Have you ever had one of those days when you’re just not sure how you’re going to make it? You know what I’m talking about, right? School (or work) is just extra difficult. Every social interaction just seems to go opposite of how you want it to go. Your family seems to be pushing you to your limits. And to top it all off, you’re extra clumsy and keep making stupid decisions.
Or maybe it happens at the end of an incredibly long winter when all you want to do is wear shorts and flip flops, but then that pesky weather guy informs you that you’re going to need your snow boots and long johns.
Where does your mind go when you are in the middle of these days? Do you start dreaming about what it will be like when you get home and kick back in your favorite chair and watch your favorite television show? Do you get lost in the thoughts of your favorite novel? Do you dream about that perfect spot in a hammock under two palm trees overlooking the beautiful ocean?
The real question I’m trying to ask is: where do you turn to find the refreshment for your soul when you’re hurting?
I recently was reading in the Psalms and came across one of the passages that has inspired one of my favorite reflective songs. As I read through Psalm 42, I began to notice a pattern that is established. The psalmist is saying: here are the reasons why I’m so beaten down, but immediately he counters it with the hope that only comes from God. Let’s just look at a quick breakdown of this chapter.
I Need to be Refreshed
Psalm 42:1–5 (NASB95)
1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
In verses 1-5a, we see the psalmist pouring out his need to be refreshed. He starts with the beautiful imagery of a deer that is driven by his need for water (1). He just needs to have some time before God (2). He is so weary of trying to satisfy his own longings through his tears. He begins to realize that every time he sends up the hopeless cries, he is really challenging his faith in God (3). He misses the days of joy in the presence of God (4). He begins to recognize that he is lost in this despair where he has lost sight of his hope (5).
Have you ever been there? Do you longingly remember and wish that you could just go back to that time when you had so much joy in the things of the Lord? Do you wish that you could stop crying out in need and instead see your Savior face to face?
The end of verses 5-6 offers the first piece of hope to help us through these tough times.
“Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.”
The hope comes from remembering the faithfulness of God. God has a track record of taking care of us even in our hardest times. God is faithful, and when we focus on the faithfulness of God, we’re able to see our struggles from a different perspective.
I Need Sustaining
Psalm 42:7 (NASB95)
7 Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
In verse 7, the image of water is used again to describe the way that the psalmist is overwhelmed. The imagery is of the never-ending pounding that life seems to be piling on top of him. He feels like the swimmer in the ocean who is trying to reach shore but is constantly being driven down by the waves that never end. He is going down quickly.
Psalm 42:8 (NASB95)
8 The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.
All of sudden, in the middle of his despair, the psalmist remembers the love and kindness of the Lord. There is peace that comes from reflection on the way that God lovingly leads us. Suddenly, when we focus on the goodness of God, we are filled with the joy of singing to Him. Soon we are laying our struggles before Him in prayer.
I Need God
Psalm 42:9–10 (NASB95)
9 I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
The psalmist is now crying out to God asking Him, “Where are you in the midst of my struggle?” Although life is difficult and it seems that God is nowhere to be found, the psalmist finds the strength to ask God where He is.
Have you been there before? Often in life, it seems as though life is just piling up, and you are struggling to find God amid it all. It is an incredibly lonely place, but the biggest need during this is to seek where God is in all of this. How can God be working even in the midst of this?
Psalm 42:11 (NASB95)
11 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
Once again, in the midst of his struggles he reflects on God’s nature and realizes he can rest in the hope that comes from God. How about you? Is life overwhelming right now? Do you just wish that you could see God face to face? Do you feel like you are constantly being beaten down? Do you feel like the enemy is winning?
Where do you turn for victory? Do you find it at the end of every hour-long television program? Do you find at the end of a novel? Do you find it on some beach? Or do you truly seek the hope that can only come from understanding the very nature of God?