Lament and hope (Part 2)
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. Psalm 42:5
As we continue to look at Psalm 42, I want you to notice that the psalmist does not allow his circumstances to dilute his view of God. It is possible to hold onto faith in God, and yet to allow the bitterness of our circumstances to project an image of God to us that is not true. It is possible to then become so spiritually crippled that we no longer act as salt and light in the world. But this did not happen to him.
Listen to what he says in verse 8: “By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” The LORD is God’s covenant name, and he is a God who is faithful to all his promises. His love is steadfast love. The psalmist never lost sight of that. No matter what happened, he knew that God was good and that God loved him. God will never break his word to us. He will not lie. Listen to Hebrews 6:17-18: “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”
Don’t read the character of God in the difficulties through which you pass. Read it in his promises. Read it in his word. And know that his love is steadfast. In the very night of our lives his song can be with us.
One of the ways the psalmist kept this from happening was by retaining the savor of past fellowship with God and with his people. The bitterness of the trial did not take off a taste for the sweetness of holiness in his heart. Even in the midst of the grief and suffering, he remembers: “These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival” (v. 4). It seems that remembering was in fact one of the strategies of the psalmist to keep his heart warm to God (v. 4). When evil presents itself, it is so easy to dwell on it. But we must not. Let us take the course charted by the psalmist: “My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar” (v. 6). In a strange land, he remembers his home. We too are in a strange land, “elect exiles” as Peter puts it (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1, 17). And even though we have not yet reached our home, yet God has given us even now glimpses of home through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (Eph. 1:13-14). Let these sightings of heaven from below enflame your soul with courage to press on in the face of discouragements.