In the midst of his troubles the psalmist speaks to himself and says, “Hope thou in God” (Psalm 42:5).
The troubles he describes were great. He speaks of weeping day and night, he fears he is forgotten by God, and his enemies reproach him till he feels as though he has been pierced with a sword. In our terminology today we would say he was depressed.
Depression takes on many forms and can come from a variety of causes. Most of us feel depressed at times, while others struggle with it for years. In verse seven of Psalm 42 the writer says, “All thy billows are gone over me.” He doesn't identify the troubles but obviously feels overwhelmed by them as they come one after the other like the waves of the ocean. We get the picture of one who has been swept off his feet; he is struggling, and wonders how much more he can take.
Life is full of difficulties and disappointments.
There can be financial problems, marital conflicts, the stress and grief that comes when a child goes down the wrong path. It's not uncommon today for young people to express great frustration because they want to be married and have been unable to find an acceptable spouse. Really there is no end to the list of things that can contribute to discouragement and depression.James Boyce summarizes Martyn-Lloyd Jones’ book Spiritual Depression, and the factors that can contribute to depression:
“Temperament (some people are just more inclined to depression than others), physical conditions (we can be affected by adverse physical health), a down reaction after a great blessing (an example is Elijah after his great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel), the attacks of Satan (one of his strategies is to get us to take our eyes off God), and simple unbelief (probably the most significant cause of all)."
In spite of the countless things that can bring about severe discouragement, the inspired writer believed there is hope in God. In the depth of depression it is easy to conclude there is no hope. Plans to deal with problems have been implemented, but they have failed. Efforts have been made to “fix everything”, but to no avail. Counsel and help has been sought from the wrong sources and the results are fruitless. Often matters are made worse when in an attempt to escape reality some turn to worldly entertainment or escapism — the satisfaction of spending money they don't have, or traveling to places they cannot afford, or some even turning to habit-forming drugs.But how good to know God is called “the God of hope” (Romans 15:13). The way may be dark, the circumstances you are facing may appear to be chaotic, the burdens you are carrying are too heavy; but there is hope in God.
Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
He can change things you thought would never change, he can fix things that seemed to be beyond repair, and he can give grace to sustain us when things do not work out as we had hoped.
God uses his Word in giving us hope: “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).The scriptures give us hope when we read that God is sovereign, working his will; and so we learn nothing is out of control. “Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).
The scriptures give us hope when we read of his mighty works in days of old when he parted the Red Sea, brought water out of a rock, delivered Daniel from a den of lions and the three Hebrews out of a fiery furnace. The scriptures give us hope when we read his promises. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). The scriptures give us hope when we learn that even from out trials God will bring good. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
When we have no hope, no comfort, the inclination is to neglect daily responsibilities. We may even pull away from family and friends, and drift into a state of self-pity.
The psalmist decides to speak to himself and says, “Hope in God.”
And he does so in the spirit of expectation saying, “Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life” (42:8).Sometimes when a person says, “I don't feel like getting up and going to work,” they assume they can't do it. But they have forgotten the words of the apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Years ago I counseled with a lady whose habit was to stay in bed till after noon. She had been told by doctors that she had a mental problem which kept her from being able to live a normal life. So we looked at scriptures that confirm that some of the Lord's people have gone through depths of depression and recovered. David said, “I sink in deep mire where there is no standing” (Psalm 69:2), but at another time said, “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a song in my mouth, even praise unto our God” (Psalm 40:2-3). This lady started reading the Word faithfully every day and praying earnestly for the Lord's help. She became aware of the importance of maintaining a thankful heart. Little by little she was able to get up at the beginning of the day and once again assume her household duties. One day she came in and said, “While I was in the hospital, they put my father in a nursing home. I had always promised that wouldn't happen because I would take care of him. Do you think I could bring him to my house and keep him now?” I said, “You and your husband will have to decide if that if feasible, but I believe as your faith has grown over the past months you could find the help from the Lord that you need.” She did bring her father to her home and took care of him till he died. I can share this because this dear lady told me I could use her experience and story in any way that might help other people. Martyn-Lloyd Jones, addressing the issue of discouragement, writes,
“You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’—what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’—instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who is God, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged himself to do.”
When we focus on God rather than on our troubles, things are better immediately — even if our circumstances do not change. We then remember we are not hopeless, because our hope is in God. We remember that he has not forgotten us, because his mercies are new every morning and his faithfulness is great. We remember that there is no need for fear, because our times are in his hand. We remember there is coming a day when all troubles will be over, and we will be at home with the Lord. May we respond to the psalmist’s words and say, “I will hope in God.”