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Friday, December 19, 2008

A Downcast Soul

"Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God" (Psalm 42:11).

There is much in everyday living that can weigh us down.  And, even the way that we talk about things gives this away.  We talk about being "under" the weather when we are not feeling good.  We talk about "under" the circumstances when things are not going ideal in our world.  Recently we have heard much about the downturn in the economy and that may be having a profound effect in your life and mine right now too.  It can sometimes seem as though everything else is up or others are up and yet we find ourselves down and struggling.  It does not seem to help either whether we can point to something or are wondering why.  A downcast soul is a common occurrence in our world today.  It may even be your experience today or tomorrow or yesterday.

We are not sure exactly what was going on in the Psalmist's life or situation at this particular time, but in the very same Psalm that gave rise to the contemporary worship song of intense desire as the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you he also bares some of the most intense struggle to go on that we find anywhere in scripture.  When I am going through tough stuff, I am glad that the Holy Spirit saw fit to include this in his Word as well!

There was in the Psalmist an intense desire to connect with the Almighty.  There definitely was the hunger and thirst for righteousness that Jesus says is a blessed state (Matthew 5:6).  His soul, his very life, thirsted for the living God, the real tangible presence of the Father.  Like a deer out of breath and thirsting after running, he wanted God.  But God didn't seem close.  The Psalmist said that "tears have been my food day and night" (Psalm 42:3).  Others even asked why God hadn't showed up yet.  And, while it was comforting in a way to remember former times of worship and devotion, those days seemed long gone, a distant memory.  Right now, it is possible that we find ourselves seeking God, but alone with our tears.  Wondering when it will end and where God is.

"Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?" (Psalm 42:5).

We may never get an answer to the why of what is going on inside.  We just know how we feel and know that it is not a good feeling.  And, especially when it is coupled with an intense time of seeking God or wanting more of God, why then, it seems, do things so often go from bad to worse?  It doesn't seem to make any sense.  We may consider abandoning our search for God and taking matters into our own hands and making the best of it.  Wouldn't that be the wise thing to do?  Maybe all this seeking after God is not really worth it.  David says don't go there.

"Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God" (Psalm 42:5).

It may just be a hope, a wish, a dream that the situation will change.  Put it securely in God.  Believe that at some future time, and hopefully very soon, we will be able to praise him for how he has come through.  He is after all, our savior and God.  We can do none of those things for ourselves and no one else can either.  Keep pressing in even if it seems like nothing is happening and God is a million miles away.  He is not really.  The Psalmist here says that in the midst of this reality, he will remember God from the valley to the heights (Psalm 42:6) and press into the deep and difficult places (Psalm 42:7).  "Deep calls to deep," so go deep.  Cry out to God from the place of the downcast soul.

When we are struggling, it is really a call to bring together what we feel and what we know.  David felt abandoned by God, oppressed by his enemies and like tears were his only companions.  He felt as though his very life was ebbing away from him and as though his search and hunger for God was getting him nowhere (see Psalm 42:9-10).  At the same time, he speaks not only what it feels and it is extremely important for us to acknowledge all of this and not just push it down or pretend we don't really feel it he speaks what he knows to be true:

"By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me a prayer to the God of my life/soul" (Psalm 42:8).

What we feel makes sense.  The world is not often a friendly place.  There is much to take us down.  Lets not pretend that it is otherwise.  But when we find ourselves there, talk to yourself.  Why are you downcast?  Why so disturbed?  There may be an answer in which case, address the problem.  There may be nothing we can point to or change.  Either way, God encourages us to shift our focus from there to him.  Put your hope in God.  Praise him.  He is our Savior.  He is God.  He is bigger than our everything.  And he loves me and he loves you.  Focus rather on that.  Hear his song.  A love song.  And raise up a prayer for help.  He will surely come and will not delay.