David's struggle with despondency grew very intense, perhaps prompting him to write the song we know today as Psalm 13. We can't be certain of the issue plaguing the poet-king. We do know, however, that some of David's darkest days came before he was officially promoted to the throne of Israel. God was preparing him for an immense task, and He used the trials to shape him into a man of maturity and inner strength. It may help us to look back into 1 Samuel for what might have been the circumstances that led David to write this song (See 1 Samuel 18:9–15, 28–29; 20:30–33).
He had just slain Goliath of Gath. The Philistines, therefore, had become a defeated foe of Israel, and David had become the most famous (though still youthful) hero in the land. As a result, the people sang his praises, which, in the process, arousedKing Saul's jealousy. How he hated David's popularity! As a result, Saul fell into such a fit of hostility he became focused on murdering David. Exit harmony. Enter despondency. Think of it! From that time on, David became the object of Saul's diabolical plan. Though innocent before God and loyal to King Saul, David literally ran for his life and lived as an escaped fugitive in the hills of Judea for more than a dozen years. Think of that!
Hunted and haunted by madman Saul, David must have entertained doubts at times. He often had no one but the Lord to turn to in his despondent moments. There he was, the anointed king-elect, existing like a beast in the wilderness, running for his life. (That would disillusion anyone!) I can imagine David slumped beside several large bushes or hidden beneath a boulder alongside some mountain—dirty and despondent, wondering if the chase would ever end.
With that as a backdrop, Psalm 13 makes a lot of sense. Like many of the "lament psalms," this is a song addressed to God, a prayer consisting of six verses that build toward a climax. It begins in the pit of despondency and concludes on the mountain peaks of ecstasy. Here is how I would outline David's song of despondency:
- David is on his face—flat on the ground, focused on his misery and complaints (vv. 1–2)
- He focuses on the depth of the trial
- He focuses on the length of the trial
- David is on his knees—taking his burden to the Lord and admitting his own dependence upon Him (vv. 3–4)
- David is on his feet—rejoicing and singing (vv. 5–6)
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.