“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” Psalm 42:5
Have you ever felt these words? Not simply acknowledging some inner lack of coalescence but greatly feeling the shrapnel from the war waging in your innermost parts? I know I have. I know what it’s like to feel like a casualty of a war you didn’t know you were fighting, to tend the wounds of an inner crisis that seems endless. Music only distracts, hobbies help escape, but lasting relief is far and distant. If you happen to be reading this, then you must know what I’m referring to. Living in a post-Fall Genesis 3 world means reckoning with the brokenness all humanity inherited as their cursed birthright. These moments can be paralyzing. You know the truth; you know the verses, sermons and podcast episodes that speak directly to what you’re feeling but for some reason your theological muscles seem to have atrophied unbeknownst to you. Depression, anxiety, stress are all words that color your existence.
Reality, like this post, is a dark place sometimes. Because all of us, if we are honest, have felt some semblance of the above described experience. Some experience it more deeply than others, some with more frequency, but everyone knows what it feels like to be down-and-out. So what do you do in those moments when the heaviness of life seems too stubborn to lift? You remind your soul.What exactly to you remind your soul of? You remind it who your God is, what He’s done and what He has promised to do. Psalm 42 is a beautiful example of how to do just that.
- Recognize your need for God
The first line in Psalm 42 has been called a beautiful verse, showing the author’s longing for God:
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” vs. 1
While indeed a beautifully poetic line, this verse, I believe written out of desperation, is perfect for showing the depth of need we have for God. Listen to the context found in the following verses:
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come an appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?‘” vs. 2-3
The author thirsts for God and chooses word imagery that is correlated with nourishment and necessity. We need water; whether we want to drink it or not, it’s necessary for our survival! Our thirst for it remains until quenched. In that same mind, the author needs God for his survival. He longs for Him. He wonders why He doesn’t answer and why He has been relegated to drink insufficiently of his tears. Those near him mock his waiting on God. And yet his understanding of His need does not waver, for he knows the relief of his soul depends on his understanding of dependency on God
2. Tell your soul what is true
This is important. Living in a world given to the influence of the enemy, we are constantly being taught information as if it were true. And subconsciously our soul may begin to believe the things we are told. This is the reason why it’s important to speak truth to yourself because regardless your “self” is constantly being told that something is true. We must preach the Word, God’s Word, to ourselves.
“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“. vs.5 , 6
It’s almost as if you can feel the author plead with his soul to believe. Sometimes (most times) what your soul needs is a quick “come to Jesus” moment, literally. For Jesus is the way, the Truth and the Life. He is what we behold in our times of trouble for He knows trouble and is well acquainted with it. What we tell ourselves and set our minds on determines how we weather the storm. Romans 8 tells us that a mind that is set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Philippians 4:8 gives a wonderful list of things to ponder at all times, one of those being whatever is true. In dark times, light is scarce to come by. This is why the truth must be preached to ourselves even more in those times. It may not completely lift the darkness, but His Word is always a light unto our path (Psa. 119:105) as we walk in faith towards Him. If your soul can’t believe it, help it walk towards to the One who can help it.
3. Remind your soul what God has done
“My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon from the Mount Mizar” vs. 6
Notice what the author does immediately after again stating the status of his soul: He recalls specific events where the Lord has been faithful. Whether he was present himself or heard through others about it, the author recalls two specific events where the Lord answered His children. If you have been given saving faith in Jesus through His Spirit, then you already have at least one HUGE event to call upon. God finding you in your sin and still calling you into His family is the greatest act your soul will ever know this side of Heaven. It has been redeemed by Creator God and transferred from the domain of darkness and a sure place in Hell, to the kingdom of light and an inheritance including dwelling with the fullness of God for eternity. And as if this were not enough, God continues to bless us with Himself in tangible ways even while here on earth. He has healed us of sickness. He has sustained us through hard times. He has provided where provision was scarce. He has reconciled lost relationships. All the promises of God find their yes in Christ Jesus. Meaning everything God has promised us we see come to fruition with the coming, dying, and resurrecting of Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). He has given us His Son, what else would He not provide us? Remind your soul that even in the darkness He has promised to save it and keep it from falling.
Psalm 42 is a raw and honest look into what war with our souls looks like. Yes there is heaviness, sadness, and often tears. But there is a way to fight in the darkness. When the oppression of reality invades your home, be prepared to remind it who your God is.