Be gracious, Lord, rebuke me not in wrath,
Nor in Your anger, for I waste away;
My bones, my soul are troubled — heal me, LORD!
How long, O LORD, how long will You delay?
On days I have been devastated by despair, it has been difficult to pray. It is hard to conceive God cares, else why would I be languishing in misery? Like Elijah seeking shade under a sycamore or Jonah sleeping at sea, waves of hopelessness and despondency prompt me to tune out the world and God along with it.
The Psalmist here shows us a different approach. Rather than run from trouble or responsibility, he calls on the One (and only One) able to help. This prayer acknowledges that God may well be the cause of the hardship. God may well be angry for something the Psalmist has done or failed to do. Be that as it is, the perception of God’s wrath does not keep the Psalmist from crying out to God in confidence that God is still the One who can (and will) deliver him, in time.
O LORD, return to liberate my soul!
And for your steadfast love come now to save!
For no one will remember You in death,
And who will glorify You in the grave?
Having cried out in anguish, the Psalmist moves directly to his plea for rescue. He bases his petition not on any goodness in himself. He does not deserve God’s mercy. Yet, he knows God’s steadfast love can sweep him up to new life beyond the deathly threat — again, not for his own good, but for God’s glory.
This Psalm serves as a prophetic word of how salvation works. Our imprisoned souls are liberated by Jesus Christ thanks to the steadfast love of the Lord. Christ’s resurrection answers the Psalmist’s concern about glory beyond the grave.
I have grown weary with my sighs and moans;
I cry and flood my bed with tears each night.
Due to my grief and all my enemies,
My weeping eyes grow weak and lose their sight.
Having expressed his pain and pleaded for deliverance, the Psalmist returns to describe in more detail the agony he is experiencing. Having suffered from chronic depression, I know too well the weariness of unending sighs and moans, of days and nights tossing and turning in bed, of grief caused not so much by enemies around me, but enemies within. It is something like a spiritual Sheol.
Sheol is a dark bedroom with the curtains closed.
Children playing outside, unwatched.
Disembodied voices on the radio sharing unending bad news.
A lifeless womb,
A tomb of unknown
Time lost in the Sheol of despair and despondency robs us of our sight. And, as the Bible says, “without vision, people perish.”
Nonetheless, the Psalmist does not remain stuck in dark depression. Instead, he chooses to believe in the character of Jehovah Jirah, the Lord who hears and provides the help we need just when we need it most.
The LORD has heard, the LORD has heard my cries;
All evildoers, go, depart from me!
The LORD receives each prayer I make to Him.
Troubled and shamed, my foes leave suddenly.
It is a great relief to know as we lie in the darkness, hiding from enemies within and around us, that we have a God who hears our prayers and responds when we need him most. God does not leave us in the darkness, but shines a light for us to follow. And our enemies flee like cockroaches in a dilapidated motel.
bold quotes are from “Be Gracious, LORD” by Frederick C. Atkinson based on Psalm 6 in The Book of Psalms for Worship
the other quote is from “From the Depths of Sheol” by Tony Roberts in Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission