1, O Yahweh, rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me in Your wrath.
2, Be gracious to me, O Yahweh, for I am languishing; heal me, O Yahweh, for my bones are troubled.
3, My soul also is greatly troubled. But You, O Yahweh—how long?
4, Turn, O Yahweh, deliver my life; save me for the sake of Your steadfast love.
5, For in death there is no remembrance of You; in Sheol who will give You praise?
6, I am weary with my groaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.
7, My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.
8, Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for Yahweh has heard the sound of my weeping.
9, Yahweh has heard my plea; Yahweh accepts my prayer.
10, All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.
In this psalm, it appears David has done something worth penitence. This is the first penitential psalm (the others being Psalms 25, 32, 57, 125:1-2, and 130). David’s soul is deeply troubled; he is calling out to God in great emotional and spiritual agony. Three-fourths of this psalm involves David expressing that his soul is in anguish over his sin. He is so troubled that he becomes depressed (v. 2a).
I wonder how many of us can relate to David’s anguish. Have you ever developed so much self-loathing over a sin you’ve committed? That no matter how many times you’ve repented, your soul is still in anguish over this sin? I certainly have. There were certain sins I committed that caused me to hate myself—sins I even promised to God I would never commit. Of course, I ended up committing them anyway. Even when I genuinely repented, I still deeply hated myself.
Eventually, I learnt to believe that God truly forgives me even if I cannot forgive myself. Now, however, I am in anguish again. I’ve been seeing a therapist for a few months now, and at first it was to address some social anxiety I have. However, as it turns out, I’m depressed, and my social anxiety is merely symptomatic of my depression.
I have a vast history of rejection and abandonment—from my parents divorce, to my first fiancé cheating on me by getting pregnant with another man’s child, to my second fiancé leaving me, friends no longer talking to me, and so forth—and as a result I have developed extreme resentment towards myself. My natural inclination is to move into a depressive mood, one where I convince myself that I’m unlovable and unworthy of being loved. So, I isolate myself from everybody, which only feeds my depression.
Like David, I cry out to God in my emotional agony. I have no self-worth. I have to gain it somehow. Yet this self-worth cannot come from within myself. I am gradually realising this self-worth comes from God alone. I am reminded of my Baptism—that in the waters, God has adopted me as His beloved son, calls me His own, and has promised me the inheritance of eternal life. What God has done to us and for us by faith and in Baptism is where we find true worth.
Perhaps some of you reading this are suffering similarly, whether it’s self-hatred, depression, or some other kind of emotional ailment. Like David, we can call out to God for forgiveness and deliverance. Hell (Sheol) is both eternal separation from God and eternal fire; no one can praise Him there. I thank God that He sent His only Son to die for our sins, reconciling us to Himself, never to be severed from Him and to suffer the eternal fires of Hell.
In spite of his deep anguish, David had so much faith and confidence in God that he commanded all forces of evil to leave him. He had the faith and confidence that God heard his prayer and would soon joyfully answer him. At the end of his prayer, he left with the faith and confidence that God would be who He is to those who take refuge in Him: gracious and merciful. David knew his anguish would end not with his shame, but with the shame of his enemies, and ultimately the shame of the Devil.
We ought to have the same faith and confidence David had, because the God he prayed to is the same God of today. As my first Hebrew professor at seminary often had us say, “We worship and believe the God of B.C. Israel.” God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8), and the God of the Old Testament is the same God as the New Testament.
If God can deliver David from his deep anguish, He can certainly do so with yours and mine today. As God’s children, we can rest assured that God hears and accepts our prayers, especially when we’re distraught and call out to Him, for He will console us. God’s will for us is not that we be shamed, but that we be sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Psalm 6 Prayer
Father, I know I’ve done wrong, but deal with me not in wrath, but as Your child in Your mercy. I am in anguish, O Lord. I need Your healing; I need Your consolation. Deliver me from this sin, O Lord. [Feel free to communicate your sin to Him and tell Him how you feel.] Father, help me to see my worth in Your Son. Let me not find worth in fickle emotions or in the things of this world, but in Your enduring grace and mercy. Thank You for saving me from eternal death through the grace of Your Son. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.