Where do you find hope in times of discouragement? Psalms 42 and 43 offer us some encouragement and practical advice when we find ourselves discouraged, depressed, or despairing.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND…
Context Clues: Imagery, metaphors, contrasts, elements of a lament psalm
Psalms 42 and 43 are psalms of lament. The lament psalms provide a contrast to the psalms of praise which make up most of the book of Psalms. But the psalms paint an honest picture of life in this world and life with God. Certainly lament is part of that landscape. But, you will notice even in the psalms of lament they move the reader toward praise. What an encouragement for us to have these honest extremes of life, sorrow and joy, expressed through the psalms. The lament or complaint is either a complaint against God (the problem is God), a complaint against an enemy (the problem is external), or a complaint against self (the problem is internal).
The psalms of lament contain certain components. Look for these as you read:
- Address with a cry for help or turning to God
- Lament (complaint)
- Confession of trust
- Assurance of being heard
- Wish or petition for God’s intervention
- Vow of praise
- Praise of God when the petition has been heard
Psalms 42 and 43 are considered one psalm and this is evidenced by a thrice-repeated refrain, “my soul is cast down within me; the… Remember as we read the psalms we need to take note of the emotive language of the psalmist’s and the use of poetic elements such as metaphor, simile, and figurative language. We also need to remember and note a key feature in Hebrew poetry—parallelism. This is a literary pattern where the psalmist will state an idea in one line and then repeat that idea in the following line either by stating the same idea in different words, contrasting the idea, or expounding upon the idea of the first line.
PAUSE TO READ AND REFLECT…
In Psalm 42-43, we find two places described, two voices speaking, two groups of people, and of course the thrice-repeated refrain. Pause a moment and read through Psalms 42-43 and see if you can note each of these elements along with any repeated words or emotional language the psalmist is using to describe his situation.
42:1-2 – longing to worship God
42:3 – sorrow over his inability to worship God
42:4 – recalls past worship in the temple
42:5 – self-rebuke and commands himself to hope in God even though he is depressed*
42:6-10 – despair as he endures the taunts of his enemies/pagan neighbors
42:11 – a refrain of self-rebuke for depression and enjoins himself to hope in God
43:1-4 – a prayer to God: deliverance from enemy oppression & restoration of his worship in Jerusalem
43:5 – refrain, repeated last time, rebuke for depression and enjoins himself to hope in God
What is the psalmist’s complaint/lament? We see this in what he says and the imagery he uses to describe it. He is longing to worship God, longing for God’s presence and he is being taunted by his enemies who are casting doubts about God’s presence and power in the psalmist’s life. Our focus in learning from the psalmist is not on why he is depressed, but what he does!
Honest emotions he expresses:
- when shall I come and appear before God? 42:2
- why are you cast down, oh my soul? why are you in turmoil within me? 3x 42:5, 42:11, 43:5
- why have you forgotten me? (I am remembering and longing for you) 42:9 (God, my rock)
- why do I go mourning because the enemies’ oppression taunting ‘where is your God’? x2 42:9, 43:3
- why have you rejected me, God? 43:2 (God, my refuge)
2 images he uses to express his desperation = water and wounds
- downcast/cast down in soul (depression); turmoil within (anxiety) v. 5, 11, 43:5
- thirst for water = expresses his longing v. 1
- flowing streams = expresses his longing for God- soul pants like deer thirsts/pants v. 1
- tears as food = expresses his distress over taunting of enemies “where is your God?” v. 3
- deep calling to deep pictured by roaring waterfalls (continuous waves without interruption) v. 7 = expresses the duration of his despair (downcast, turmoil)
- breakers and waves crashing over him v. 7 = expresses how overwhelmed he is
- adversaries like a deadly wound in his bones v. 10 = expresses the enemies’ oppression
Images he uses to express who God is and what He does:
- rock, refuge (God)
- light and truth leading to God’s presence (his holy hill)
What QUESTIONS does the psalmist ask?
- Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? v. 5, 11, 43:5
- Why have you forgotten me? v. 9
- Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? v. 9, 43:2
- Why have you rejected me? 43:2
What does the psalmist ask God to do?
- Vindicate me and defend my cause against the ungodly—Deliver Me! 43:1
- Send light and truth 43:3
What does the psalmist do? We see 2 Voices — both the psalmist’s—one questioning and one remembering
- Remember– in verse 4, the days he felt God’s presence as he led the procession to the temple to worship God = glad shouts, songs of praise, multitude keeping festival. Festivals in ancient times were to praise and give thanks for God’s presence and acts on their behalf to deliver, provide, and sustain them.
- Remember – in verse 5b, who God is and what He has done so the psalmist’s vision of God is greater than his feelings at the moment.
- Remember – The psalmist rehearses who God is—my hope, my salvation, my refuge, the God of my life, my rock, my vindicator, my refuge, the sender of light and truth, One who leads me, holy, my exceeding (rejoicing) joy, MY God!
- Counsels himself with Truth – the psalmist needed truth to counter our emotions/circumstances to keep from spiraling further downward and to walk by faith.
- Send Light – light exposes darkness; expose areas of thinking and feeling that are not based on truth and faith.
- Send Truth – the psalmist needed to know what is true, fact that I believe by faith vs. emotions, sight perception, circumstances.
Note the contrast of faith and sight. Faith = spiritual realities. Sight = human emotions/life circumstances):
- Faith says vv. 1-2 – I long for/thirst for God’s presence
- Sight says vv. 3-4 – My enemies taunt me and question where my God is. I remember how it used to be.
- Faith says vv. 5 – I put my hope in God and I will praise Him!
- Sight says vv. 6-7 – I am deeply depressed. I am overwhelmed.
- Faith says v. 8 – Lord sends his faithful love by day and night- He is with me!
- Sight says vv. 9-10 – God has forgotten me. My enemies oppress me.
- Faith says v. 11 – I put my hope in God and I will praise Him!
What is the message of these psalms? Spiritual depression and how to handle it.
LET’S APPLY IT…
Have you ever had an unfulfilled longing, even a good and godly one? A longing that so consumed you—you could not concentrate on anything else, one that brought about a state of discouragement, depression, and despair.
These longings can so overwhelm us that we become self-focused and forget who God is. These longings can loom large and eclipse the ways God is at work in us and around us. This psalm of lament is one of honest confession—allowing something or someone to so consume us that it becomes the object of our worship instead of the One, true living God.
The solution is to “talk to ourselves” instead of allowing “ourselves to talk to us”.
“I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ourselves to talk to us!…And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.” —Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression
We can learn from the psalmist who openly and honestly acknowledges to God his longings and desires and voices his feelings of abandonment and rejection by God, the taunts of the enemy prodding him to doubt God, and yet reminds himself to remember who God is and where his ultimate hope and joy is found—in God, his rejoicing joy (Psalm 43:4). Hope is found in God’s presence and in honest conversation with Him about how we are feeling and what we are experiencing. And once we get it all out, we can remember and rehearse who God is, the anchor for our souls!
Related Scriptures: Jesus is the living water for our thirsty souls. The Holy Spirit, like those waves and breakers that crash over us, reminds us in the depths of our souls that God’s presence is continual with us. Jesus is the well from which we can drink and never thirst again. John 4:1-26; John 14:16, 15; Romans 5:5; Romans 15:13
Rejoicing in Jesus!
©2020 Susan Cady, susancady.com