Was David Bipolar?

Was David Bipolar?

Have you ever read the Psalms of David and thought to yourself, “This guy sounds bipolar?”  For example, in Psalm 13, David starts out complaining and questioning God.

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”   Then a few verses later he says, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

David was real and unquestionably raw in his conversations with God. He wasn’t afraid to say, “God, this stinks. I think this is unfair.” But the interesting thing is that the majority of his Psalms that begin with words of despair, frustration, or even anger, do not end with that same state of mind.   Instead, in the end, David is rejoicing in his God! The stark contrast of moods represented in some of David’s psalms have led some people to wonder if the shepherd king was bipolar. I say, “Definitely not.”


I can’t play an instrument and my singing leaves much to be desired, but I have written a few songs in my day. I didn’t say they were good songs, but they are songs none the less, usually written to my wife, sometimes to the Lord. My experience with writing songs is that they rarely come together in one sitting. I have some friends who are successful musicians and songwriters and I have heard them share the same experience. They labor over a song for days, sometimes even weeks or months. I believe David wrote his Psalms in the same way.


Those who have discovered the “secret of perpetual emotion” ought to get acquainted with the book of Psalms. For instance, if you are fearful, read Psalm 56, Psalm 91, or Psalm 23. If you are discouraged, read Psalm 42; one example among many. If you happen to be feeling lonely, then I suggest Psalm 71 or Psalm 62. If you are oppressed, with a sense of sinfulness, there are two marvelous psalms for you; Psalm 51, written after David’s double sin of adultery and murder, and Psalm 32, which is a great expression of confession and forgiveness. And then, if you are worried or anxious, I would recommend Psalm 37 and Psalm 73. If you are angry, try Psalm 58 or Psalm 13. If you are resentful, read Psalm 94 or Psalm 77. If you are happy and want some words to express your happiness, try Psalm 92 or Psalm 66. If you feel forsaken, meditate on Psalm 88. If you aregrateful and you would like to express it, read Psalm 40. If you are doubtful, and your faith is beginning to fail, read Psalm 119.

If you do a careful study of the Psalms of David in conjunction with a study in 1&2 Samuel, using a chronological Bible, you will gain insight into what David was experiencing at the time of his writings.  David was frustrated when King Saul was chasing him all over the countryside and lying about him.  He experienced a broken heart over the betrayal of his son, Absalom, and his good friend, Ahithophel.  He even aligned himself with the philistines during a time when his faith faltered.


Although real and raw, David’s Psalms, like all scripture, were inspired by God. What I find amazing is that God uses human instruments, with personalities and experiences, to convey His heart and message.  That is why the Bible doesn’t all sound the same.  The point that God is wanting to communicate in the Psalms is that He expects us to be real with Him. He knows that life is hard, but He also wants us to remember that He is infinitely good! God is not distant or detached.  He is a personal God. Just because we are His beloved children doesn’t mean that our lives are going to be free from hardship, pain, and difficulty. In this fallen world, we are going to encounter tragedy, injustice, greed, and hatred.

God doesn’t expect us to put on a happy face and pretend that nothing bothers us or affects us. No, God expects us to see those situations in light of who He is, despite the fallen state of man because of sin.  He is gracious and loving, but also just and sovereign. He is our Redeemer and the One who longs to be our fortress and strength in time of trouble. But God knows that we are not always going to see Him in the midst of our pain right awaySometimes, all we can see is the pain, the problem, or the person who is causing us such despair.

David had many times where all he could see in the moment was the difficulty, the injustice, the pain and despair of life that was afflicting him. David poured out his heart to the Lord in ways that sometimes leave us thinking, “I can’t believe he just said that to God.” Are you allowed to talk to God like that?


No one else in Scripture is given that title. In 1 Samuel chapter 13, God told the prophet Samuel that it was time to select a new king for Israel and that God had found a man who was after His own heart, who will do His will.

God looked at this young shepherd boy while he was taking care of sheep and said, “That guy takes care of sheep the way I want My king to take care of My people.”  But God also saw in David a young man who was after his heart, who would write, “As the deer pants after the water, so my soul pants for you, oh God!” Psalm 42:1  

I suggest to you that being a pursuer of God’s heart is what ultimately makes us become more like God in heart. David, as a young shepherd boy, longed to know God and be close to God. The result was that in heart, he was becoming more like God. In fact, a careful study of David’s life would show that in his later years, when he finally became King and had all of the responsibility of running a kingdom, that David’s heart and passion for pursuing God diminished. Distracted by the wealth, power, and responsibility around him brought David to a place where he started acting like a natural man, rather than a man who is after God’s own heart!


According to Romans 8:29, the ultimate goal that God is seeking to accomplish in all of our lives is to “conform us into the image of His own dear Son!” The trials, difficulties, and the pressures of life are all a part of that conforming process. In those times of pain and pressure, God wants us to come to Him and not be afraid to be real! It is okay to tell God that you are afraid, that you are frustrated, or that you are confused.  But keep coming to Him and looking to Him and resting in who He is.

Pastor Chuck Smith often said: “When you do not understand something, or you cannot understand what is going on, CLING TO WHAT YOU DO KNOW!” David kept coming back to God, he kept pursuing God.  The result was that David eventually saw all the situations going on in his life in light of God, who is bigger and greater than anything that this life and anyone in or anything outside of it could throw at him.

I think the lyrics to Chris Tomlin’s song Our God sums it up well.

“Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
What can stand against?”