Psalms Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalm 6, The Distress of Sin and Relief of Repentance


The treating of depression has become a multimillion dollar industry. Billions upon billions of dollars are spent each year on prescription drugs for depression. While there seem to be many sources for depression, there is one source that is overlooked. In my unprofessional opinion, one reason depression is on the rise is because something else is dramatically on the rise in this country. In Psalm 6, David describes his depression as being caused by sin. There is a sinking feeling, a low feeling, and a guilty feeling from a conscience involved in sin. Now I am certainly not suggesting that depression is always caused by sin. However, it is true that sin causes depression, and David admits this in the sixth psalm. There is a distress that occurs in a sinful life. In this lesson we are going to notice many of the feelings of David and note how these feelings are comparable to the things we may feel in our own lives. In this lesson we will notice David’s distress of sin and the relief he finds in repentance.

The Distress of Sin (6:1-7)

Feeling the anger of the Lord (6:1-3)

In the first three verses we see the distress of David concerning his sins. In verse 2 we see David speak about his bones being in agony, or as the NKJV puts it, “my bones are troubled.” In verse 3 David says that his soul is in anguish being greatly troubled. In verse 2 David declares that he is weak and faint. We see David with a pricked conscience. He is in anguish and is faint from sin. How often we feel the same way as David did. The heavy burdens we carry from the guilt of our sins. While sin is pleasurable for the time, the after effects are not. Our conscience begins to eat at us. We feel a building sense of guilt within us. There is a sense that things are wrong in our lives and we need to make changes to correct them.

Many times we make the wrong changes. Sometimes the reason we are unhappy is because of sin. We think we need to change our jobs, change our location, change friends, and other such physical solutions. But often what is eating at us is the need to change ourselves. Our conscience is calling within us that we are not doing what is right and there must be changes made.

Severed from God (6:4)

David also feels severed from the Lord. We notice this feeling expressed in verse 4 where David cries out “Return!” David calls for God to come back because it feels as if God has left him alone. There are many times in our lives that we will feel distant from the Lord as if He were so far away and is not watching out for us any longer. We also need to be aware of those times that we have that feeling of distance from God. Do we feel this way because there is sin in our lives that is severing the relationship with God? Is there something blocking the way for us to draw near to God? Many times this will be the case as the distress of sin causes a lonely feeling, as if we have been left alone by God.

Loss of sleep (6:6)

David also declares that he is experiencing quite a bit of sleeplessness. In verse 6 David says that all night he makes his bed swim. The understanding of this sentence is that this is taking place all night, every night. This is not just one day of restless sleep. Every night and all through the night, David is experiencing the grief and tears from sins. Again, I do not believe we have to stretch our minds to know this feeling of anguish and grief. I can think of times in my life where there was little sleep and much crying. I can remember thinking that my bed was going to turn into a pool of water. I am sure you have felt the same in your times of grief and suffering. Besides suffering and grief, sin is another player that can keep us up, nagging us through the night that something is amiss and needs correcting. Here we seem to have an imagery of committing sin, and its consequences have caused David to be so burdened that sleep is lost.

Spiritual and physical fatigue (6:6-7)

David also describes great fatigue that he is experiencing both spiritually and physically. In verse 6 David says that he is weary from his groaning. His eyes are weak with sorrow and grief and these things continue to pound upon him. How worn out we can feel after battling sin. How worn out we can be after fighting the battles and enduring the consequences of sin. I hope, at the very least, that we can use these things as reminders to deter us from sin. Though sin seems that it will bring lasting pleasure, what we find out is that the pleasure is temporary, but the consequences are severe, not only eternal, but upon our spiritual, emotional, and physical beings at this time. These are the things that we will be subjecting ourselves to by falling into the snare of sins. This is the reality of it all. How many fornications and adulteries occur each day and each year under the fantasy of lasting joy, true love, and meaning from life. But the consequences continue to be the opposite–broken families, devastated lives, scarred children, emptiness in life, and continual guilt. What did David do under the distress of sin?

David’s Responses (6:1-7)

Do not discipline in wrath (6:1)

David begins this psalm with the request to not be disciplined in God’s wrath. I think we need to consider that David does not request to not be disciplined. This would be a foolish request. Discipline must take place. There are severe consequences to our actions that must be given to all who sin. David is not naïve to think that he is going to avoid the discipline and the correction of the Lord. David asks that the discipline not come in God’s anger.

We need to realize that discipline will come when we sin. We are foolish if our request to God is that we not be disciplined for what we have done. This is a societal error that is gaining steam even among Christians and being taught to our children. There is this idea that sorrow should make everything better. How many times we see people on television say that they are sorry for what they have done. Then both fans and family will get on television and say that since he is sorry, this is good enough and he should not have to go to jail. They cry, “what more do you want him or her to do?” The answer is that punishment must come. My friend and I when we were in elementary school would go in my backyard and throw rocks into a canyon. At the bottom of this more than 100 foot canyon was a shed and beyond that a house where someone lived. We would throw rocks trying to hit the windows in the shed. Of course, we really were not trying to hit the windows because we did not want to break them. It seemed like an impossible goal and so we would throw rocks to see who could get the closest. One day, one of us actually hit our seemingly impossible target. That was big trouble. Do you think I got off the hook simply because I said sorry? No, I was grounded for playing with my friend, had to apologize, had to pay for it, and all sorts of other punishments were dealt out for my error. I learned my lesson.

