A Psalm a Day: Psalm 6

For September 2022, I’m trying to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:

  • What is this Psalm about?
  • What does this Psalm teach about God?
  • How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.

psalm 6

For the sixth of September, here’s Psalm 6:

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
    save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
    Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
    and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
    they fail because of all my foes.

Away from me, all you who do evil,
    for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
    they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

What is this Psalm about?

This is traditionally understood as a lament Psalm – which is clear from the language and the snapshot of a story of pain and anguish. Yet it is a complex, two-sided lament: the Psalmist both recognises his own sin, and is crying out to God the face of real opposition. There’s a possible third string to it, to mix the metaphor – with what sounds like deep and chronic pain hinted at in verses 2 and 3. This is an honest Psalm – and it is a Psalm about a God who hears, and what that God will do. It ends on a hopeful note – not rushing to a happy resolution, but abruptly and carefully pointing onward.

What does this Psalm teach about God?

Once again, we have a God who hears, and this time the narrative promise of action. Second, we see a God who is both wrathful and merciful, disciplinary and forgiving. God is not a cosmic vending machine, who merely dispenses good things, nor a cold heavenly judge, waiting to catch us out. Psalm 6 portrays God as the one who listens, the one who hears, and the one who will act.

How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

God’s people, Christians, still sin – and we can only move on from that in repentance because of God’s unfailing love. God’s people, the family of the great physician, Jesus, still get ill and live in pain – Psalm 6 offers a hint of healing and, I think, an honest promise that it will come. God’s people often feel oppressed, misunderstood or persecuted – and historically and globally we are (though not, I would add, really in the West, by and large) persecuted. This Psalm connects contemporary Christians with God’s people throughout history – and their suffering.

Personally, as someone living with depression which has been at times severe and crippling, verse 6 seems almost painfully real:

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
    and drench my couch with tears.

Seeing this in the Bible is an immensely intimate and healing thing for me personally – I’ve become weary of groaning, my pillow has been wet with tears, and this phrasing resonates with the complex, painful memory of those times. And this is in the Bible, not varnished or removed, not rushed over or as a sidenote, but as part of a Psalm. It fits into the narrative of this Psalm – and is bracketed by the request for healing (v2) and the hint that God will act (v10).

A Prayer from Psalm 6

Lord, thank you that you hear my cry, and that I can bring my whole life to you, even the parts that hurt and the parts that bring me shame. Thank you that you are a listening God, and that you will act. Show me how to be honest about evil, help me to name my enemies and leave justice to you.

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