Psalm 6: Dismayed

Ps 6:2-3, “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; but You, O Lord – how long?

Dismayed. I know. It’s not really a word that many of us use these days. At least not in everyday conversation. For example, when was the last time you received a text message or a tweet that contained the word dismayed? Probably never is what I’m thinking. Other than high school vocabulary lists and as a question to a Jeopardy answer, the word dismayed just doesn’t show up in contemporary language. So, what do you do when you find it in the Bible? Well, if you’re anything like me, you skip over it and just keep reading. The problem is that God wants us to be students of His word (see 2 Tim 2:25 for example). Ignorance is never an excuse. Understanding and knowledge should be the goal. Even if it means putting forth a little extra effort and occasionally opening up a dictionary.

The real challenge in this specific instance is that an English dictionary might lead you down the wrong path. In Hebrew (the language of the OT) there is more than one word that we translate using the English word dismayed. And sometimes the specific application can have a very wide gap in meaning. For example, consider 1 Samuel 17:11 (NASB). It reads as follows, “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine (Goliath) , they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” There’s our word. You see it? Dismayed. Same word that appears in Psalm 6, right? Wrong. It’s the same word in English. But it’s two entirely different words in Hebrew. The word used in 1 Samuel is a word that means being broken or shattered. In other words, Israel was filled with terror at the sight of Goliath and their will to fight was broken. They were dismayed.

David, however, is talking about something entirely different in Psalm 6 when he writes that his bones and his soul are dismayed. In this specific instance David is talking primarily about the loss of courage, resolve, and enthusiasm. He is a man who is struggling with disappointment, a man on the verge of become disillusioned. This is not terror. This is not fear. No, this is the discouragemant that leads a person to quit, to give up, to throw in the towel. Look at the rest of the Psalm. We cannot be certain of the specifics (probably a physical illness) but he is a man who is fighting with despair. Consider the words that the text uses, “weary with sighing… tears… wasted away with grief… weeping.” There is also the intimation that his present situation may well be the fruit of his own choosing, quite possibly a rebuke from the Lord for some sinful act. Just consider the tone of the first verse where David uses strong words like, “rebuke… anger… chasten… wrath.” And finally, to further complicate matters, his adversaries are taking advantage of his current plight, using his suffering as an opportunity to attack him. Wow! Talk about stress. Talk about pressure and adversity. Given the circumstances I am amazed that David didn’t quit. He was a man who, to use the Biblical word, was indeed dismayed.

Maybe that’s where you find yourself today. Maybe you feel dismayed. Life has been hard for you. Pain fills your days. Tears fill your night. Hanging over it all is the growing awareness that in many ways you are responsible for a large part of the problem. You look around you for a friend but all you find are people who accuse and attack with their words. You are wrestling with despair. You are trying your best not to become disillusioned. Everything inside you wants to quit.

If that’s you today, let me encourage you to take heart. Read ALL of Psalm 6. In the beginning David is the one who is dismayed. But by the end of the chapter something amazing has happened. In verse 8 his courage and resolve find renewed strength. He declares that God has heard his weeping, God has heard his cry, and God is going to answer his prayer. His dismay is going to be removed. Relocated actually. Look at verse 10. “All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed; they shall turn back, they will be suddenly ashamed.” There it is again. One more time. One last time. Dismayed. The only difference is that it has now been lifted from David’s life and placed upon God’s enemies. I know it seems impossible right now but the same will hold true for you. Your day is coming. You may be dismayed at the moment but God sees, God knows, God hears  and God will answer. I don’t know when and I don’t know how. But it’s going to happen. He did not fail David. And He will not fail you. The day is coming when your dismay will finally give way.