Reflections on Psalm 42...
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psm.42:5; 11; 43:5).
This verse appears three times in Psalm 42-43 and provides us with a key thought when considering that the Psalm is dealing with overwhelming despair in life. Read it again, and read it again, and soon you will hear the intense pleading that is going on within the Psalmist's own heart. He is earnestly calling his soul away from despair and toward the only satisfying hope and salvation.
Let us not forget though, that these words are not only on the Psalmists lips but are etched in Scripture. It has its origin in God, and therefore this “self-talk” is not simply a “pep-talk” exercise, but it may be better considered to be “faith-talk” since it carries a distinctly God-breathed character.
The circumstances are extreme. The circumstances are overwhelming with no apparent end in sight. While we may not know the precise context of his despair, we start to feel less removed when we hear the repeated taunts, “Where is your God?” (vs.3; 10).
Looking further we notice the repeated question; “Why?” (vs.5; 11). This is the automatic question we all ask of challenging situations in life. But he is not asking “Why is this happening to me” but rather he is questioning his state of heart. ‘Why are you so discouraged, why are you so despondent, why are you disheartened?’ This question simply attempts to discover the cause behind the effect. If I have a sharp pain under my foot, I ask the question, ‘Why are you experiencing pain?’ As I investigate, I discover a nasty thorn buried under the skin at the point of the pain in my heel. The obvious answer is, ‘I am experiencing pain because there is a thorn in my foot.’ The solution to the problem is to remove the thorn to provide immediate pain relief.
How do I remove the thorn from my foot? We may not know the precise nature of the thorn but we know it is severe, making it almost impossible to see God’s hand or know his presence. But fortunately the Psalm is not ambiguous as to the solution.
“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psm.42:5, 11).
Unlike the regular use of the word ‘hope’ which has a sense of uncertainty attached to it, Biblical hope has absolute certainty in its reach since its object is ensured by God. However, this hope continues to anticipate what is hoped for even though it has not yet been experientially attained. The Psalmist says, “…for I shall again praise Him”, meaning that at that very moment his heart was not praising God but it was looking forward to the future where praise would most certainly be on his lips.
The solution to his discouragement lay in his trust in God, a God of whom he had personal knowledge and a God of whom he had experienced deliverance. The way to remove the thorn of doubt was to trust in God.
This may seem totally nonsensical, but it places the solution precisely where it can be found. Your discouragement may be because of your unbelief, your wavering faith in light of your circumstances, your hope which is failing because of the taunts that cry ‘Where is your God?’ In such times the only action we can take is to redirect our hope once again. Keep believing in God no matter what. More than a battle of blight it is a battle of believing. Will you have faith or will you despair? Will you be overcome by the taunts of the world or will you fight to believe?
Hope in God!
“By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life” (Psm.42:8).
Ps. Deon Lombard
Being a servant of Jesus makes it a delight to reflect and write about all that God has revealed about Himself in His Word.