Psalms for Families: Devotions for All Ages, Psalm 13

Psalms for Families, by Robert J. Keeley and Laura Keeley, is a devotional book for the entire family designed to help parents explore the riches of the book of Psalms with their children and teens. These devotionals will help parents learn more about the psalms as they teach their children about praise, prayer, and lament. This book contains four devotionals on each of our selected psalms as well as notes for adults that provide additional information and background.

Introduction and Full Series

Devotional 1, Devotional 2, Devotional 3, Devotional 4, Notes for Adults

Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

    How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

 

Prayer

Gracious God,
Sometimes we feel like you are far away from us. When we feel that way, we don’t always know what to do. Remind us in those times that we can always come to you and that you will always hear us. We trust in you! Amen.

Psalm 13, Lord How Long?

Psalm 13
Devotional 1: Lord, How Long? 

Some days things just don’t go well. Some days it feels like everyone is picking on you and nothing is going right. Have you ever felt that way? On those days it can be hard to talk to God.

Take a look at what Psalm 13:1-2 says:

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
   How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
   and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

   How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Did you know stuff like that was in the Bible? The writer of this psalm is pouring out his heart to God. He actually dares to question God. Have you ever felt that way? Maybe some days you wonder if God is around. Some days it might seem that God has forgotten you. Some days you wonder how long you’ll have to feel this way.

Now read what Psalm 13:3-4 says:

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
   Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
   and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

Wow! Again the writer is saying how bad his life is. His enemies are winning, and he is losing—and his enemies are happy that he’s losing!.

So things seem pretty bad. Where does the writer go from there? Read Psalm 13:5-6:

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
   my heart rejoices in your salvation
.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
   for he has been good to me.

That’s quite a change from the beginning of the psalm. Even though the writer is feeling like God has forgotten him, he realizes that he still trusts God. Plus, he is going to sing praise to God because he realizes that God has been good to him. That’s pretty great. I wonder if we can do that too?

Enter the Psalm: Write the words “I trust in your unfailing love” on a Post-It® note. Put it on the headboard of your bed to help you remember when you go to sleep and when you wake up that even when things are not going well we can trust in God and sing his praises.

Psalm 13, My Lament

Psalm 13
Devotional 2: My Lament

We don’t use the word lament very often, but there are lots of laments in the book of Psalms. A lament is when someone tells the sad things that are happening to him or her. Lamenting is something everyone has in common. We are all sad sometimes. The laments in the Bible show us that we can tell our sad thoughts to God.

In Psalm 13:1-4 the writer writes about his sadness. But then he remembers that God is really with him, even when he doesn’t feel like God is there. Listen to what he says in verses 5 and 6:

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
   my heart rejoices in your salvation
.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
   for he has been good to me.

By adding verses 5 and 6, the lament changes from focusing on sadness to focusing on trust in God. Psalm 13 helps us know that we can bring our sorrows to God and it also helps us remember God’s promises to us and his love for us.

Enter the Psalm: Think of a time when you were sad. What was happening to make you sad? When you were sad did you think about whether God knew you were sad? As you remember that time, write your own version of Psalm 13. Start with the phrase “How long, Lord?”

Example:        How long, Lord, will you be gone?
                    I am so worried. My friends are not being nice to me.
                    I’m getting in trouble with my parents.
                    It feels like no one likes me. Please answer me! 

Complete your psalm by adding Psalm 13:5-6 in your own words.

Psalm 13, Lamenting for Others

Psalm 13
Devotional 3: Lamenting for Others

In the previous two devotionals we looked at the laments in Psalm 13. The writer was lamenting about things that were happening to him. Sometimes when bad things are happening to us, we lament too. But other times we might feel sad about things that are happening to someone else.

Many people in our world—and even in your own city or neighborhood—are having a very hard time. Some of them don’t have enough to eat, or a safe place to live, or parents who love them. Some of them are sick, or maybe someone they love has died. Some people are lonely and don’t have any friends.

