercise care to protect themselves from weaknesses—so should we not be surprised when they come. 
  • What David says is, “I can’t stop these feelings of dejection and abandonment.” 
  1. My life seems to have lost God’s victory. Psalm 13:2b “How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

David says it is no use. Saul is going to win. He has all the troops, resources, and time he needs. He will end up destroying me.

  • Most of us probably do not have literal human enemies, at least not serious enemies.  But if you are a Christian, you do have one great spiritual enemy who is worse than any human enemy imaginable.  This is the devil, whom the apostle Peter compared to “a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) [6]
  • Lloyd-Jones says of this foe, “The devil [is] the adversary of our souls.  He can use our temperaments and our physical condition.  He so deals with us that we allow our temperament to control and govern us, instead of keeping temperament where it should be kept.  There is no end to the ways the devil produces spiritual depression.  We must always bear him in mind.” [7]
  • What David says is, “I am constantly defeated.” 

How did David survive this time? Aren’t you glad he wrote it all down for us? I wonder if David ever thought that his hard times would be such a blessing to us three thousand years later? 

David decided he would not live in the pits. So he looks up and talks to the Lord. David is rescued. How did that happen? The turning point was prayer.

Psalm 13:3-6 “Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death; 4 Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him’; Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved. 5 But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. 6 I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

David cries out in this prayer to the Lord for three things, and that is what God wanted to hear. He answers and David goes on. 

  • First David prays--look at me.  Psalm 13:3a “Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death.” David felt like God had turned His back on him. He asks the Lord to turn around and look at him. When I am overwhelmed at times one of the most touching moments is when my sweet Bonnie finds me. She sits down and talks, when I don’t respond, she says “Look at me honey,” and gently puts her hand under my chin and lifts my face up to look at her eyes of love and smile of comfort. 
  • Second David prays--answer me. Psalm 13:3b “Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death.” David felt like God had stopped talking to him. This Hebrew word literally means ‘answer’. David is asking the Lord to let Him hear His voice like in the old days. This is when we take God's Word and say “Open Your Word to my heart again. Let me cling to Your truth. Help my unbelief!” 
  • Finally David prays—restore me. Psalm 13:3c “ Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death.” David felt that he was going to die and never be king. He asks God to do what he promised. This is when we say to the Lord, “You promised to never leave me—I need Your presence again! You told me that you loved me to the uttermost—I need Your power again. You said that you would comfort me—I need Your peace again! 

One parting truth we can hold on to— 

To be abandoned means once you were not. For the true child of God there is always some awareness of this truth, regardless of how deep his or her depression may be.  We may be depressed even to the point of feeling utterly abandoned.  But the fact that we feel abandoned itself means that we really know God is there.  To be abandoned you need somebody to be abandoned by.  Because we are Christians and have been taught by God in Scripture, we know that God still loves us and will be faithful to us, regardless of our feelings.

 

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