We have a problem today where people do not expect severe consequences for their actions. And this is being taught to children as well. No punishment is given when they are sorry. But this is not the justice of God that we are using. This is a warped sense of reality when we believe that we can get away with things just because we are sorry. David knew he would be corrected. By being forthright with God, he prayed that God not act in wrath.

Mercy (6:2-3)

Thus, David was praying for mercy, and he explicitly says such in verse 2. Mercy, generally speaking, is that one does not receive the full punishment due for the action committed. My father had a general rule with me that my punishment would be lesser if I was forthcoming with my transgression and admitted my guilt rather than be sneaky. This was the mercy of my father. Did this mean that I was not punished? Not at all, but the punishment was less severe than could have been given for what I had done. I believe this is the idea behind David’s request for mercy. Since he is coming with an honest and sorrowful heart to God, he is asking for mercy in the punishment that is given. We have the right to ask God for mercy. I do not think of these words as often as I ought, and we need to consider that mercy is most certainly what we need our Lord to show toward us.

Ephesians 2:4 tells us that God is rich in mercy and has great love for us. God will be merciful to His children. When we consider our continued violations of God’s law, it becomes easy for us to see God’s mercy shown toward us. In California they have a law called three strikes and you’re out. The idea is that if you commit three felony crimes, you are in jail for life. I believe that is fair and merciful since everyone has three chances. But imagine if God had a three strikes rule for us. Would anyone of us be here today? God is rich in mercy. Let us thank Him for His mercy and realize that we need and can request His mercy. Tied closely to these things, David also asks how long he is going to endure these things. Here we see David communicating with God, pointing that he is suffering and enduring this grief. How long will he be plagued this way? Again, it is a call for mercy.

Return to me and deliver me (6:4-5)

David now requests a restoration to the relationship. David desires God to turn back to Him. It brings the image to mind of God having His back to David because of sin, and now David requests God to turn His face back to him. The relationship had been broken, but David earnestly desires to repair the relationship and pleads with God to turn back to him. In this request, David is making an interesting point to the Lord that we must notice, which is found in verse 5. David says, “in the grave who will give You thanks?” The point I believe David is making is that if he is destroyed for his sins, as all of us deserve, how can he proclaim thanks and praise to God? David is making the proclamation of repentance. David is telling the Lord that he is going to serve Him, but that will not be possible if he is destroyed for his sins. David desires to serve God completely. We are seeing David express his turning of heart and purposing himself to obeying the Lord again. David is going to glory and serve the Lord.

This is a critical decision that we must make when we have committed sin. It is time for us to go before God with a change of mind and purpose. David expresses a realization that punishment is necessary and can be severe, but he is ready to serve the Lord with all his heart. How needed this is among us today. In the distress of sin is the time for us to turn to the Lord and not run from the Lord. In the distress of sin we must seek after the Lord and ask for reconciliation. Amazingly, when we return to the Lord, He is always there to take us back. It does not matter what sins have been committed, the Lord welcomes us home with open arms.

The Relief of Repentance

Iniquity repelled (6:8)

Now we suddenly see confidence in the words of David. David says that the workers of iniquity have been repelled and are to depart from him. David is able to stand up from the mire of sin and fight against all that have been working against him. Many commentators seem to have a difficult time understanding why the change of tone in the psalm takes place right here. What has suddenly changed that has given David a renewed hope and confidence that he did not have before. The obvious answer is found at the end of verse 8 and also in verse 9: God has answered David’s prayer.

God hears our cries (6:9)

What a powerful thing for us to know. In the midst of the distress of sin, God will hear our prayers and our cries. David needed to be disciplined and rebuked by the Lord, but God was still near to answer David’s pleas. Notice the three things that God has heard David utter: 1) The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping, 2) the Lord has heard my supplication, and 3) the Lord will receive my prayer. All of these forms of petition to God have been heard. From the crying in the bed late at night to the formal requests for help, God has heard and God has answered.
Enemies will pay ( 6:10 )

Those who are workers of iniquity will be judged. The imagery seems to suggest the enemies turning with tail between the legs and running away. David is overcoming and the evildoers do not have any leverage against him now. God gives us the power to overcome our enemies and conquer sin. There is nothing given to us that we cannot endure and overcome with the power of God. David is proof of this precious truth. You and I can endure any suffering that may come from Satan or even self-inflicted by our own bad decisions, when we turn to the Lord. We can overcome the distress of sin. We must notice not only the confidence and hope in David, but the relief in David’s words from God answering prayer. Is there any better blessing than God responding to our needs and helping us overcome the challenges we face? What a friend we truly have in Jesus the Christ.


  1. Be warned concerning the severe consequences of sin.
  2. Know what to do in the distress of sin.
  3. Look for God to carry you through.
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