When I was a high school senior, I audited an upper-level English literature course at a local college. The professor assigned two novels, both written in 18th-century English and extremely hard for this 18-year-old to decipher. Luckily, the professor explained each reading at length. Though much of that course has disappeared from my memory, I’ll never forget a quote from George Eliot’s Middlemarch. For some reason, it implanted itself in my mind, and I doubt it will ever leave.
“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heartbeat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”
What I take from that quote is this: If we could hear “all ordinary human life,” it would be deafening. Can you imagine hearing everything? From the simple growth of the grass all around us to the cries of children in the night from hunger, to the millions upon millions of groans that go up to the Lord each moment? I cannot fathom the sound.
That’s why, when it comes to Psalm 6, I know I’m on holy ground.
I don’t know for certain what left David so shaken that he wore himself out with groaning—although there are plenty of scenarios to choose from in 1 and 2 Samuel: His best friend’s father was trying to kill him. He had to hide away in enemy territory for decades. The only men who went with him were desperate, indebted criminals (1Samuel 22:2). In many ways, he was alone in the world.
I don’t know exactly why David wrote this psalm, and I don’t know how you’ll relate to it either. Perhaps the imagery of crying nightly against your pillow is no imagery at all. Perhaps that’s your reality. Marriages falter under the weight of years of sorrow. Children defy our expectations and hopes. Relationships plunder our hearts, leaving us to clean up the wreckage. Even the best, most hopeful times of our lives leave us wondering what lurks around the next corner.
If your eyes are open and your heart is beating, you know that life is full of perpetual aches. As George Eliot said, if we could hear it all, “we should die of that roar.” But here is the beautiful thing about our God: He hears every prayer. He catches our tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8). And though we are unable to bear the weight of that much sorrow, He can. And He has (Isaiah 53:3–4).
After reading the seven preceding verses about grief, I love the final three in this psalm and how the idea of hope emerges from them. I can imagine David writing them, taking a deep, post-cry breath—you know the kind. Maybe it’s still shaky. But it fills your lungs with oxygen and enables you to sit up straight and wipe the tears from your eyes. David rises to face his fears, not because his circumstances have changed, but because he is confident that the Lord has heard his weeping and accepts his prayer (Psalm 6:9).
Whatever tears you shed today, rest in confidence that the Lord hears you clearly. He knows you, accepts you in Christ, wants to commune with you, and longs to be gracious to you, even in the darkest hours (Isaiah 30:18).