Do you know people in your church or in your school who are lamenting right now? Think about those people as you read Psalm 13:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

We can pray for other people who are sad, because God hears us whenever we call to him. Saying Psalm 13 is one way to do that.

Enter the Psalm: Think about how you can talk to God about other people who feel sad (both people you know and people you don’t know). Use the words of Psalm 13 to help you do that.

Example:        “How long will poor people have to be hungry?”
                    “How long will Bill be sick?”
                    “How long will it be until Jenny has friends?” 

After you have thought about this lament, read Psalm 13:5-6 again.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
   my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
   for he has been good to me.

Psalm 13, Did Joseph Lament?

Psalm 13
Devotional 4: Did Joseph Lament?

Psalm 13 is a lament. Laments are written when people feel sad. You might not think that the people who wrote the Bible felt sad sometimes, but they did—just like you and me.

Joseph was one of those people, and you can read his story in the book of Genesis. He had eleven brothers, but his father, Jacob, loved him the best of all the boys. Most parents don’t say that they love one child more than they love their other children, but Joseph’s father made it pretty clear that he did. He even gave Joseph a specially made colorful coat. Joseph’s brothers were angry that Joseph got special treatment and they didn’t like it that their father liked him best. Joseph also had dreams—dreams where his brothers were bowing down to him. Joseph’s brothers were not happy with him, so they made a plan to get rid of Joseph.

One day, Jacob sent Joseph out into the fields where his brothers were watching over the sheep. Joseph wore his colorful coat. When his brothers saw him coming, some of them said they should kill Joseph. One brother suggested instead that they put Joseph in a pit and tell their father that he was dead. So that’s what they did! When he was in that pit, Joseph probably felt pretty sad and angry. He might have said some words of lament.

Read Psalm 13. As you read it, think about Joseph sitting in the pit and how he must have felt.

The story of Joseph doesn’t end with him in the pit. His brothers sold him and he was taken to Egypt to work as a slave. Things were bad for Joseph for a long time. Maybe he often called to God using words like those we see in Psalm 13. 

Enter the Psalm: Talk about another time in Joseph’s life when Joseph might have used the words of Psalm 13 (check out Genesis 39). Do you think Joseph ever thought that God had left him?


Psalm 13
More
Lord, Where Are You? (Notes for Adults) 

Psalm 13 is a psalm of lament. About one-third of all the psalms are laments. These psalms show us that we can bring our grief and sorrow to the Lord.

When our home church completed a year-long study of the psalms, we discovered that the psalms of lament often resonated the most with us because we found comfort in knowing that God hears us and weeps with us. This concept can be difficult to talk about with children, but it is an important one because they have sorrows too. We don’t want to send children the message that God only wants to hear good things from us.

This particular psalm begins by asking God how long we will have to put up with the current bad situation we find ourselves in. We don’t know exactly what was going on when David wrote this psalm, but he might have been suffering from some illness (see verse 3: “give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death”). But whatever the problem is, David does not talk about it right away. Rather, he talks about God hiding his face, David wrestling with his own thoughts, and his enemies triumphing over him.

It’s interesting that the idea of David wrestling with his own thoughts is so prominent in this psalm. When we’re ill, many of us find ourselves worrying about symptoms that we might have (real or not) and imagining the worst possible outcome. Perhaps David was doing the same thing.

But this psalm, as with most psalms of lament, has a “turn”—a place where the psalmist recognizes that God is still God and deserves praise, a place where he realizes that God has not forsaken him. In this psalm, the turn happens at verse 5. This is a good reminder that God’s presence in our lives is not dependent on how we feel.

Children often lament, but it can be a challenge for them to express what they feel sad about. We’re not suggesting that you press or spend extra time getting at these things, but these psalms can help provide words for children to say what is on their hearts in a safe and caring environment. As you read other psalms of lament, children and adults might become more comfortable bringing their cares to God. Verses 5 and 6 can bring real comfort, reminding us that God really is with us even when we don’t feel that he’s there.

This is not the only psalm that starts with lament and ends with praise. All the laments in the book of Psalms except one (Psalm 88) change their focus from lament to praising or to thanking God.

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