“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” Though attributed to the group called “the sons of Korah,” Psalm 42 was a deeply personal cry for help. In a world where people have eager desires for everything that fades, the psalmist longed for God.
“When shall I come and appear before God?” He wanted to be with other worshipers. What was preventing him from doing that? We are not told. We sing of his tears and distress. We also learn that his detractors were offering words of criticism rather than consolation. They said, “Where is your God?”
He remembered the past. He had been a leader among the worshipers of the Lord. He used to lead them in solemn assembly. But now his soul was distraught. He asked himself an honest question that he would repeat two more times by the end of the next psalm. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”
His question deserved an answer. What thought or circumstance was so troubling to him? Was he saddened about the events of his life? Had his expectations of future joy suddenly been seized from him in a moment of great loss?
Without identifying any specific trial, the psalmist directed his own heart to the One who is Himself the answer to our every need: “Hope in God.” Whatever was lacking, God could provide. But would He? The psalmist reminded himself about the certainty of the Lord’s promises: “I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
The author of Psalm 42 provided all worshipers with a simple method of addressing our souls in a time of trouble. 1. Soul, why are you downcast? Try to give a specific answer in order to identify the present circumstance, past disappointment, or future anxiety that has stolen your joy. 2. Redirect your heart toward God. Hope in Him. He can help you. 3. Believe the Lord’s eternal promise. You will be kept by Him and will worship Him forever.
This does not mean that your problems will evaporate immediately. Yet God is able to be with you and to provide courage over and over. He can give you a song in the night. He can remind you that He is far stronger than any of your enemies.
How does a man face a cross? How does he settle his heart in a time of the worst distress? Jesus knew what His life was about. He knew the weight that He would bear when our sins were placed upon Him. Yet He walked toward His death with faith and love. He placed His hope in His Father. He believed that He would take His place at the right hand of the Almighty. Our Savior obeyed His Father’s call to the very end. He has become our salvation.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father God, in the day of depression and sadness, You are still God. Though we seem to forget You, You have never forgotten us. We will hope in You. We will remember You even in the worst time of trouble. You will surely deliver us. You are powerful. You love us. You are present everywhere, and You will save. We hope in You now.