Where do you turn in the midst of great suffering or trouble? Do you seek to escape it by your own cleverness? Do you complain to others that life is unfair?
For the man or woman of God, there is only one place, or more appropriately, one person to turn to when we are in pain—the Lord Himself. Whether we have done nothing to deserve maltreatment or we have “earned” our suffering by our sins or bad judgment, we are to run to our Father. The book of Psalms is filled with hymns of lament wherein the speaker, in dire straits, pours out his heart to God and calls on Him to act. Psalm 6 is one such lament.
We do not know exactly what prompted David to pen these words, but it seems that personal sin is not the cause of his trouble. Unlike laments that serve as prayers for forgiveness, such as Psalm 51, we find no confession of sin in today’s passage. David appears to be suffering some kind of injustice. However, it is instructive that in Psalm 6 David sees his suffering as the Lord’s discipline even though his pain is not tied to any specific sin. He asks God not to rebuke him in anger or discipline him in wrath. The suffering is so intense that it seems to David that God is on the verge of pouring out His wrathful chastisement (v. 1). David sees his troubles as the Lord’s discipline, but he asks God to refrain from disciplining him in a punitive manner because he sees nothing that should bring on his pain. He sets himself apart as a righteous man, separating himself from “workers of evil” (v. 8).
In Scripture, discipline is often associated with personal sin. Moses, for example, suffers punitive discipline when he does not heed the Lord’s word at Meribah, and he is barred from entering the Promised Land (Num. 20:2–13). But Scripture also knows of discipline that is not punitive, discipline that keeps one drawing near to the Lord for more than just forgiveness (for example, see Eph. 6:4). Not all of our suffering is tied to specific sin, but all of it is used by the Lord to discipline us and keep us in His service. When we are in the midst of such discipline, it is permissible—even advisable—to turn to God, pour out our grief, and pray for our deliverance from our troubles that we might rejoice on the other side of our pain. This is what David does in Psalm 6. His profound expressions of grief and pleas for deliverance give way to confidence that God has heard and will vindicate him (vv. 6–10). As we turn to the Lord, He will likewise renew our joy, assure us that all will one day be well, and confirm in us the wisdom of turning to Him in all things.