I wonder how long it is that my mind will be in this space, that my refrain will be from the second part of the third verse of psalm 6, “low long, O Lord, how long?” It feels like every day is the last one I can stand. Sometimes, I ask my husband to drive me home or I sit and stare at the wall, paralyzed. Psalm 6 gives voice to my frustration. I roll my eyes and pound at my pillow, I complain and cry about this disease that leaves me dumb, disorganized, addled. But I’m asking the wrong question.
The psalmist asked the wrong question too, right along with me–because the psalmist and I are not the first to suffer mental illness–and by God’s grace, the psalmist’s prayer is preserved for our benefit: it doesn’t end with the petulant question. It moves on.
“Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me for your mercy’s sake.”
The next verse moves our cries of complaint toward an admission of helplessness–toward the reality of deliverance outside ourselves. No longer a sulky whine but a cry of lifted hands desperate for a merciful gift; deliverance from oppression. We cannot deliver ourselves, indeed, just as cancer or cavities or coughs aren’t cured by sheer willpower, we are hopeless to heal ourselves.
Exactly in admitting the hopelessness of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, by turning to the Lord who is mighty to save, seeking God’s hands of healing grace, we are delivered, cured, healed, lifted up. And the wait is over–because God does not promise us an easy life, but promises us companionship in the waiting. All we’re ever really waiting for is God, and God’s already right there, if I’ll just stop complaining long enough to notice.
1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your wrath; •
neither chasten me in your fierce anger.
2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am weak; •
Lord, heal me, for my bones are racked.
3 My soul also shakes with terror; •
how long, O Lord, how long?
4 Turn again, O Lord, and deliver my soul; •
save me for your loving mercy’s sake.
5 For in death no one remembers you; •
and who can give you thanks in the grave?
6 I am weary with my groaning; •
every night I drench my pillow
and flood my bed with my tears.
7 My eyes are wasted with grief •
and worn away because of all my enemies.
8 Depart from me, all you that do evil, •
for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my supplication; •
the Lord will receive my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be put to shame and confusion; •
they shall suddenly turn back in their shame.