Psalm 13 is a prayer of David for deliverance from a present crisis. It is clear that it is a present crisis because David continually repeats the question of “how long” (vv. 1-2). In the midst of this crisis, David expresses his doubts in ways I normally wouldn’t consider appropriate. He expresses his concern that God has forgotten him and that God has hidden his face from him (v. 1). This hiding of God’s face is spoken of in contrast to the blessing of God making his face to shine upon him (Num 6:25).
There are two mistakes I am susceptible to make in praying such honest prayers to God. The first mistake is to think it is wrong to confess my doubts to God. The second mistake is to think it is right to express anger against God. Some may wish to point to the first two verses in this psalm as justification for being brutally and irreverently honest about how we feel towards God, but such an approach is not warranted. David’s prayer here is not out of anger, but honest doubt. In asking “how long,” note that David is asking a sincere question. In other words, he has not numbed himself towards God, only to come before him to spill his guts in anger.
The psalm progressively shifts from doubt to faith. David does not stop at asking questions and waiting for responses. In the midst of his doubt and feelings of abandonment, David declares his ongoing trust in God’s steadfast love and his resolve to rejoice in his salvation (v. 5). Furthermore, he declares his commitment to sing to God on the basis of God’s generous dealings with him (v. 6). This psalm is an ideal example of how one should pursue God in the midst of difficulties and retain faith in his goodness.