Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Psalms 42:5, 11; 43:5
Is lock-down getting you down?
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” are the words of a troubled soul. Obviously, the psalmist was in a very low state, because of his circumstances. It has to be said that unforeseen and unavoidable difficulties can affect our state of mind, but unfortunately, we are often not as open as the psalmist; we somehow feel that to admit to discouragement is letting the side down.
A godly man – This person wasn’t someone who was not walking as close to the Lord as he should, nor was he someone who didn’t know the scriptures and God’s ways. See how he expresses his emotions – “As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God”. He is longing for fellowship with God, yearning to know the Lord and to be in his presence, to worship and praise him. As we read the Bible we see that adverse circumstances can affect the true believer, and church history shows that some of the most faithful of Christians have been cast down.
What was troubling him?
(a) “Where is your God?”, was not only a personal insult, implying that he was a fool or even insane to believe in the very existence and faithfulness of the Lord, but also an attack on God himself, which wounded the psalmist deeply.
(b) He, for some reason, was not able to meet with fellow believers and worship with them publicly (Ps. 42:4) – does this strike a chord? We are blessed in that we have the technology to meet via Zoom, but it is not the same as being physically with our brothers and sisters, is it?
(c) He had temporally lost a sense of God’s presence and even begun to think that the Lord had forgotten him (Ps. 42:9 & 43:2). He needed to remind himself of God’s faithfulness in the past. An omnipotent God cannot forget his people: it is impossible for him to forget anything. He can, however, deliberately not remember one thing – our sins. “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities and I will remember them no more” (Heb. 8:12).
Faith not feelings – At a time when circumstances are getting you down keep a grip on those facts that are true. Feelings can fluctuate and can be blown around like a weathercock by the wind of circumstances. When the man of God asked himself, “Why?”, he didn’t mean that he was unable to recognise the things that were affecting him. Was it possible that he was amazed that he could feel as he did? Could he be saying, “Why on earth am I feeling like this when I have such a loving God who has demonstrated his commitment to his people down the running ages?”
What he did
(a) He talked to himself. Talking to oneself, considered by many to be the first sign of madness, can be the first step in renewed fellowship with God. Sometimes we have to give ourselves a good talking to.
(b) He reminded himself of the person and character of God. The Lord is the living God; the one true God. He is the Saviour of sinners in a very personal and intimate way. He is all-powerful, who is a refuge to his people.
(c) He was enabled to see things in perspective; these present sufferings are only for a while.
(d) What he didn’t do, of course, was to stop praying. As he prayed he grew in confidence. We have to pray even when we find it difficult or nigh on impossible. William Cowper, who was subject to depression, nevertheless was able to write these words:
“Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian when he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing in his wings:
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again.
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.”
John Martin, Lampeter Evangelical Church