“Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you” (Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV).
I don’t know how many times I need to hear this lesson but seems that the Lord brings it up again and again. Remember no pain, no gain! Perhaps I’m hard of hearing or slow to learn but His Love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out on me. So why is it that when pain comes I sometimes get so depressed?
And I’m not just talking about those days when I’m feeling lonely or blue. You ever have those days? Those days come and go for everyone I’m told. Nor am I talking about those times when I’m grieving the loss of someone close. Everyone experiences a little depression when grief and loss comes.
No, I’m talking about those dark episodes that linger and seem like they will never end. Those days where it seems Simon and Garfunkel take control of my thoughts with “hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”, and even when I pray, seems all I hear are “sounds of silence”. Have you ever been there?
Those times when like David says in this Psalm, “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears” (Psalm 6:6 (NIV). It’s in those times that we especially need the Soul Care of Scripture and the skillful hand of our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of David, to bring us back to truth and emotional health like only He can do.
Now I have no idea where you are at as I’m writing this. In fact, I don’t even know where I will be emotionally, on the day that this sermon is written for. But the day I began writing was April 18th and I had been downstairs half the morning with God’s Kitchen talking with many people who were, without a doubt, in desperate need of the Soul Care that comes from hearing and understanding these very Scriptures. From, “Remembering the days of old; considering the generations long past. Asking your father and … your elders, to explain to you” just how they coped with misery (Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV).
In Psalm 6 David deals head on with those “sounds of silence” and the fears that he has gone past the point of no return with God’s patience. I know it’s not a cheery feel good start for our Summer in the Psalms, Soul Care but sometimes life’s like that. And you have to deal with it! And in those times, knowing how David worked his way through the darkness may bring us the light we need to see that there are better days ahead.
So if you have your Bible’s along let’s go through Psalm 6.
Ok so my sound effects can use a little help. But I hope you have caught that this is a Psalm of someone deeply in pain and clearly depressed because of it. Yet David is also genuinely repentant, even sorrowful for what he owns as his fault for the situation he finds himself in. In fact, he not only owns it he accepts that he had it coming because of his choices. David is showing integrity.
“This Psalm is commonly known as the first of seven Penitential Psalms… (The other six are Psalms 32, 38, 51, 102:1-7, 130, 143)” (The Treasury of David.) Each one expressing a genuine time of heartfelt repentance by one who has messed up perhaps Royally messed up again. We’re not talking oopps I let the f-bomb slip past my lips. Some of these Psalms were written after dark and major transgressions in the life of the Psalmist.
Take for instance Psalm 51, which was written after David had an affair with Bathsheba and then David ordered her husband to the front lines to be killed. David did this to cover up his sin because Bathsheba became pregnant as the result of their affair.
Psalm 6 is harder to pin down as to what brought on the need for such sorrowful words. Some scholars believe that David grew gravely ill and was near death when he cried out:
“O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath” (Psalm 6:1 (NIV).
Stop for a moment and imagine. What might it look like for the Lord to disciple you in His anger or wrath? Would it look like this?
The finger of God reaching down and suddenly you’re toast! A pile of ashes with wafers of smoke. Sometimes, I don’t think we quite understand the extent of the power of His wrath. Trust me you do not want to get God angry. But wrath isn’t the verb of the sentence. Still, maybe your idea is more like this picture?
This kind of wrath…when your cup of inequity has reached its limit on high and your sins flow from heaven like burning sulphur, levelling everything in their wake. A rebuke so strong that even a slight act of rebellion gets swallowed up because of the heinous nature of sin.
Lot’s wife was severely disciplined for looking where she ought not. And to this day the once fertile land of Sodom is uninhabitable.
“O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath” (Psalm 6:1 (NIV).
God’s anger? What would David have remembered, or learned from the elders about God’s anger? He could have thought about the time when the ground open and swallowed 14000 rebellious people and everything they owned…
Numbers 16:31-35 tells us: “(31) … the ground under them split apart (32) and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. (33) They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. (34) At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” (35) And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense” (Numbers 16:31-35 (NIV). I don’t suspect David had that event in his mind as he laid on his sick bed.
