“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.”
Psalm 42 describes for us a man who, under normal conditioning is used to regular worship and a life of trusting in God. Yet in this Psalm, he finds himself in a unique time of testing to which he is not accustomed. This passage describes a spiritual and emotional drought that has been brought on by a cascading series of negative events: his normal routine of worship with God’s people has been interrupted; the culture around him mocks his faith; coping with his circumstances have drained most of his personal, mental, emotional and spiritual resources; he is physically and spiritually isolated; the stress of his situation has created a weight that feels “as if crushing my bones;” then to top it all off he feels like God is nowhere to be found or at least excruciatingly slow to respond. Does this sound familiar?
This season marked by the disruption of a worldwide pandemic, the instant shutdown of the world’s largest economy, empty houses of worship, empty streets, empty store shelves, and empty bank accounts make it possible for us to relate to the psalmist in a way we never thought possible.
Thankfully, Psalm 42 not only illuminates the problem, but it also gives the solution. The psalmist reveals how he responds to a crisis or series of crises. When he finds himself struggling with being “down cast” (persistent depression) and inner “turmoil” (a state of great disturbance, confusion or uncertainty) his focus shifts to his hope in God. He begins to encourage himself in the Lord. This hope has carried him through tough times in the past, and he fully expects it to get him through his current difficulties, troubles, and/or dangers as well.
So let's consider some practical steps revealed in this Psalm for how we can shift in our focus from our cascading circumstances to the personal faithful love of our Heavenly Father:
- Like the Psalmist, we should assess our situation and bring the details of our concerns into the presence of the Lord. (see also Hebrews 4:16)
- Be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Take charge to focus them on God’s faithful love and care:
- Rehearse the times He has come through in big and small ways in the past
- Reflect on the Scriptures
- Ask the Holy Spirit to be your Comforter and your Counselor
- Praise God out loud and speak your faith until the cloud lifts and the warmth of God’s light floods your soul
- Be intentional about replenishing your mental, spiritual, physical and emotional resources:
- Resist allowing your mind to become exhausted with worry; turn off the news and go outside to sit quietly under the stars. Share your thoughts and concerns with wise and spiritually encouraging people.
- Be consistent in making time alone with God a priority: pray, read, be still, listen to the Holy Spirit. Worship online with your church during your usual worship service time.
- Be honest with yourself and the Lord about the crushing stress that you are experiencing. Proper stewardship of your need for a regular sleep cycle, healthy diet, exercise and sources of refreshing fun is essential.
- Use technology to stay connected with friends and loved ones - call, text, facetime, zoom, etc. Be creative and take the initiative.
- NOTE: If you find yourself being irritable, easily frustrated or annoyed, experiencing sudden feelings of insecurity, defensive or being critical - in other words (Psalm 42 words) being “down cast” or in “turmoil”; then pause and repeat the process.
Most of all, nurture your hope in God and your trust that He will come through in His own unique time and way. Anticipate the miraculous. Expect the Lord to come to your aid, to reveal solutions and unleash resources. If God loves you enough to save you from your sin, then He loves you enough to save you in your situation.
God bless you until we can gather together again and may these principles from Psalm 42 carry you through this crisis and any crises in the days ahead.