It is not always easy to know exactly when David wrote some of the Psalms, but the words found in Psalms 61:1-2; 69:19-21; and 143:3-8 among others reveal a lot about the discouragement David experienced. For instance, in Psalm 69:19-21 he lamented, “You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; My adversaries are all before You. Reproach has broken my heart, And I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; And for comforters, but I found none. They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”
Discouragement is common with leaders, especially those like David who struggled to climb the ladder of leadership. Political leadership, whether in a theocracy or democracy is full of intrigues. Subordinates like Joab are not the best to deal with; they are not just irritants, but a source of constant discouragement, even to David.
The death of Abner was another occasion when David felt discouraged. For a long time, there was a war of attrition between the house of Saul and the house of David. After the death of Saul, Abner, the commander of his army fell out with Ishbosheth, King Saul’s son over the matter of a concubine. Abner in annoyance then decided to switch his loyalty to David. David was happy and made a feast for Abner and the twenty men in his entourage who came to pay homage to him (2 Sam.3:6-21). All these seemed to have happened without the knowledge of Joab the commander of David’s army. When he learnt of the deal between David and Abner, he was annoyed. He then sent for Abner, and when he arrived he took him aside and stabbed him. When David heard about the death of Abner, it caused him much sorrow. He wept and followed the procession to go and bury Abner. He then raised a lamentation in honor of Abner, and said, “Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? And I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too harsh for me. The LORD shall repay the evildoer according to his wickedness” (II Samuel 3:38-39 NKJV).
The incidence of Bathsheba brought much ignominy to David, especially when after the whole incident he lost the child who was a product of that amorous relationship. David’s perfidy in conspiring to kill Uriah, no doubt, brought him much turmoil. The incidence shows that a leader, no matter how powerful, cannot easily get away with his sins. As we later learn from Psalm 51, it cost him his relationship with God and brought great indignity to the nation. His ability to overcome this situation shows how great and merciful God is.
The next incident that brought David much discouragement was the rebellion within his household. David’s frustration at this period is well captured in his feelings while he ascended the Mount of Olives and the subsequent prayers he made over Ahithophel, “So David went up by the Ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went up. Then someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O LORD, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!” (II Samuel 15:30-31 NKJV).