O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. 2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. 3 My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD—how long?
4 Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (Psalm 6:1-4)
A reading of the entire psalm will leave you with no doubt concerning the fact that David is “greatly troubled.” Indeed, in verse 6 he tells God that he floods his bed with tears and drenches his couch with weeping. Perhaps you’ve been there, or perhaps that is where you find yourself now. It is what some might call “the dark night of the soul.”
Since at least the 6th century the church has listed this psalm as one of the seven “penitential psalms” sung in some traditions during the season of Lent. These psalms help believers cry out in their own prayers when they feel they are under the discipline of God. Trouble in our lives is never in proportion to our sin (see Luke 13:1-5) and most often not connected to a specific sin (see John 9:1-3), yet we are assured that God disciplines his children out of love for our good (see Hebrews 12:4-13).
Wondering if he is under God’s discipline, David cries out for God to graciously relent. In verse 4 he asks that God would deliver and save him from the plight in which he finds himself. Yet notice the basis of his plea: “save me for the sake of your steadfast love (vs. 4b) ” This is a plea that rests on the character of God that David knows. God is a God of loyal, steadfast, covenant love and David makes his plea on this basis. When you are flooding your bed with tears, wondering if your circumstance is even a part of God’s discipline, then let David be your guide. Like David, run to the certainties of God’s character - his loyal unfailing love.
We have even more reason to cry out to God on the basis of his unfailing love for we have seen God’s love demonstrated in a far greater way than David ever did. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”