A Contradictory Psalm

The Daily Daveotional

Psalm 13

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

1O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?

2How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

3Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die.

4Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

5But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

6I will sing to the LORD because he has been so good to me.

(Psalm 13, NLT)

In this Psalm, David cries out to the Lord as his soul is in deep anguish. He feels defeated by his enemies and he feels abandoned by God.

But by the end of the Psalm, David says that he trusts in God’s unfailing love, rejoices that God has rescued him and sings to the Lord because God has been so good to him.

On the surface, this Psalm seems like a contradiction in perspective. One moment, David is complaining that the Lord has abandoned him and in the next moment, he’s praising God for rescuing him and being so good to him.

Which is it?  It’s as if David is shifting back and forth between alternate universes in real time. Is he hallucinating? Is he disconnected from reality? Or is there some other explanation?

The truth is that David IS in anguish. He DOES feel abandoned. He DOES feel like his enemies are overtaking him.

These are real emotions David is experiencing and they are are all true.

But what is also true is God’s sovereignty, love and goodness. David recognizes these things too and is able to acknowledge their reality.

This is what Henry Cloud, in his book “Changes That Heal”, calls sorting the good and bad. People who do this well recognize that there is both good and bad in our world. They are able to deal with the reality that both exist in a way that doesn’t allow negative outcomes to become the consuming focus of their reality.

People who don’t do this well tend to go all bad if one little thing goes wrong.

What do I mean by going “all bad”?

Going all bad occurs when we allow a negative experience or circumstance to so consume us that we begin to project our negative emotion on all aspects of our reality. Our attitude and judgment is clouded in such a way that we can only see and focus on things that are negative while being purposely blind to any good elements in our reality.

David doesn’t do this. He recognizes the bad circumstances he’s in and he’s honest about his emotions. But David also acknowledges the good that still exists, namely, the reality that God is good and loving.


What keeps you from being completely honest with God about your emotions? 

When have you gone all bad as a result of an undesired circumstance? What was the situation you were in and how did your emotions affect your perception of reality?

What do you think are some practical ways you can develop in your ability to sort the good and bad?

What are 10 things you can think of right now that are positive about your current life situation?


Photo of “Changes That Heal” from Amazon website – by Dave Lowe

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