Maybe your imagination of verse 1 took you more in this picture’s direction?
David would have heard from his father and been taught by the elders of that time when Miriam was so rebellious. How her rebellion angered the Lord who showed great restrain I might add. After a strong rebuke from the Lord she suddenly was stricken with leprosy (cf. Numbers 12:3ff). That sickness was indeed a discipline from the Lord! There was a clear cause and effect. It was immediately evident to all who were there when it happened. This wasn’t a sickness that came on over days, months or years. The moment the Lord finished speaking she went from fair skinned to leprous.
I stress this because a lot of sickness is blamed on God that is clearly organic. Even some types of depression. A chemical imbalance can cause the mind to drift into darkness and despair. The depression may not be spiritual in nature at all. And if it is simply a chemical imbalance all the casting out of demons and prayers of repentance of sins will do for you is cause more despair and depression, even greater anxiety because God’s seemingly lack of compassion may even seem punitive. Until the chemical imbalance is rectified, or God chooses to supernaturally rectify it, the darkness of despair will remain. Good News! God has given some to be Doctors and Chemists and allowed mankind to find out about those chemical imbalances and God has given knowledge of treatments that can radically alleviate the chemical imbalances. This too has been in answer to prayer! Yes even science can be an answer to prayer!
Which doesn’t negate the fact that sometimes God does rebuke and discipline people, physically, biologically, powerfully at times. What we can learn from any of these wrathful passages is that when God is rebuking you in His anger or disciplining you in His wrath, you know it. Miriam had no doubt Who caused her sudden case of leprosy. It didn’t start as a speck and spread slowly, it came along with a verbal rebuke so the lesson was understood.
If David was sick, as some suggest, he certainly could look back to all he had learnt of God’s anger and wrath and begin to worry and fret that his current situation was about to go from bad to worse. David knew that he wouldn’t stand a chance if God disciplined him in anger or wrath. So he cried out for mercy.
Remember, no pain no gain. It wasn’t that David wanted to get away with the sin he was being disciplined for, he just didn’t want God to be angry or wrathful when he was being rebuking David. And so, David begins this prayer appealing from the knowledge of Who God is, and the understanding of What God could do appealing to His compassion.
“(2) Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. (3) My soul is in anguish.”
David was hurting deeply. Physically hurting and in much pain, but also in great mental anguish.
Physical pain wears you down on all levels! Because you can’t do things you used to do psychologically that may lead you to believe that you are worthless. Mentally you struggle with those doubts and that self-worth and left unchecked that can spiral into depression. So, let’s nip that at the bud, shall we?
No more pain! Yup, that’s the answer, right? Get rid of all pain. If David hadn’t felt bones in agony he wouldn’t have had mental anguish and his life would be rosy, right?
Unfortunately, the avoidance of pain usually leads to other issues. In fact, ask any addict what got them hooked, and if they know themselves at all, they will tell you the pain that lead to addiction. So get rid of or somehow mask the pain, because pain is bad! Right?
Pain is actually something to thank God for.
I know, you are likely thinking, “What is this sicko pastor talking about. Pain is something to thank God for?” Bear with me for a moment.
Many years ago, as I was beginning my journey with Christ, I read a book called, “The Gift Nobody Wants” by Phillip Yancy and Dr. Paul Brand. They’ve since changed the title to “The Gift of Pain”. I guess they wanted people to want to buy a book about something nobody wants.
Dr. Brand spent much of his career helping people with Leprosy. And he came to the understanding that pain is actually a gift that helps us know when something is wrong or hurting so that we could actually do something about it. Without pain one gets into much trouble, as Dr. Band learned from those with Leprosy.
In Moloka?i, Hawaii stands a grave to a Saint named Father Damien, one of only a few people in America to be officially Sainted by the Catholic Church. Father Damien was a compassionate and caring priest who personally cared for the needs of those with Leprosy. This at very great person risk back in those days I might add.
