Psalm 6 is a prayer for healing. In the Old Testament, the vocabulary of illness and healing is often expanded to include one’s condition in other areas of life (specifically one’s spiritual condition). Yet it is clear from the language that David here is having to endure immense suffering: “I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled” (v. 2). These words cannot be taken figuratively since David adds, “My soul also is greatly troubled” (v. 3). Further on in the psalm, he expresses the extreme severity of his physical condition: “save me . . . For in death there is no remembrance of you” (vv. 4,5).
Those who experience terminal illness usually come to a greater realization that our destiny is ultimately in God’s hands. Their frailty eclipses the illusion of control and the mirage of worldly success. Earthly achievement is seen as a ruse that shields their vision from the truth that life is meaningless if not lived in praise to God. David is keenly aware of this fact, asking God, “in Sheol who will give you praise?” (v. 5) No one should understand David to be trying to bargain with God. Rather, it is because he understands that God is sovereign over his life and health that he prays this prayer of faith (v. 9).
As always, David is not without enemies in the midst of his distress. His physical torment has led him to unbearable sadness and tears, and his enemies have taken the opportunity to mock him, causing even more grief. How does David respond? Contrary to the lies of these evildoers, David declares, “the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping” (v. 8). He ends his prayer strengthened in his faith, believing that God will restore him quickly (v. 10).
In closing, I’ve included a clip from the television show “ER.” In it a terminally ill man expresses his guilt over sin and his realization that he must find forgiveness with God. Nothing else will help him in this circumstance. Even the chaplain who is supposed to bring him counsel does not understand him in this moment of clarity. May I daily remember that my life is utterly in God’s hands!