It has been said that music is the language of the soul and I’m sure you realise that music has the ability to quicken your heart rate, or it can cause you to relax. It can make you feel depressed, or it can cheer you up. It can cause anxiety or relieve stress. Music affects us emotionally and spiritually. Does anyone have a piece of music, favourite or otherwise, that creates a happy or sad memory?
As William Shakespeare wrote: If music be the food of love … play on!
Psalms are songs of worship, praise and lament – it’s amazing how many of our hymns are taken directly from the Psalms. Music was important to the people of Israel. They sang and the played musical instruments as they marched into battle and after they won the battle. Imagine the sound Scottish Bagpipes would make a when a heavy mist loomed over the battlefield!
Exodus 15:2: The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
David often played music to soothe the heart of King Saul when he had been tormented by an evil spirit. But here in Psalm 13, it was David who needed encouragement. Some historians believe that David wrote this Psalm when he was running from Saul. He was being hunted like an animal and he constantly had to make sure that his enemy wasn’t able to catch him by surprise. He had been close to death many times but somehow managed to escape.
A Song of Despair
David is now weary; he is drained physically, mentally, and emotionally because he was battling with the spirit of despair and depression. David is crying desperately for God. He felt like God had forgotten about him. He was in a situation that felt like he couldn’t deal with anymore and his song is one of despair.
I would imagine that everyone of us has experienced feelings of despair and being troubled in spirit. We’re stressed to the limit: over worked and under paid. We have family problems; teenage problems, money problems, those we love with alcohol and drug problems; we struggle with ill health and the pain of bereavement. And that’s without throwing the pandemic into the mix. Depression is having a field day. It’s attacking all ages, cultures, and genders.
It’s not a good feeling when you feel like nobody cares, or that you’ve been forgotten or forsaken, and that all your efforts to hear from God are useless. That’s how David felt. He was struggling with his faith and his doubts.
When God is Silent
Has anyone ever prayed and feel as though they couldn’t find God in your prayers? As though they are bouncing back from the ceiling. David was in that same place. He couldn’t find God. He couldn’t hear God. He felt like God had forgotten him. But I want you to notice something; that even though he felt like God had forgotten him he knew that God was able to help him. And it’s true that he did feel like God had forgotten about him, but he wanted to know for how long. Psalm 13:1: How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
It’s normal to feel forsaken when we feel forgotten, and all of our efforts seem to be useless. We talk about feeling hopeless and being filled with despair. This is what David was going through. But whatever happens; however, you feel, don’t give up on God. David didn’t understand what was going on, but he never gave up on God.
Wrestling with God
Remember how Jacob wrested with God for a blessing in Genesis 32? David has a similar wrestling bout with God here in 13:2: How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Wrestling with God is a sign of intimacy.
David was hungry to hear from God. He wanted God to encourage him, and he wanted God to clear the sorrow from his heart. But he felt like God had forsaken him. When we start feeling like God has forsaken us or let us down there’s something we need to remember.
Remember the name of the three young men who were thrown into the fiery furnace (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) but they weren’t harmed. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, but he wasn’t eaten alive! Peter and Paul suffered death threats and jail, but they were delivered. He promises to be with us and carry us through all our difficult times.
Sometimes, if God is with us, it’s not as bad as it looks, you may be suffering, but you can’t be destroyed. For if God be for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31: … If God is for us, who can be against us?
Isaiah 43:2: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
A Song of Joy
Despite the difficult time David was going through, he began to sing a song of Joy. Psalm 13:5, 6: But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. David knew and trusted in the mercy of God. He had witnessed God’s gracious dealings with the people of Israel from the days of his childhood. He had experienced God’s mercy in his encounter with Goliath on the battlefield.
The song of David was a song of praise and rejoicing. But perhaps his sweetest songs were the ones in his heart. There’s no doubt that music can lift our spirits and can help us to meditate on the Lord.
You may be going through troublesome times, but your heart can be filled with the joy of the Lord in a heartfelt song of praise. No matter what we’re going through. No matter how many things go wrong. We have something to be thankful for. David rejoiced in the salvation of the Lord.
David wouldn’t give up, even though he was filled with despair, thought God was silent and wrestled with Him. He prayed that God would hear his cry. But notice what else he asked God for.
Even though he felt forsaken, he knew his was a walk of faith and not feeling, and he asked God not to let his troubles affect his spiritual growth. David prayed; God enlighten me. Don’t let this problem come between me and you. Don’t let this problem drag me down. Let me rise above it.
As long as David stayed focused on his troubles and problems his song was a song of despair. But when he changed his thoughts and focus it changed his song. He started singing a song of praise and trust for God’s mercy, salvation and blessing and his song changed from one of sadness to one of joy!
It’s important to see that joy and happiness are not the same thing in the Bible. James urges us in his letter to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds.
He’s not expecting us to say “hooray, I’m suffering” in an outward way. No, joy is that quiet trust and unshakeable confidence that God has your life in his hands and will never ever let you go.
So, instead of focusing on our problems, our hurts, and our troubles and disappointments, start focusing on the goodness of God, it will change our song from a song of despair to a song of joy. Why not put on a worship CD and sit back and allow the music and lyrics to life your spirit and help you to look upwards instead of downwards? It works for me!
Pope John Paul II: Do not abandon yourself to despair, we are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.
This is a copy of a talk I gave at Saint Mary’s in Billericay High Street at midweek Communion on Wednesday 27 October 2021. The Bible Reading was Psalm 13:1-6.