As you can see from the picture above the risk was genuine. He eventually noticed, after pouring scalding hot water on himself and not even flinching, that he had contracted the disease and some time later he died from leprosy.
But unlike those with leprosy David was in agony, physical, mental and spiritual agony. His pain kept him up day and night and the lack of sleep combined with that intense pain caused him great mental anguish.
Those who have suffered like that can tell you that at first you feel that this is temporary and will go away. But when it doesn’t, it’s hard to keep up hope and not slip down that slippery slope.
Again, this wasn’t the pain of a sore foot throbbing that wakes you up once and while that David’s crying about. David’s cry “how long Lord, how long?”, tells us that this had knocked him down near the point of death. In fact he says exactly that in verse 5 as he calls out to God, “No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave?” (Psalm 6:5 (NIV)
Again, David isn’t being a drama queen here. And he doesn’t accuse God of being sadistic in delivering the discipline that David felt was just.
Instead David calls upon God’s mercy, “Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (Psalm 6:4 (NIV).
David reminded God of what He said about himself as His Glory passed in front of father Moses, “…God proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…” (Ex. 34:6-7). David had remembered God’s unfailing love in the past. He remembered what his father and the elders said about their God. He knew the stories of deliverance as well as those of His wrath.
He knew that when they called upon God, even while in their rebellion, God not only disciplined them but He also delivered them.
David looked back to see what was ahead and he remembered God’s unfailing love. And you can too!
Because Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday today and forever. His promises are sure. He is the faithful one so unchanging! But if you sin…remember, “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…” (Ex. 34:7). He loves you too much to let you continue to do those things that hurt you. So, He’ll discipline you appropriately.
Solomon, wrote, “(11) My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, (12) because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in”(Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV).
This pain had a purpose for David’s life. And it is still fulfilling its purpose thousands of years later. But, Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). No pain, no gain!
BUT only sicko’s like the pain! Emotional pain like physical pain maybe necessary and even a gift that can tell us when something is a skew in our relationship with God and or our fellow man. So even there, no pain, no gain! But too much pain is simply too much!
David cried out, “(6) I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. (7) My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes” (Psalm 6:6-7 (NIV).
David was human. We all have our limits when it comes to pain. Unless of course we’re leprous or too macho for our own good. David cried mercy and our Heavenly Father knows when enough is enough.
As kids my older brothers and I liked to watch Stampede Wrestling on Saturdays. And as brothers do we would occasionally wrestle as we watched. We had a code word when we could stand it no more. We would cry, “uncle”. And most of the time the one with the upper hand would stop. Not always, … but most of the time. Sometimes it would be days before the sore muscles and bruises vanished especially when we refused, in our pride to cry, “uncle”. Eventually I learned when enough was enough, at least while wrestling with my brothers.
David didn’t succumb to the temptation to curse God and die, or even crawl under a rock to die. Instead, with all that was left in him, he cried out to God for mercy.
Now this Psalm could have ended with his cry. It could have left us guessing what the outcome was. But David himself tells us what happened next. The battle briefly intensified for his mind and then it suddenly was over.
David said, “(8) Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. (9) The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.”
How did David know that the Lord heard his prayer?
I suspect it was the remembrance of past answers where God had delivered him that gave him confidence in this present darkness. After all the God of his yesterday was still his God in the day of pain.
Like David, we too need to look back to how God was there for us to find hope for our future. For the God of our past is present with us and will be with us for eternity. He will never leave us nor forsake us, and we know He disciplines those he loves.
We see at the end of this Psalm that David suddenly had the strength to fight on and the confidence that the outcome would be victorious!
“(10) All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace” (Psalm 6:10 (NIV). The God of his past gave David hope for his future, once more and again. He had victory over the darkness.
As that great Hymn writer wrote, “The darkness will turn to the dawning and the dawning to noon day bright! And Christ’s great Kingdom will come on earth, the Kingdom of love and light.” (Lyrics: We’ve a story to tell to the Nations)