For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
David probably wrote Psalm 13 when Saul tried to kill him. This happened often. David asks God 4 times “How long?” In modern terms we might classify David as depressed. There is an evident heavy sadness going on. David prayed to God. He said that he believed that God would not fail him. God would make him safe. He could see a time of rejoicing ahead.
Verses 1-6: Psalm 13 launches with 4 “How longs”, indicating another lament is about to begin. But David will shift radically from turmoil to peace in the space of 6 short verses through 3 levels of attitude.
(1) Below “Sea Level” Expressions of Despair (13:1-2);
(2) “Sea Level” Expressions of Desires (13:3-4);
(3) “Mountaintop Level” Expressions of Delight (13:5-6).
The opening lines in verses 1-2 reintroduce the familiar triangle of the psalmist, his God, and his enemies. This 3-way relationship produces perplexity and pain. In view of God’s apparent absence (verse 1), he seems left to his own resources which are unable to deal with the reality of his enemies (verse 2).
David asks God for an answer. After running from Saul countless times, David was so worn emotionally that he felt as though he would “sleep the sleep of death”. In his despair he acknowledged this but asked for light to his eyes. He didn’t want to die, he wanted to live but he needed God’s intervention to give him what he now realised that his own resources could not provide.
In verses 4-5 using the same verb “Rejoice”, he deliberately contrasts his enemy’s celebration with his own confidence in divine deliverance.
One of the reasons that Moses gave God a reason not to destroy the children of Israel out in the wilderness, when they made the golden calf, was that the Egyptians would rejoice about it. God’s reputation would be on the line.
David is explaining to God that God’s enemies will rejoice over the destruction of David. Those who are opposed to David are God’s enemies, as well as David’s.
In fact, they associated David with the God of Israel. When David killed Goliath, he came against him in the name of the God of Israel. The name of David was synonymous with the work of God.
God does not answer David, however David is sure that he will answer.
The psalm reaches its turning point when David recalls what God has done for him, giving him victory over the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17), and saving him from Saul’s attacks (1 Samuel 19:9-10). David was confident that God would take care of this situation.
The Psalm closes with David praising God in song for dealing so generously with him. The power of remembering what God has done for us, the power of gratitude and prayer can really change perspective in a significant way.
Reflections from my original journal notes on 15 August 2015
How long, Lord? Will you forget me for ever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.
I love this Psalm. It really shows David wrestling with God. I really feel the need to do that. My prayers become so religious, so quickly. I think I become self sufficient too quickly and then I forget how dangerous I am in that condition and where that leads.
I had a phone conversation with my former boss about all of my day to day work. It felt good to talk through what I used to do. It made me feel good about how hard I worked. I obviously have a lot of negative connections about it now because of what I did but we talked for about two hours about what I did and different things I developed and I remembered a lot of great things and great people.
My former boss also expressed for the first time his own feelings which was hard to hear but helpful. He was asking me for answers about why and how that I cannot yet give but he expressed a lot of anger and hurt at my betrayal.
He also mentioned that he had seen a conversation I had with one of my former mistresses in Skype. It was embarrassing to hear that but also I was angry that my Skype, Facebook and Messenger are not uninstalled from my work phone after repeated requests. I am not sure it’s even legal that they should be looking at my private conversations.
On the other hand with everything so clearly out in the open and completely transparent then it can only be a good thing if I am going to find any kind of recovery from all this carnage that I have created.
I arrived at my brother’s house and ate with him and my sister in law. We had a good relaxing evening. We didn’t get into a lot of detail but talked a little about what happened. I felt a bit nervous and apprehensive on the journey and as I arrived but quickly felt settled and at ease. It is great to be with them.
I started to reflect on the questions I have been asking myself
**What mistakes did I make?
- I stopped walking with God
- I did not trust anyone enough to be open and honest about my feelings
- I wasn’t courageous with my wife about difficult conversations in our marriage
- I wasn’t courageous enough to talk about my feelings relating to church practice,
- my experience of church as a leader and staff member.
- I had a sense of entitlement which went unchecked
- I had resentments that I didn’t talk about
- I started to entertain sexual thoughts without reigning them in
- I went on camsites#
- I paid for camsites…started to run up debt to get attention
- Began a secret second world in camsites and Facebook
- As I started to connect with different women I allowed a fantasy world to emerge about being with them
- Allowed the debt to spiral out of control
- Started buying “how to make money information” and spiralled further out of control
- Started to meet women and eventually had sex.
- Had on going affairs …spent money travelling, apartment rental etc.,
- Began to borrow money from work …spiralled out of control and became stealing to balance our own bank.
**Who have I hurt, disappointed, let down, offended?
- My wife
- Family immediate family and broader family
- Colleagues, clients, volunteers, board
- Close friends
- Local congregation
- Broader church community, many people know me in the UK and around the world
It is too many people to name them all at the moment but it looks a daunting repair job.
**What has been the emotional impact on others?
- Broken trust
As I look through the list of wrongdoing and sin, the sheer volume of people impacted by this and the emotional impact. It’s hard to fully engage with. I feel some awakening connection but then I put the lid on it.
I start to imagine down the road what restoration to the church would look like and imagine the steps I would need to take to get there. The conversations, the public apology and how overwhelming that feels. There’s a lot of shame and fear in the midst of all of this.
Then my thoughts shift to …why do I want to be restored to this. After all this whole corporate religion didn’t work for me and I imagine normal discipling experiences and how discipling might be after this and my imagination takes me to the kind of conversations that push my triggers. This is all unhelpful projection and I can do nothing about it right now.
I want to discover who I am, I am a little afraid of discovering who I really am. I have been cold and cruel. What do I want? …repair the damage, restore the relationships and recompense the loss.
These are the only things that I am certain about at this point. How other people interact with this I cannot do anything about and is really not my business. All I can do is keep my side of the street clean. I better start sweeping. These are the important things to hold onto. I don’t need to think about church today. I don’t need to think about the future. I have to keep it in the day.
Reflections two years and 4 months further down the road
It’s seriously hard to read this on one hand. I am embarrassed about some of my thinking at the time and can see clearly that although there was a glimmer of some good intent I was still in a very confused place. I thank God for today.
There is so much in the Psalm about desperation because David knew that his own resources were spent and that only God could bring him through to safety. I can fully connect with that feeling. I remember the prayer walk along the Roding River was defining for me. I think that was the day that my relationship with God was restored, that was the day that I aligned my will to his again and that was the day that the consequences became inconsequential.